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Mother, May I See Metroid: Other M
Korval

[table of contents]
Being Adam Malkovich
Well, excuuuuuuuse me, Princess!
Link, The Legend of Zelda cartoon. Repeated line

Once Samus docks on the BOTTLE SHIP, she gets out of her ship and looks around. She sees a Galactic Federation transport already docked. So someone else heard the "Baby's Cry" too. Christ that's stupid. Anyway, Samus hears and explosion and runs off to find the source. She runs through some rooms and tumbles into a combat-crouch to find... a collection of GF troopers playing with a door.

One of them says, "Fancy meeting you here, Princess." Really? I was waiting for Samus to grab this guy and drop him on his head for calling her that, but sadly, this does not occur. Instead, Samus monologues that this is Anthony, a GF grunt she knows and the only guy who calls her "Princess". So, her CO called her "lady" and this guy called her "princess." What the hell is wrong with the GF military that this kind of shit goes on?

Speaking of being called "lady," we are now introduced to General Adam Malkovich*, who gives Samus a glare right through his helmet. Samus monologues that he was her commanding officer when Samus was in the GF. We even see various flashback footage of Adam leading the team and Samus in her power suit shooting at stuff off-screen. But then Samus monologues to us that, after some incident, she left his command and went off to be a bounty hunter. And we get a shot of Samus, outside of her suit, walking past Adam. Naturally, her hips are swaying as she walks, because obviously that's what all women do after a major battle, right?

I'd like to point out that this flashback+monologue is happening in the middle of a scene. I point that out because our director seems to have forgotten that this is a fantastically bad thing to do when setting up a scene.

Back in the actual scene. Adam asks what she's doing here. Um, what? There was a friggin' distress call; what do you think she's doing here? She monologues that this is typical of Adam. So, he's an idiot, then. She then monologues that she "recounted the details" of how she got here. Um, why did we need a monologue of that? Why not just have her say, "I got a distress call"? That's all of "the details" that exist to be recounted. Well, to be fair, Samus then asks what they're doing there. Actually no, Samus monologues that she asks.

The writing here is just so shitty. Why does Samus monologue her dialog? Why not just have her say stuff in character? You know, like in a movie or something. I mean, there's hack writing, but even hacks know not to do this stuff.

So Samus monologues her question and Adam just says, "That information is not for an outsider." You got a distress call. That's all the information you had to say. Even if that's not how you got here, that's still a pretty damn good cover story. This is just Adam being a dick. And I'm sure this'll be the last time that Adam does something dickish. Totally sure.

Samus monologues that being called an "outsider" in fact "pierced my heart." Obviously we couldn't have any acting to show us; that'd require Samus to emote in her voice or having the animators do physical acting or something. And that's certainly not going to happen in this game. I wonder if horrible lines like this were some failed attempt by the writers to compensate for Samus being inside a suit and having one hand in a gun all the time. The idea being that we can't see subtle facial expressions, change in body positioning, and other forms of emoting, so we would need some way of knowing what she's feeling.

Or maybe the writers are just Goddamn hacks.

Back to the story. The GF guys were putting some explosives on a door as a way to blast through it. It explodes, but no dice: the door is still closed. They consider slowly burning through with a laser. Anthony gives an offhand suggestion of a centralized explosion on a small location; he gives Samus a look while he says this.

So Samus shoots it with a missile, and the doors open.

Anthony chuckles* as the crew moves out. But Adam gives Samus a harsh glare before following his team. Samus says that