Kojima Women: Policenauts

April 5, 2014 // Published by Rei

Jonathan Ingram, one of five police officers trained to serve on Earth’s first space colony, is presumed dead after his suit malfunctions during a training exercise.  Twenty-five years later, he is found alive and of the same physical age as when he disappeared, the suit having kept him in suspended animation.  Unable to return to his old life, Jonathan becomes a private detective in Los Angeles.

The Policenauts don’t last long before three of them start a conspiracy to kill Jonathan while making it look like an accident.  Of the five, Ed Brown ends up being the only Policenaut who evinces some semblance of moral sanity.

 Policenauts from left to right: Jonathan Ingram, Ed Brown, Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa, Salvatore Toscanini, Gates Becker

 

What makes the premise of Policenauts unbelievable immediately is Hideo Kojima writes these police officers as being trained to be astronauts.

Becoming a police officer is vastly easier than becoming an astronaut, so wouldn’t it make more sense to train astronauts to be police officers?  Policenauts’ suspension of disbelief is immediately broken by this oversight.  The story maintains its ridiculous tone with the revelation that a buffoon like Jonathan Ingram is the first person to walk on Mars.  Jonathan keeps a newspaper clipping of this tremendous historical milestone in his crummy office.

  Jonathan Ingram, gods help us, is that man.

The player assumes the role of this Jonathan Ingram, a bigoted detective who has the predilection and opportunity to sexually assault nearly every woman he encounters during the course of his investigations. The reason Jonathan travels to the Beyond Coast space colony is because his ex-wife Lorraine, now physically aged twenty-eight years older than him, shows up at the front door of his private investigation agency.  Kenzo Hojo, the man Lorraine married after Jonathan’s disappearance, is now missing.  This prompts Lorraine to ask her original missing husband to find the new one.

 

Lorraine

Upon entering Jonathan’s detective agency, Lorraine hides in the shadows by the door.  She refuses to let Jonathan get a close look at her while she provides the details of her husband’s disappearance.

“Jonathan, don’t look at me like that,” Lorraine says, “I’m fifty-five now.”  The only reason Lorraine isn’t comfortable with Jonathan looking at her with sexual avarice is because she’s physically older than him now.  Her beauty, apparently, has been tainted with age; otherwise, she would be okay with Jonathan’s leers.

There are no in-game family pictures of Lorraine without a husband next to her.  We hardly learn of what she does outside of marriage and children and fussing over her appearance.

 It’s possible to examine Lorraine’s earrings, which turn out to be solely indicative of her wealth.  Many women wear jewelry in the game, particularly earrings, and, upon examination, the jewelry tends to tie into an aspect of the wearer’s character, along with Jonathan complimenting them.  If the player chooses to examine Lorrain’s earrings again, Jonathan says they look good on her, and she replies, “Not often you get compliments at my age.”

Lorraine elaborates, “I want you to remember me the way I was when we were together”, which reinforces the idea that she is only worthy of a younger-looking man’s affections if she retains a measure of youthful beauty, and only wants that aspect of her to be remembered.  This explains the photographs of Lorraine in her twenties in Jonathan’s possession, and Lorraine, unbidden, telling Jonathan that her daughter Karen will be “twenty-seven soon”, and that she’s “still single”.

 Lorraine likely knows that Karen is Jonathan’s daughter.  She should also know how sexually disturbed her ex-husband was in the past, so why is she telling Jonathan that their daughter is young and single?

After she explains that her husband has disappeared, Lorraine is killed by a bomb planted in her car outside Jonathan’s detective agency.  Lorraine’s death then functions as an impetus for Jonathan’s character and drives the plot.  Now Jonathan will certainly search for Lorraine’s missing husband as well as her killer, braving his convenient cosmophobia with newfound resolve.

 Rest in peace for his sake, Kojima woman.

In a remarkably clever and original development typical of Kojima’s storytelling astuteness, the male character comforts the female character as she quietly slips off to compound his ineffable sorrows.  Jonathan then takes it to another level of man-centered grandiosity, though.

Both Jonathan and an LAPD officer who has just arrived on the scene are standing over Lorraine’s body.  “Poor thing,” the officer says, “She came from Beyond, huh?” referring to the space colony near Earth.

“No,” Jonathan says, correcting the officer.  “She came back.”  Jonathan then casts his glazed eyes to the skies and melodramatically declares over Lorraine’s corpse: “She came back to me.”

A segment in the beginning of the game is dedicated to building her character so the player can at least try to feel something when she does die.  Videogame writers can kill off any female character to motivate the typical sociopathic Western male protagonist—they merely need about fifteen minutes of the player sifting through mementos or listening to monologues.  That, and a cutscene or two with the soon-to-be-dead female character that provides the illusion of meaningful interaction.  Kojima fleshes his characters out in broad strokes out before he tears them down, and he usually plants an asterisk or two along the way.

“Asterisks”, as I put them, are utterly brilliant escape clauses for genius writers who frequently write unquestionable material.  They are super-clever justifications that never fall apart under scrutiny.

The most telling thing about using trope analysis for Hideo Kojima’s characters is how effective it is.  One can probably manage to break down everything into tropes, but there’s no breaking down Kojima’s characters into tropes—they already are tropes.  They are the embodiment of patterns, of repetition, hence the endless proxies and self-referencing evident through the narratives in Kojima’s videogames.  Kojima games retain these proxies and self-references across decades.

At this point it seems pertinent to say it is possible to play through Policenauts sexually assaulting nearly every female character Jonathan encounters.  Exempting Lorraine, Jonathan can touch the breasts of every female character in the game with a dedicated portrait (at least, it’s possible in the 1996 Sega Saturn version).  With the original PC-9821 release of Policenauts in 1994, a few female characters could not be molested and harassed by Jonathan.  Meaning the number of times the player could choose to sexually assault female characters actually increased over Policenauts’ two years of re-releases.  Meaning time from people’s lives and an unknown amount of money was specifically dedicated to adding more optionally gropeable women with re-releases.  Sexual assault may have been seen as desirable bonus content or something to enhance the game itself.

The options to ogle, sexually assault, and harass nearly every female character seem integral to Policenauts.  There is something about the narrative that demands the female characters be vulnerable objects, essentially at the mercy of Jonathan should his interests ever sway from detective work.  And unlike in Snatcher, the player can only choose to sexually harass and assault female characters.  Not that the extra options would make it better, but the unequal treatment is worth noting.

Sexism Takes Flight

After Lorraine’s death, Jonathan charters a flight to the Beyond Coast space colony.  Jonathan’s predatory nature cannot be contained even on the trip there; he calls a flight attendant, and a woman with inviting posture appears.  She has her arms open, her hands resting on the tops of seats on either side of her, her hips turned so the curves of her body are accentuated from Jonathan’s—the player’s—point of view.  Her body fills the screen’s frame, which hangs at a low, oblique perspective toward the aisle’s floor, as if Jonathan is about to fall out of his seat from trying to get an ample look at her.

“Am I glad I picked this flight,” Jonathan says if the player chooses to look at the flight attendant, even though the player can already see her.  He adds, “I might not have met such a beautiful stewardess otherwise.”

This remark has offensive connotations, but it may not seem so at first glance, so we are going to embark on a short history lesson about “stewardesses”.

Originally, all flight attendants were male, but, in the early years of commercial aviation in the United States, it was believed that the presence of female flight attendants over male attendants would comfort the predominantly male passengers and reassure them of the safety of air travel.  The thought process went something like this: If attractive young women were on a flight, it would be harder for the men to be scared or admit their fear of flight, as women were perceived by many men in society as weaker and more prone to fear.  It was also believed that women, who are perceived as being subservient to men, would better cater to male passengers.

Despite the image of female flight attendants being waitresses or food servers, they also took part in many safety procedures, including helping male pilots refuel planes and push them back into their hangars.

Women were hired not only for their knowledge and capabilities, but their physical characteristics.  Referred to as “sky girls” by Boeing Air Transport, a female flight attendant had to be a registered nurse, single, of a certain age, no taller than five-foot-four, weigh a certain amount, and be considered “attractive” to the men in charge of the hiring process.  As a 1936 New York Times article describes: “The girls who qualify for hostesses must be petite; weigh 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years.  Add to that the rigid physical examination each must undergo every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health.”

The airlines’ carefully cultivated flowers, oh-so-nice to see in bloom.  Airlines didn’t want anyone seeing their flowers wilt with age, however; upon reaching ages around thirty-two or thirty-five, female flight attendants were required to retire to ground jobs.  If any of the prerequisites in their hiring later changed,—including their being married, pregnant, or gaining weight,—flight attendants were to be fired.

Things didn’t change much by 1966; in a New York Times classified ad, the requirements for female flight attendants reads: “A high school graduate, single (widows and divorcees with no children considered), 20 years of age (girls 19 1/2 years of age may apply for future consideration).  5’2’’ but no more than 5’9’’, weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height and have at least 20/40 vision without glasses.”

 1967 graduating flight attendant class for Pan American World Airlines.

During the course of the next decade, the Stewardesses for Women’s Rights group publicly and judicially protested sexist advertising and discrimination by airline companies.  By the 1990s, repeated lawsuits and legal negotiations led to an amendment of the age and weight restrictions and the no-marriage-or-children stipulation being removed from practice.  The word “stewardess” carried such offensive connotations at this point that referring to a female flight attendant as such would be seen as a social misstep.

There, now it’s easier to see why a sexually disturbed bigot like Jonathan Ingram calling a female member of a flight crew a “beautiful stewardess” is offensive.

 Looking at the attendant further leads to Jonathan saying that she has “a very nice body”, and that it’s taking his mind off of his cosmophobia and Space Adaptation Syndrome.  “I suppose if it’s helping…,” the attendant responds.  If the player chooses to peruse the contours of her body further, the flight attendant explains the different uses of her outfit, and how things like not wearing a bra and wearing a tight miniskirt help the female body adapt to zero-G flight.  “You don’t need a bra in zero gravity,” the attendant says, “nor do you need to worry about your hips, breasts, or cheeks sagging.”  Disregarding the fact a bra isn’t necessary in normal gravity, it’s fitting that a female Kojima character says she is relieved she needn’t worry about her body seeming saggy and unappealing while her breasts are being ogled.  The attendant adds that parts of her outfit are uncomfortable, to which Jonathan replies, “As long as it looks good.”

There’s an unshakable dissonance in the player being able to look at a female character’s body onscreen with their own eyes—a real-world action, of course, divorced from the game’s narrative,—and there being the option to align the in-game cursor specifically over the part of a character’s body that the player wants Jonathan to look at. The player can do this with any other visible part of the game’s world.  It would, at times, almost seem like an admission of guilt to choose to make Jonathan look at something.  However, there is never any confession of guilt or lasting admonishment; only Jonathan as the avatar, the disembodied pervert ghost who comments on or touches a female character’s body part.  There are no lasting consequences that alter the narrative beyond a few lines of text.

When touching the flight attendant’s breasts, they have their own specific animation for movement, complete with an accompanying gasp from the attendant that is far from indignant.  For these and other breast animations (yes, there are more), someone hired Kumi Sato, whose job is listed in the credits as “Breast Bouncing Supervision” among her multiple credits as the lead developer on Policenauts’ CG, texture, modeling and wireframe work.

“I’ve never felt a pair in zero gravity before,” Jonathan says before he grabs the flight attendant’s breasts.  “This would really help my SAS.”

Raising her voice now, the flight attendant asks Jonathan what he’s doing when it’s quite clear what he’s doing.  Touching her more leads to her calling Jonathan a pervert, threatening to call “one of the male attendants”, or throw him off the flight.  No such event occurs, and the attendant’s kind gaze directed at the player soon shifts to a glower.  She has a few extra lines of unhappy dialogue if the player chooses to talk to her about different subjects after Jonathan sexually assaults her.  There are no lasting repercussions to these actions.  The female flight attendant basically functions as an encyclopedia that the player will never be able to successfully ask out to dinner.

By ogling and touching various parts of the female flight attendant’s body, we are given various explanations of how her clothing, or lack thereof, helps with the side-effects of zero gravity.  We are told why her legs are so thin (because of a zero-gravity condition called “bird leg”) and why her face is so puffy (because of a zero-gravity condition called “moon face”).  Likewise, when the player checks the attendant’s breasts, they are told by the flight attendant that she’s not wearing a bra, and the scientific reasons why.  It’s tantamount to a smirking child doing a presentation on zero-gravity in science class, and then pointing to the pair of breasts on their mockup of a woman as the rest of the class giggles.  Even the children in the class can see why the smirking child chose to present this picture of a woman in such a manner.

 

Beyond Bigotry

Once the flight attendant leaves, Jonathan is left to stare at the man sitting beside him, who is named Tony Redwood.  Should the player hover their mouse cursor over Tony’s face and choose to “look” at him, Jonathan will ask why his skin is so pale and “that color”.

Jonathan repeatedly remarks that Tony’s appearance is off-putting should the player keep choosing “look”.  Jonathan will think to himself that Tony looks like a zombie.  The player making Jonathan repeatedly stare at Tony’s face is handled by characterizing Jonathan as a bigot.

Tony is part of a group of people called Frozeners, who are artificially inseminated and birthed through special methods.  They use white, artificial blood and have been genetically engineered to be physically superior to ordinary people.  Many Frozeners have very pale skin and bony faces, with only the sclera of their eyes being visible.  Due to this, Tony says, he sees a lot of prejudice toward those like him.  Jonathan assures him that he’s “not like that”, though he is shown here and later as being exactly “like that”.

While there is fictional racism in Policenauts’ worldbuilding attempts, these same characters will make bigoted remarks against real-world demographics or tolerate them at other times.

And then you have a Japanese receptionist being called “Oriental” again, just like in Snatcher.  Might be a translator slip-up again, however.

Jonathan arrives at the Beyond Coast space colony and immediately heads to its police department, which is where his old friend Ed Brown works.  Upon entering the police department, a pink-haired woman wearing a revealing red tube top and miniskirt regards the player intently as she leans against the reception counter, her hand and purse resting on her hip.  Jonathan immediately assumes she’s a sex worker, and this intuition is portrayed as being part of the erudition he’s acquired as a private investigator and police officer, so, of course, he’s correct.

“The call girl,” Jonathan inexplicably declares to the aether as he observes the woman, “A staple of modern society.”

The policeman attending the desk isn’t simply ignoring the woman, either.  When asked about the security on the space colony, the receptionist says that it’s the same as every major city back on Earth.  All Policenauts’ male receptionists double as police or security officers and don’t wear revealing uniforms like female receptionists do.  Referring to the pink-haired woman in the red tube top, the receptionist says, “See her there?  Comes with the territory.  That’s what happens when any large group of people live together.”

The receptionist is apparently a sociological expert who understands human nature perfectly, and thinks when any large group of people get together, a woman gets into sex work.  Clearly a point was made to make the receptionist cop seem savvy,—he even has sunglasses!—so Kojima is trying to say something by attempting his ill-advised world-building through this mouthpiece, but all he manages to do is write something vaguely contemptuous of women again.

Really, what does “That’s what happens when any large group of people live together” mean?  Overpopulation?  Overpopulation leads to a lack of financial means for everyone, but that doesn’t necessarily drive women to sex work.  When the population of an area increases, it’s obvious that crime rates will most likely increase.  Is Kojima saying that crime is everywhere and, wherever more people gather, laws are inevitably broken?  What’s revelatory or necessary about such a statement?

Is Kojima saying that there’s just something about living in a big city that always makes some women want to have sex for money?

“This is bound to happen when a million people get together,” the receptionist continues, “Theft, prostitution, drugs, murder…take your pick.”  What’s more telling, other than the lumping of these crimes together, is that a female sex worker is the one used to represent these four crimes.  How in-keeping with Kojima’s established form for him to opt to portray a woman committing unlawful promiscuity inside a police station right next to police officers rather than write in a drug dealer, a thief, or even a murderer.  It’s not like murderers are taboo in videogames.  We may be invited to take our pick in this interactive adventure, but Kojima has already taken it for us.

Talking to the woman leads to her asking “You not from around here?  Interested?”

How do they always know? Jonathan thinks to himself.

“Wanna get away from here, baby?” she persists, “Real good price, I promise.”

“They bring you in, did they?” Jonathan asks, implying the police arrested her.

“Something like that,” the woman says, “So what do you say, baby?”

“Sorry,” Jonathan replies, “but I’ve got business of my own to take care of here.”

The woman is incredulous.  “What?!  You’re one of them too?  I don’t believe this.  I must be losing my touch.”  According to the game, prostitution imparts crucial profiling skills through practice—just as a good cop should be able to spot a sex worker, a good sex worker should be able to spot a cop.

“I’ll bet she ends up here a lot,” Jonathan says as he looks at the woman’s body and then adds, “She’s got spunk, I’ll give her that.”  Just as Isabella does in Snatcher, though, the woman suddenly becomes indignant when she had once welcomed Jonathan’s gaze. “Hey!” she shouts.  “Where do you think you’re looking!”  Talking to the woman further has Jonathan asking how “business” is, and she reacts by shouting epithets at him.

 

Buns and Meat (Or: The Relationship Between Meryl and Hamburgers)

Following the horrible sex worker scene in the police department, Jonathan goes downstairs to meet his old friend Ed Brown, who has been relegated to the department’s basement.  Jonathan teams up with Ed through most of Policenauts’ remainder.  Along the way, Jonathan also encounters Meryl Silverburgh, a female character whose portrayal here is somehow even worse than that of her counterpart in Metal Gear Solid.  She is frequently shown alongside Dave Forrest, a character who is later shot and killed by Tony Redwood.

 As Dave lies bleeding to death in Meryl’s arms, he confesses his love to her.  “There’s something…I’ve been meaning to tell you.  Hamburgers…aren’t my favorite thing in the world, you know.  Never told anyone before.  You, Meryl.  I’ve always loved…the way you smell.  You smell like…the earth.  I actually told you.  At least…I’ll die happy.”

After Dave says this, he dies, and Meryl’s character is given the illusion of depth.  It’s an old standby of Kojima’s to kill off a female character to build his male characters, and this is the only instance in Kojima’s entire ludography where he does the opposite, killing off a minor male character to develop a female character.  It’s not exactly eloquently done, either; I’m not quite sure if Dave confessed his love for Meryl, or if he just said he loved the way she smelled more than he loved hamburgers.  I suppose it’s progressive for videogames that a male character holds a female character in higher esteem than a hamburger.

As luck would have it, Dave has died in front of a store filled with fake designer purses, but Tony Redwood has planted a bomb in an original designer purse and hidden it among the fakes. Ed and Jonathan don’t know how to tell an original designer purse from a fake one.

It is here Jonathan and Ed meet the owner of the store, who is the only female character in Policenauts—or any other game Kojima has ever written and directed—to have a speaking role and not be obviously portrayed as being attractive.   When Jonathan meets the shop owner, she is in a state of panic due to the bomb crisis unfolding in front of her.  In the Sega Saturn version of Policenauts, Jonathan sees this as an opportunity to sexually assault the shop owner by bouncing her breasts with his hands.  Perhaps Policenauts’ developers realized that an older female character had unfairly escaped a sexual assault opportunity.

In the original PC-9821 version, Ed’s daughter, Anna Brown, arrives in a police car holding her original designer purse so Jonathan and Ed can tell an original from a fake.  This makes partial sense since Anna was shown as having the purse before.  Though, since it did not make much sense for Anna to show up out of nowhere with exactly what Jonathan and Ed needed, this was changed in subsequent releases.

 Anna being helpful is a feature that would be removed in later versions of Policenauts.

In newer versions of Policenauts, Meryl shows up behind Jonathan and Ed, offering them her original designer purse.  Upon being asked where she acquired it, Meryl’s eyes are downcast as she says, “Dave gave it to me.  Said I wasn’t feminine enough.”  Yes, this is the added explanation given for Meryl having the correct purse when rewriting one of the game’s sequences.  Dave gave Meryl an expensive bag to look feminine because she was too masculine.

That Davey is just a big ol‘ sweetheart.

In the next act, Meryl can be found sitting at her desk at the police station.  When asked how she’s doing, Meryl replies, “I’m getting rid of whatever woman’s left in me—until I get back at them for Dave.”  This is because, as a Kojima woman, Meryl would be useless in her quest to find Dave’s killers unless she endeavored to become more like a man.

“She’ll be fine,” Ed says, “She’s a strong woman.”  Ed only stops to tell women when they’re strong or successful, as it’s already expected when a man accomplishes things.

Upon meeting Meryl, the player has two options: to look at Meryl or to talk to her.  In order to do that, the player must lay their cursor over a part of Meryl’s body and click.  Two options then pop up: “Look” and “Talk”.  Depending on where the cursor is, there is sometimes a third option: “Touch.”  Examining Meryl’s face for the very first time leads to Jonathan saying, “You’ve got a cute face.  I can see a flirty side to you.”  Meryl replies with, “You should ask the chief about the last guy who tried to hit on me.”  She tells Jonathan not to say that again, and says he should instead compliment her beauty in a less sexual way.  She suggests that Jonathan say something such as “Oh, Meryl, you’re simply radiant.”

Reminiscent of the sexism of Solid Snake in Metal Gear 2 and Metal Gear Solid, Jonathan looks at Meryl’s gun in her underarm holster and says, “That gun seems a little big for a woman.”  Meryl’s reply: “This is a Magnum Monster Special, the biggest lift gun in the world.”

 Jonathan can then say, “Large boobs go with a large gun,” to which Meryl replies, “No, large boobs need a large gun.  Know what I mean?”  In a world with monstrous people like Jonathan around who sexually assault every woman they see, this is actually understandable.  Then again, maybe by “gun” Meryl actually means “penis”.

Meryl, like her counterpart in Metal Gear Solid, has a tattoo of the old FOXHOUND logo from Metal Gear 2 on her left arm.  “Is that a real tattoo?” Jonathan asks.

“No, just a paint tattoo,” Meryl says, “It stays on for about half a year.  I am still a woman, after all.”  This makes no sense.  What does this seemingly inscrutable comment say?  Judging by Meryl’s portrayal here and in Metal Gear Solid, Meryl is trying to eschew femininity and embrace masculinity.  Yet, because she’s a woman, Meryl can’t bring herself to get an ink tattoo, which is something apparently seen as an inherently “manly” thing to do.  No matter how much Meryl seeks to be more masculine, an unalterable part of her female brain precludes her from sullying her pure, beautiful skin forever with a permanent tattoo. ’It would be unthinkable, should a woman’s beauty be marred by such an undertaking.

Of course, it’s possible to have Jonathan look at Meryl’s breasts using the cursor, causing him to say, “You really…fill out that shirt.”  Meryl’s response is, “What do you expect?  I am a woman.  Why, you wanna get to know me even more?”

“Nah,” Jonathan replies, adding, “I’d probably break something” in a joke about Meryl’s fragility (as a woman).

“Wimp,” she remarks.

If the players continues to look at Meryl’s breasts, she’ll say things such as, “So what do you think of my gun rack?”  Women’s breasts are weapons.

Referring to her breasts, Meryl says, “You wanna touch these, you have to beat me.  That’s how I decide if someone’s good enough for me.”  Jonathan asks Meryl to name her terms.  “How about beating my high score in the shooting trainer?” she says, and then later continues, “You get over 550 points, they’re all yours.”

 Gruesomely poor choice of words on the translator’s part.

This mirrors a similar instance in Snatcher, wherein Isabella Velvet tells Gillian that, if he wants to touch her breasts, he’ll have to beat the the high score on the arcade cabinet called Punch the Snatcher nearby, though the machine is broken and impossible to play.  Policenauts, however, being advertised as “The Next Generation of Snatcher” and dubbed Snatcher 2.0, improves upon this previous oversight, and allows the player to actually achieve a high score utilizing the game’s combat mechanics in order to touch a certain female character’s breasts.  Only by perfecting their murder skills may a man grope freely.

Upon besting Meryl’s target practice record, Jonathan says to her, “I’m here to collect,” meaning he’s there to collect his prize.

“You won fair and square.  Go ahead, lover boy,” Meryl says.  The game then segues into a brief animated sequence showing Meryl’s breasts bouncing, providing the illusion that Jonathan is touching them.  This is accompanied by stock sound effects of an elephant trumpeting or a wildcat growling.  Wondering what Meryl has under her tank top, Jonathan and the player can keep touching Meryl’s breasts until she says Jonathan has “had enough”.

Considering this is probably the only remotely consensual moment where Jonathan can touch a woman’s body in the game, it’s worth mentioning the attempted humor in this instance is most definitely not exclusive to touching Meryl.  Non-consensual sexual behavior and even sexual assault are also treated as humorous prospects by Kojima.  The touching of non-consenting female characters’ breasts in the game is accompanied by lighthearted sound effects of the breasts bouncing, as well as dialogue intended to be comedic.  There is sometimes hardly any difference or simply no difference between the tone Policenauts takes regarding consensual and non-consensual sexual contact.

When asking Meryl about herself, she replies, “I’m mainly into bikes and combat.  I like men, but…not in THAT way.”  This trickles into Meryl’s character in Metal Gear Solid, who professed that she was unable to be attracted to men due to psychotherapy.  This Policenauts version of Meryl lends credence to my analysis of Meryl in Metal Gear Solid, where I explain the general idea of Meryl from game to game is that she is a character who is captivated by the idea of men and seeks to be more masculine.

Asking Meryl of her past leads to her reciting: “Ever heard the saying, ‘Never ask a woman about her past, or a man about his future’?” An adage generalizing most of the earth’s human population in one brief pecking of the writer’s keyboard.  What is this but unwisdom?

“Yeah, a woman about her past…,” Jonathan replies.  “Ain’t that the truth.”   Note that Jonathan, the main character, the player’s avatar, only confirms that what Meryl said about women was the truth.  It is with ashamed secrecy that a Kojima woman conceals her past, lest character-damaging secrets come to light.  Purity is important in Kojima women, and even more important is that Kojima men decide the future.

Anna

Anna Brown is based on Traci Wolfe’s Rianne Murtaugh character from the movie Lethal Weapon, right down to her hairstyle.  In Lethal Weapon, Rianne has a crush on Martin Riggs, the analog for Jonathan Ingram’s character.  Apparently this means Anna has to have a crush on Jonathan.  Ed Brown’s analog, Roger Murtaugh, has three children in Lethal Weapon.  It’s telling that the only child Hideo Kojima took from Lethal Weapon and wrote into his own story is Rianne, the teenage daughter.

So we first encounter Anna in a form-fitting, one-piece gymnastics outfit.  Even Ed says, “A little revealing, isn’t it?”  While this is happening, Marc, Ed’s adopted son, cowers from Jonathan and Ed behind Anna.  As he does, Marc makes sure to grasp Anna’s bare thighs and hold her tightly as he glares at Jonathan and Ed like a scared animal.  Anna, of course, has to explain for Kojima why she’s wearing her uniform outside of practice: “It’s great at absorbing sweat!”  To this, Jonathan responds, “I’m more interested in what’s under the uniform.”  Ed scolds Jonathan and reminds him he’s talking about his young daughter, but it’s silently accepted at this point that Jonathan isn’t listening and Ed is completely ineffectual.

Anna isn’t wearing the uniform because she wants to; she’s a videogame character, she has no choice.  Anna is only depicted wearing it for the player’s gratification.  Our reaction is intended to be closer to Jonathan’s.  Why else would we be put in a sexual predator’s shoes and be granted opportunities to sexually harass and assault women?  The pattern of objectified woman after objectified woman being opportunistically placed before the player should be quite obvious.

When being shown around Ed’s house, it’s possible to check a poster of Anna made from a picture taken during a gymnastics competition.  If the player examines the poster, Jonathan says of Anna: “Good thing she didn’t get her looks from you.  That would be one fugly poster.”  The translators obviously put their own spin on Jonathan’s remark on Ed’s appearance here with “fugly”, a portmanteau for “fucking ugly”, but what bothers me is that Anna is not considered ugly by Jonathan by the sole virtue that she doesn’t look like Ed.  Instead, Anna is considered beautiful because her face is drawn more like Jonathan’s.  As Jonathan says afterward, “Anna really does have a nice face.”  All of this nonsense about Ed being ugly wouldn’t bother me so much if Ed’s appearance didn’t uncomfortably remind me of a caricature sometimes.

Papa Ed, as drawn by his adopted white son, Marc Brown.

Ed Brown ended up adopting Marc after killing his father, who had killed his mother, right in front of him.   Ed did this while on police duty to protect himself and Marc, and we assume he had no choice.  Marc is traumatized and speechless as a result of the incident, but Hideo Kojima frequently misdiagnoses Marc’s affliction as “autism”, which does not make sense.  Ed also doesn’t know why Marc is cowering from him and hiding behind Anna all the time when he’s around—even though he killed Marc’s family right in front of him. Real people are not this oblivious.

Ed’s wife and Anna’s mother, Catherine, has already died of disease by the time Policenauts takes place.  She is only mentioned in passing and we see but one picture of her.

photo cathy_zpsdcdd318d.png

 But we last left Jonathan at the poster of Anna.  What could Jonathan have in mind?

 Hovering the cursor over Anna’s crotch on the poster and examining it causes Jonathan to say, “If I rub here, does she make a noise?”  Ed is furious, saying, “That’s my daughter, you son of a bitch!”

Ed will never do anything but yell and stamp his feet at Jonathan’s actions.  If Ed has seen Jonathan do things like this before, Ed will merely comment on it.  Then Jonathan will either outright deny these claims or say something akin to “Yeah?” and the conversation will end.  There are no repercussions or an explanation of why Jonathan’s behavior is unacceptable.  Instead, he’s allowed to run wild.  When Jonathan further expresses sexual interest in Ed’s daughter, Ed will say, “Go ahead.  Try it.  I dare you.  See what happens.”  Yet it’s quite apparent that, if Jonathan does try to touch Ed’s daughter, he will do nothing at all and instead watch helplessly.

 Over dinner with Anna, Ed, and Marc, Jonathan can joke about eating Anna.  The player hovers the cursor over Anna and there’s an “Eat” option.  “This looks much more appetizing to me,” Jonathan says of Anna.  There’s the usual scolding by Ed, telling Jonathan to keep his hands off of Anna.  Amazingly, Anna expresses interest in Jonathan if the player asks Anna about herself.  “Any boys you like, Anna?” Jonathan asks, and then adds, “Got yourself a special someone?”
Ed says she had better not.

“Dad!” Anna says, and then focuses on Jonathan, adding, “Funny you should mention that, Jonathan.”  “Oh, no!” Ed says, “Don’t even think about it!”  Anna asks her father why she can’t be with Jonathan.  “I’ve known him long enough,” Ed says, “Easily the biggest pervert I’ve ever met.  Poor guy just can’t help himself.”  Jonathan turns to Ed, firmly whispering his name as if to scold him for ruining his chance with Anna.  “Don’t you even joke about eating her again!” Ed replies.

In the end, as always, the player can choose for Jonathan to touch Anna’s breasts against her will, and neither her nor Ed will do anything to stop him.  If the player chooses to return to Ed’s house at night during the game’s second act, Anna will be in Ed’s living room.  She has her hands on her hips, and is wearing cut-off jeans as well as a yellow crop top.  If the player chooses to look at Anna’s face, Jonathan will say, “You’re a nice-looking girl.  Surprising your [sic] half-Ed.”  If the player checks Anna’s face again, Jonathan will say to Ed: “I just pictured your face on Anna’s body and it wasn’t a pretty image.”

If the player hovers the cursor over Anna’s breasts, Jonathan will say, “Wow.  I’m speechless.  And that doesn’t happen to me often.”

Ed is present in the room, and he says, “Jonathan, you…you truly do need some kinda help for this thing.”

Jonathan says, “I know” and sighs.

“To tell you the truth,” Ed says, “I’m really not that worried.”

“No?” Jonathan replies.

“From what I’ve seen,” Ed says, “women seem to have this natural dislike for you.  Can’t imagine why.  Just so you know, he has a penchant for fondling women, Anna.”

“Really?” Anna says.

“Yeah, right,” Jonathan says, “like I’d do something like that.  He’s kidding.”

“Oh,” Ed cuts in, “am I?”

C’mon, Ed, don’t say anything, Jonathan apparently thinks to himself.

When the cursor is clicked over Anna’s breasts, there is a “Touch” option.  When this is chosen, Jonathan says, “Inspection time!” and jiggles Anna’s breasts.  Anna yelps and then cries, “What are you doing!” when it is very obvious what Jonathan is doing.  “You passed with flying areolas,” Jonathan says, or, at least, that’s what he’s translated as saying.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing to my daughter!” Ed says.  “Relax, Ed,” Jonathan replies, “How else am I gonna get data for my thesis?”  “I’ll ignore all this shit out there, but hands off my girl,” Ed says, essentially admitting he’ll turn a blind eye to sexual assault as long as it’s not done to his daughter.  “Deal,” Jonathan says, meaning he will not do it again.

However, it’s still possible for the player to choose the “Touch” option when hovering the cursor over Anna’s breasts, and if this is done, Jonathan will say, “Better double check.”  He then touches Anna’s breasts again.  “You’re crazy!” Anna cries.  Ed cuts in, saying, “Do it again and you know what’ll happen to you, right?  Right?”  “Sorry,” Jonathan says, “my hands just kinda…went out there like that.  Damned tic.”

If the player chooses to look at Anna’s breasts again, Jonathan remarks, “This is torture.  Or more like…glorious nectar.”  And then he thinks: They felt as big as they look.

“You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking, are you?” Ed says.

Jonathan doesn’t reply.

The player can also hover their cursor over Anna’s exposed midriff and choose the “Look” option, which causes Jonathan to say, “You’ve got a cute belly button.  That’s a mark of mammals.  So are nipples, too, come to think of it.”  “What was that?” Anna says.  She is presented as dim-witted and defenseless in this situation, and only her father can successfully defend her.

 

Jonathan Sees a Doctor

When Jonathan and Ed visit a hospital to see Chris Goldwin, the hospital’s director, they won’t even make it to the reception desk without Jonathan commenting on the women in the hospital—that is, if the player chooses to look at the people in the hospital before approaching the reception desk.

photo aosnosincoa_zps2de8f6cd.png

Once Jonathan does reach the reception desk, however, he encounters three women in blue, one-piece uniforms with skirts.  “Personally, I’d prefer something more low-cut” and “Smart idea putting girls like these out front” are just some of the things Jonathan says upon seeing them.  There are opportunities to disturb two of these women, and even sexually assault one of them in the Sega Saturn version, but, frankly, I don’t have the willpower to cover all of it.  I’ll merely describe a few sections of this scene, otherwise I’ll be here pointing and grimacing for an even greater stretch of paragraphs.

Once control is left to the player, they can hover their cursor over the three female characters behind the counter, and look at their bodies.  Jonathan, and even Ed, will comment on how “sexy” and “cute” the women are.  They’ll even look at these characters and comment on whether they would have sex with them or not.  They’re essentially a group of teenage boys standing in front of a magazine rack in a store, pointing at women they find themselves capable of having sex with in their juvenile, solipsistic imaginations.

One of the female receptionists has her back turned to Jonathan and Ed, and both of them proceed to comment on her buttocks if the player chooses to look at her.  “Would you look at that.  Goddamn.  Goddamn, that’s hot,” Jonathan says, or is at least translated as saying.  Among other questionable translations regarding Jonathan’s comments on this female character is him saying “Please don’t be a butterface” repeatedly.  “Butterface” is a colloquial evolution (and I hesitate using that word when describing this subject matter) of the term “but-her-face”, which is meant to describe a woman with an attractive body but an unattractive face.  It’s an objectifying, sexist, and all-around reprehensible term, as is hinted at by Jonathan’s liking this woman being entirely dependent upon whether he finds her entire body sexually attractive.

“Look at that ass,” Jonathan says, “I would eat anything off that ass.”  Ed even joins in at this point with: “Yeah, I’d hit that.”  And then Ed catches himself, apparently upset that he let his inner pervert escape into the world.  He says, “I said that out loud, didn’t I?”  “You haven’t changed either,” Jonathan says, hinting that, three decades ago, Ed was as bad as Jonathan.  Whether this is a comment on anything is anyone’s guess, but it definitely explains how Jonathan and Ed became friends.  Jonathan encourages Ed to be more like him, saying, “Don’t fight it, Ed.  Go with it.”

photo hit_zps42cf95fc.png

Finally, amidst their investigation of a homicide and one person’s disappearance, Jonathan and Ed ask one of the receptionists where the office of the hospital’s director is located.  The receptionist refers to the director with a feminine pronoun, and Jonathan expresses surprise—or, perhaps, anticipation—that the director is a woman.  If the player is like me, they may be fearing any promise of Jonathan interacting with a woman.

photo huh_zps19c7292a.png

We meet hospital director Chris Goldwin casually nested in a luxurious chair, her arms draped over it in a gesture that welcomes the viewer’s gaze.  She wears a white lab coat over a red dress.  Her breasts, it could be guessed by now, are quite prominent, and Jonathan can comment on this if the player wishes with: “Boy, are they the elephant in the room.  Or two baby elephants.”   In order to tease the player throughout this entire scene, the skirt of Chris’s dress rides high up on her thighs, effectively making the area where her thighs become her butt visible.  Not only that, but the game’s perspective, almost always meant to be taken from Jonathan’s point of view, is placed at an oddly low angle, as if Jonathan is on his knees just to take a peek under Chris’s dress.  From Chris’s demeanor and way of speaking, she welcomes such stares, and both Jonathan and Ed try to peep between Chris’s legs as she occasionally recrosses them.

It’s possible to hover the cursor under Chris’s dress and focus it right between her legs in order to peek at her crotch.  When clicking the cursor over this area, an option called “Peek” appears.  When chosen, Jonathan says to Ed, “All right, timing is everything with this.  Ready?”  Jonathan means that he and Ed are both going to glance at Chris’s crotch the next time she crosses her legs.  They do exactly this, and Jonathan says, “See it?”  “Uh-huh,” Ed replies, confirming he looked at Chris’s crotch as well.  “Thank god she didn’t see us.”  The reason this scene exists is probably because Kojima saw Basic Instinct.

When looking at Chris’s legs, Jonathan says, “You’ve got legs from here to…some wonderful place.”

And then we hear about Kojima’s problem with the age of women yet again: “Well, I can tell you they’re not as nice as they used to be,” Chris says about her legs, and then continues, “Certainly nothing compared to any young girl out there.”  Just like Lorraine did before she died, the forty-year-old Chris depreciates herself on the sole virtue that she’s not young anymore, and that her beauty has faded along with her sense of self-value.

Chris makes sure to keep the magazine where she modeled on the cover with the five Policenauts back when she was fourteen.

 “I wish she’d stop moving them around,” Ed says, referring to Chris’s recrossing of her legs.  Chris then cuts in with, “No more peeking, got it?”  Apparently, Chris saw Jonathan and Ed peeking under her dress.

It’s possible to look at Chris’s breasts as well.  When the player does so, Jonathan says, “You have got a fantastic body.  Those look absolutely delicious.”  Instead of chastising Jonathan, Chris takes the comment in stride, saying, “I go to zero-G salons and spend time in the zero-G ward, so gravity hasn’t had its way with me too much.”  Ed cuts in before Jonathan can turn Chris’s last several words into an innuendo, saying, “Oh, you’ve really gotta watch your words around this guy.  That’s just asking for trouble.”  Yes, having Jonathan anywhere around a female character is asking for trouble.  After Jonathan touches Chris’s breasts enough times, he says her breasts are bigger than that of the “stewardess”.

A “Touch” option appears when the player clicks the cursor over Chris’s breasts.  Jonathan says, “May I?  I wouldn’t mind playing doctor myself for a minute here.”  Chris is confused, and says, “What, with these?” referring to her breasts.  Jonathan bounces her breasts up and down, and Chris’s response is: “You actually did it.”  Jonathan’s reply:  “Welcome to my world.”

In the world of Policenauts, every woman is a passive object to be manipulated by men of action.

This fact certainly doesn’t change when a mechanical mosquito escapes from the metal case Chris is holding, and then lands on several parts of her body, requiring Jonathan to touch her.  Chris sits there, unmoving, while the mosquito flies all around her.  She begs Jonathan to capture the mosquito for her.  No matter how quick the player is, the mosquito will always land on Chris’s breasts, and Jonathan will bounce her breasts as he allegedly tries to catch the mosquito.  Not touching Chris’s breasts is an impossibility if the player wants to continue with the game without hacking it or skipping through with latter saves.  Jonathan is enjoying himself immensely while Ed repeatedly expresses his indignation, telling Jonathan he wants to punch him.  This, somehow, is all seen as very comedic by Chris, who says Jonathan and Ed should have their own buddy cop movie, and adds that they made her day “more interesting”.

In the mosquito scene, we find the age-old joke of a writer constructing a situation wherein a woman is objectified or touched by a man, but the situation has an escape clause provided by the narrative.  The male character had to do this to the female character because the situation, as constructed by Kojima, called for it, but it’s obvious why the situation was constructed—so Chris could be touched.  Most aspects of Chris Goldwin’s portrayal offer an invitation to violation; even the metal case she holds in her hand.

 Chris says this about an employee of hers, Jun Ishida.  Nisei are half-Japanese, half-American citizens.  A Nisei Beyond is one who lives on the Beyond space colony.  Strange how most characters are bigots in this game.

 Meet Jun Ishida.

 Jonathan and Ishida have a lot in common.

It is hinted at by Chris Goldwin’s employees that she is in an intimate relationship with Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa, the most prominent businessman in the entire Beyond Coast space colony.  They confide in Jonathan (for some reason) that they hope it is not true.  This is said around the time Jonathan and Ed’s investigation leads them to Tokugawa’s headquarters.

Unfortunately, a female receptionist wearing a revealing uniform is working in the lobby of Tokugawa HQ.  I say “unfortunately” because we know what Jonathan is capable of doing whenever a woman is near him.  “There’s a girl sitting here,” Jonathan says.  “She must be the receptionist.”

 The receptionist is wearing a sleeveless green halterneck that opens up in the front.  Her arms are stretched out sociably to her sides, each hand resting on the counter as she regards Jonathan and Ed intently.  She is of Japanese descent, judging from comments on her facial features and the fact Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa is a racist who prefers to have only Japanese persons working for him—a fact even Jonathan acknowledges as problematic.  The receptionist says that she is required to wear the uniform due to company stipulations, and Jonathan wonders aloud if Tokugawa himself thought up the uniform.

What follows is what occurs if the player selects the options to look at and touch the receptionist.

 This might be the single creepiest line in the whole game.

Jonathan offers a racist remark to Ed while standing directly in front of the receptionist: “It’s always hard guessing the age of Asian women.”  Ed, our only bit of ballast in this mad storm, agrees with Jonathan, saying, “Yeah, they always look younger than they actually are.”  “Just like me,” Jonathan says.  This refers to how Jonathan is around fifty-five years old, yet he is physically in his early thirties due to suspended animation.  “You know what I meant,” Ed says.  “It was a joke, Ed,” Jonathan says, “Jesus, lighten up, old man.”

If the player continues to click the cursor over the parts of the receptionist’s body that her uniform doesn’t cover, pixel-for-pixel, Ed says, “Nice skin.  Very nice.  It looks so smooth.”

“Well, hello there, sugar tits,” Jonathan says to the receptionist while staring at her breasts.  This is blatant sexual harassment, but, of course, it doesn’t seem to have much consequence.

“Um, thanks, I guess,” the receptionist says.  “I feel so embarrassed in this,” she adds, referring to her uniform.

“No, you shouldn’t be,” Jonathan replies, “You’re doing everyone a great service.”  Ed says the uniform the female receptionist is wearing is “miles better” than what he sees male receptionists wear.  Of course, Ed refers to male receptionists as “guards”, not receptionists.  Men protect; women are available, awaiting your reception. Those are the rules in these kinds of fiction.

When clicking the cursor over the female receptionist’s breasts, a “Touch” option also appears.  When chosen, Jonathan says, “I’ll only be a moment” and then bounces the Tokugawa receptionist’s breasts up and down.  There’s a cartoonish sound effect that’s meant to be comedic as her breasts bounce, and she gasps. Jonathan remarks that her breast size is a D cup.  He then adds that her breasts are bigger than the breasts of both Chris and the “stewardess” if the player has chosen to have Jonathan touch their breasts as well.

Women’s Reason for Living

The receptionist will eventually allow Jonathan and Ed entry into an elevator that takes them to what is described as a “zero-G playground” designed to appeal to Tokugawa’s clientele.  The primary demographic of the clientele is readily apparent once Jonathan and Ed enter the room.  Rich men in business suits are floating in zero-gravity while being flirted with, pounced upon, and served drinks by buxom women in bikinis.  “This my kinda place,” Jonathan, as expected, says.  He later remarks on the women: “This is killing me.  They’re practically naked.”

http://i.imgur.com/OjU9qmB.png

 The player is required to look at particular women until they find the correct women that will trigger the next story event.  When looking at various women, Jonathan will offer his typical comments.  Shining gems include “Man, nothing but hot girls here.  [Tokugawa has] good taste in women, I’ll tell you that” and “That is one beautiful ass.  Where’s a coin when you need one.”

Once the player calls over the two correct women in bikinis, the screen then transitions to show them floating in alluring poses.  “I could float here all day with this view,” Jonathan says.  If Jonathan looks at the woman to his left intently, he says, “This has got to be a dream.  Got to be.”  The woman being stared at responds with, “I don’t mind being looked at” and then later adds, “Women live for attention, you know.”

There is more problematic content in this scene,  but I’m just going to skip ahead to the worst of it, otherwise I’d be better off making a two-page-long bullet-point list of the dialogue.

Meet woman-on-right and woman-on-left.

The two female characters in the picture above are likely meant to represent polarized types of women.  The woman on the left tells Jonathan he can look at her all he wants, and she happily responds to Jonathan’s flirtations.  However, when Jonathan, for example, asks the woman on the right her body measurements, she says, “That kind of talk is considered sexual harassment, you know.”  If Jonathan asks the woman on the left her body measurements, she happily answers.  Whatever commentary Kojima may or may not be trying to offer here, it fails miserably.  Jonathan can go through the game sexually assaulting and harassing nearly every woman he has just met, and only a few directly call Jonathan out on his actions, despite almost all of his advances being unwelcome.  Having two women Jonathan has just met respond in completely opposite ways to his usual sexual harassment doesn’t necessarily make his actions harassment in one case and not the other.  The woman on the right, who sees Jonathan’s sexual harassment for what it is, is described by Jonathan as having an “intellectual” air about her.  The woman on the left who says sexist things about women welcomes Jonathan’s sexual harassment.  So what is this saying, really?  That the women who welcome Jonathan’s ogling and touching have a low opinion of women and also of themselves due to their consent?

Even foregoing such questionable treatment of women in previous games, Hideo Kojima isn’t really saying anything worth listening to about about sexual harassment in Policenauts beyond allowing the player to act out the harassment in different contexts.  How much merit can Kojima’s writing on the subject of the sexualization and objectification of women have when violating women and touching parts of their body against their will is presented as humorous in Policenauts?  Why else are the erotic gasps and the jiggling breast animations and goofy sound-effects there?

As an aside before I hopefully leave these two female characters alone forever, Jonathan can get permission to kiss the woman on the left.  “You can give me a kiss if you want,” she says.  However, once Jonathan acquires permission to kiss the woman on the left, he can kiss the woman on the right without her permission at least twice before she tells for Jonathan to stop or she’ll scream.

After this, Joseph Tokugawa and Chris Goldwin arrive at the party.  It is revealed that Chris is probably lying about her relationship to Tokugawa, as she calls him her “mentor” and “main squeeze”, but also adds that she only means that in a “paternal sense”.  Chris says this as she leans in close to Tokugawa, her hand curled close to his chest as Tokugawa rests his hand on her bare shoulder, as she is wearing a shoulderless black dress.

photo betternot_zps8c905111.png

If Jonathan inquires further about Tokugawa’s relationship with Chris, he is told to be careful at how he looks at her.  Jonathan scoffs and thinks to himself that he already knows what Chris’s breasts feel like anyway.

photo sal_zps8bcc0d35.png

There is an option to ask Chris to dance, and Chris asks if Jonathan wants to do the tango in zero-gravity.  “Tango?  More like the lambada,” Jonathan says.  He says this because when lambada was popular in the ’80s and ’90s, short skirts were in fashion and would fly up when female dancers pirouetted, revealing their underwear.

“She knows where your hands would end up,” Ed says when Chris refuses Jonathan’s dance offer.  Jonathan asks Chris if she’s mad about what he did to her at the hospital.  She replies, “Oh, no, not at all.”

Karen

In the latter half of the game, Jonathan is framed by Tokugawa and rescued by Karen, Lorraine’s daughter.  Though Karen is also Jonathan’s daughter, neither he nor Karen know it.  Karen, inexplicably, falls in love with Jonathan and hugs him, yet Jonathan is apprehensive about the hug.  This seems particularly strange, since Jonathan has no problem sexually assaulting women, yet when a woman moves to hug him, he balks.  Even if Jonathan draws the line at incest, he does not know Karen is his daughter yet, so that shouldn’t stop his gross ass. Maybe he likes to be in control.

In the original PC-9821 version, Karen points a gun at the back of Jonathan’s head before she admits to loving him.

 Many Kojima women point guns at Kojima men when they aren’t looking.

 What’s notable about Karen compared to the portrayal of other female characters in the game is that when Jonathan first encounters her he cannot do anything gross to her or sexually assault her, no matter how much the player hovers the cursor over whatever part of her body.  Karen also doesn’t define herself as doing what she does “because she’s a woman”.  The way Karen is depicted in the beginning of Policenauts is—amazingly—mostly well-done.  Of course, this could not last forever, but I’m willing to give credit where it’s due, especially when there is hardly any to give.

The problems start when Jonathan and Karen travel to Beyond Coast’s hospital to check the hospital’s morgue.  Once they arrive, the room is pitch black.  The player, as Jonathan, is then required to fumble through the dark for the light switch.  The player is given control of the cursor in order to explore the darkness, but the location of the light switch is quite evident, as it’s the only thing glowing in the room.  Unfortunately, yet not unpredictably, this moment is handled as an opportunity to touch Karen’s breasts in the dark.  We know what to expect when Jonathan volunteers to “have a feel around”.

 The usual “comical” bouncing sound effect occurs when Karen’s breasts are touched, and Jonathan, who was so apprehensive about Karen initiating physical contact by hugging him before, has no problem touching Karen here.  Of course, Karen invites Jonathan to feign ignorance when he touches her breasts when she says, “What do you think you’re doing!”  Jonathan then feigns ignorance and says whatever it is he’s touching, it is soft.  Karen shouts that Jonathan had better grow up.  Jonathan then apologizes.  Yet the player can make Jonathan touch Karen’s breasts many more times afterward.

There is, by the way, voice-acting for this scene.  If Karen’s breasts are touched again, her voice actor is incredulous, while Jonathan’s voice actor says, “Ah, got them again?” with absolute glee.  “I’m sure you know what they feel like by now!” Karen shouts, referring to her breasts, of course.  Jonathan swears it was an honest mistake.  If Jonathan touches her breasts a third time, Karen’s voice becomes threatening as she says she’s losing her patience.  Jonathan apologizes.  If Jonathan does it a fourth time, Karen slaps him, and he apologizes.  If Jonathan does it a fifth time, Karen strikes him several times in the dark, and then tells him that is enough.  Jonathan says he understands.  If Jonathan does it a sixth time, saying, “Oh!  What might these bundles of joy be!”, Karen responds by saying she’s going to trounce him.  “Guess I’ve squeezed that dry,” Jonathan says to himself.  If Jonathan tries to touch Karen’s face, she’ll ask if he’s a pervert, and he’ll apologize.  If he does it again, she’ll say he is a pervert, and he’ll respond with a “derisive snort” and say, “Excuse me?” as if he’s offended.  Karen, unfazed, asks again if Jonathan is a pervert, and then he  apologizes.  If the player tries to touch Karen again, she’ll shout for Jonathan to stop touching her.  In the end, Jonathan never admits to being a “pervert” or committing sexual assault.  All he ever does is offer half-hearted apologies, and it only ever comes off as Jonathan apologizing for his own sake rather than for the person he’s violated.

Jonathan Ingram’s Japanese voice actor, Hideyuki Tanaka, played the character Hideyuki Makimura in the ’80s anime series City Hunter.

 City Hunter’s protagonist, Ryo Saeba, is much like Jonathan in demeanor and influenced Hideo Kojima’s portrayal of Jonathan.  Ryo is constantly waiting for what he calls a “mokkori chance”, which means a chance to attain a penile erection.  This is usually achieved by an act of voyeurism or groping a woman.  “Mokkori” is an onomatopoeic word that represents the sound or idea of an erection, and the English slang equivalent would be something like “schwing”.  Throughout City Hunter, Ryo refers to women as “mokkori”, as if all they are to him are triggers for the sounds of his erections.  Inspiring stuff.

Objectification of Brain-Dead Women

Jonathan and Ed later discover that people were being kept in a brain-dead state and transferred to a secret base on the moon where their organs are harvested.  These people were first stored in Beyond Coast’s hospital before being sent to the moon.  Upon infiltrating the moon base where the brain-dead bodies are being stored, Jonathan can discover he is sexually attracted to the dead bodies.

photo poo_zpscc29d9a5.png

 This scene is ripped from a 1978 movie called Coma. 

In the original PC-9821 version, the bodies are naked and floating freely in the air, whereas in later versions they are still naked but kept in capsules.  The player is required to look through these bodies until Jonathan and Ed discover which ones are Lorraine’s missing husband and Dave.  In the PC-9821 version, this is slightly easier, as the bodies are floating freely.  In later versions, it is difficult to discern which capsule to choose, so the player is left to guess.  If the player checks the wrong capsule, Jonathan will comment on its contents, especially if the brain-dead person is a naked woman.  “She’s not wearing a thing.  She’s totally naked!” Jonathan says.  “Wow.  As naked as the day she was born.”  Ed scolds Jonathan, saying, “We’ve got no time for that!  We came here to find Hojo’s body.  I always knew you were messed-up, but this…this is insane.  There is something seriously fucking wrong with you.”  If the player looks at the capsule with the naked woman again, Jonathan says, “Don’t feel shy, Ed.  Take a look.”  “What the hell are you thinking!  I don’t believe you!  These people are dead!  I can’t believe something like this actually arouses you.”  If the player checks the capsule housing a naked man, Jonathan will say, “This is inhuman.  Look what they’ve done to these people.”   The difference between Jonathan’s reaction to the dead man in comparison to the dead woman is baffling.

photo srslyfucking_zps0b31d634.png

Before Jonathan and Ed leave, Salvatore reminds them that Tokugawa Corp. traffics human organs here.  And then he tries to kill them but fails and dies.  Strangely, during his villain monologue, Salvatore specifically stops to mention using young women for their uteri.  Apparently this is important info.

photo 5d59f3c5-0d40-4831-9eed-f0f52e6cea0f_zpsf1a4d298.jpg

 Near the end of the game, Karen succumbs to the infirmities that come with aplastic anemia.  As she lies unconscious in a hospital bed beneath a pane of glass, there is an option to “Touch” her.  Choosing this causes Karen’s doctor to beg Jonathan to control himself, adding that if Karen is removed from the capsule that she could die.

photo karen_zpsb518d43e.png

 Shortly after, Chris Goldwin attempts to sabotage Ed’s life support equipment, as Ed had been shot and hospitalized in a previous scene.  Sorry for not telling you.

Jonathan stops Chris, who runs to a nearby set of windows and confesses her betrayal to Jonathan, how she’s working for Tokugawa, that she did it all so she could see her child again, and that she was the one in the spacesuit who helped set up Ed to be shot.  “You wouldn’t understand, Jonathan,” Chris monologues, “You don’t know Beyond.  If I wanted to stay out here, I had to hand everything over to Tokugawa.  There’s just no escaping him here.  When I inherited this [hospital] from my parents it was saddled with debt.  If I wanted to keep it open, I had to do whatever he said.  I became a total whore, mentally and physically.”

Jonathan convinces Chris to testify against the corrupt Beyond government and Tokugawa corporation.  Chris believes she’s too weak to do anything on her own, just like Lorraine.  Jonathan tells Chris that unless she stands up for what she believes in, she’s brain-dead just like the bio-morts Jonathan thought were sexually arousing in the preservation capsules.

When Chris agrees with Jonathan to stop being a “brain-dead” “whore” and help everyone, her son, Tony Redwood, eviscerates her with machine-gun fire from outside the windows.  No female agency allowed.

This death is quite similar to Olga Gurlukovich’s from Metal Gear Solid 2.  Similar also to Olga is Chris’ unassailable mandate as a mother that she do everything in service to her child.  Even if that child is being used by a shadowy organization to manipulate hundreds of people through you.

One of the most offensive transphobic scenes in any Hideo Kojima game is in the English translation of Policenauts.

While chasing the man who just killed his ex-wife Lorraine, Jonathan Ingram inexplicably halts his pursuit to examine two nearby storefronts so we can do some heavy-handed worldbuilding

 

 Next to a bistro called “Piemonte Ravioli Co.” that sells virtual reality child porn is a strip club for transgender women.  The strip club is portrayed as being of comparably ill repute, considering they’re placed side-by-side.   In Kojima’s way of representing people, it’s obvious that trans strippers are comparable to child porn peddlers.  Jonathan describes the strip club as “filled with so-called women who’ve undergone complete sex changes.”  He goes on to say, “I was inside for a case once.  They’re called ‘biovestites’—people who’ve had sex changes through gene therapy.  This city’s famous for ’em, unfortunately.  I wouldn’t set foot in here again on a normal day, let alone right now.”  There’s so much disgusting hate speech to unpack in those utterances that I’m genuinely nauseated typing this.

The root word for the ill-conceived “biovestite” is obviously the word “transvestite”.  To call a transgender individual a transvestite, even in innocent ignorance to the issue, is massively offensive.  Calling a transgender person a transvestite is a form of hate speech.

Etymologically, “transvestite” is a portmanteau of two Latin words: “trans”, meaning “across, on the other side, beyond”; and “vestio”, meaning “I clothe, I dress”.  The word comes to mean “cross-dresser”.   To add the prefix “bio-”, a Greek word meaning “life”, to the suffix “-vestite”, calls to mind a number of possible meanings, among them “biological clothing”.  “Biovestites” implies that sex reassignment surgery changes the exterior, the shell.  It also implies that there may be an inner essence, a soul or spirit that determines one’s gender identity despite what an individual may think or feel about themselves.  This notion wrests control of identity from the individual.

Gender is treated within Policenauts as something immutable that is decided at birth, which no biological changes can ever meaningfully alter thereafter, hence the repugnant phrase “so-called women”.  This is nonsense, however; despite a person’s biological functions, everyone’s gender identity comes from within, not without—“without” meaning what others perceive as a person’s gender, rather than the truth within that person.

These bigoted views on trans persons in Policenauts are accompanied by endless nostalgic motifs of “old days gone by”, the longing for times when things were more “pure” and “original”, when alcohol wasn’t synthesized, cigarettes were lit by fire, people read books bound with glue and paper. This longing for the old, the original, for the pure is one of the usual culprits of bigotry, and certainly lends itself to ignorant ideas about gender.

I discovered through research that this writing in Policenauts wasn’t all Hideo Kojima’s doing—it was a misguided translation decision made circa 2005 and never changed all the way up to the translation’s 2009 release. As of writing this in 2014, I am told this occurred because the world has had a sudden, intense resurgence in the way of social progress.  Which does partly explain it, but doesn’t make it better.

No translation is completely faithful, but some scenes by English translators only worsen the more problematic aspects of Kojima’s writing, as the prejudice of the translators themselves creep into the work and only compound the problem.  An example of this can be seen in Metal Gear Solid 3 when Naked Snake disguises himself as a homosexual man.  In the scene in question, The Boss, upon noticing the disguise, remarks with notable disdain: “What is this fairy disguise?”  The added homophobic pejorative is not in the original Japanese.

Transphobia is so common in our world that a translator born and raised on the other side of the planet can convert the entirety of Policenauts’ text and not just be unfazed by some of its more insidious passages, but include more bigotry that was not there before because, as the translator said to me, it was fitting with the game’s themes.

In Policenauts’ original Japanese, instead of the English-translated “biovestite”, Kojima used the word “bio-half” to refer to trans women.  “Bio-half” is derivative of a popular term for transgender persons in Japan at the time, which was “new half”.

Sometime in Japan between the late ’70s and early ’80s, the words “new half” were repurposed from English and incorporated into the Japanese nyuuhaafu.  This method of borrowing of English words and incorporating them into the Japanese language is called wasei-eigo.  “New half” was used in Japan alongside another popular term at that time: Mr. redi (Mr. Lady).  This repurposing was done to replace the previous English-Japanese neologism for trans women, which was gei boi (gay boy).  Needless to say, “gay boy” and “Mr. Lady” are, in this day and age, considered to be purposely denigrating of trans persons.  “New half” isn’t much better, but here’s an account of how the term rose to popularity in Japan:

One of the first recorded uses of the term was in April 1981, when the magazine Suppotsu Nippon ran an article entitled “Gay singer named Betty is called a new half”.

Rumiko Matsubara, a transgender woman, won a beauty contest while she was sponsored by local businesses in the Roppongi nightclub area of Tokyo in 1981.  Dubbed the “Roppongi Beauty”, she became the model of a poster campaign promoting the area’s nightclubs and bars.  Upon revealing herself to be transgender, Matsubara received a large amount of media attention and was soon elevated to pop-idol status.  She later appeared in a men’s magazine called Heibon panchi, which was released in June of 1981.  In September, Matsubara released a music album titled Newhalf.  “New half” had become a word with which the rising star promoted herself.

Matsubara used the term because it was the only word she had to identify herself to other people.  This is a shortcoming of society and culture rather than a specific individual.  Oppressed people throughout history usually end up referring to themselves by the words incorporated by those who oppress them.  In the best cases, we see a repurposing or destruction of those tools of oppression.

So now we return to the original scene in question in Policenauts, with its terms “so-called women” and “biovestite”.  “So-called women” was admittedly inserted by the translator themselves and not explicitly in the original Japanese, and it was thought appropriate given the unsavory character of Jonathan Ingram.  Factors also included the strip club for trans women being presented next to a child-porn-selling establishment in the narrative, as well as Jonathan’s nostalgic longing for bygone days and the purity of the past.  According to the translator, Hideo Kojima had framed the establishment for trans women in such a poor, uncharitable way that the added animosity could be easily be seen as being faithful to Kojima’s original depiction of trans women.

The translator themself claims that youth and inexperience were the result of their decisions, and that’s understandable.  However, the translator still seemed inexperienced with regard to gender issues during their public exchange with me.  They referred to a trans woman as a “man, pre-/non-op”, and used terms like “transgenders” as a plural noun.  They also seemed to imply that the inherent interlingual awkwardness in the concept of wasei-eigo—or the repurposing of English words in Japanese—is the sole reason for Japanese loan words for trans persons seeming vastly insensitive.  The fact that we still can’t seem to get our words for each other right decades later leads me to think otherwise.

One goal of this piece is not to point fingers at individual persons.  Neither the translator nor Kojima are to really blame for the way they’ve been socially conditioned to use words and see people.  We have all been subject to it.

Sadly, the problems with treatment of gender identity in Kojima games do not end here.

Fans at the Metal Gear wiki page document a mode of sexual assault that first appears in Metal Gear Solid 2.  It is called the crotch-grab.  The wiki states: “The crotch grab is a recurring event in the Metal Gear series [and is] usually played for humor.  The act involves a person clutching the crotch of another, which has been used to verify gender, identity, or to knock a male unconscious when done with sufficient force.”

As shown by a community of fans, the default method for confirming gender identity in most of Kojima’s games is to inspect the genitals. This presents us with a blueprint of where Hideo Kojima’s most popular games stand on gender issues: check between the legs. It’s ironic that transphobia is evident across most of Hideo Kojima’s works since one of the major themes in his celebrated Metal Gear Solid series is that our inheritance, our biology, our genes don’t entirely define who we are—we can define ourselves.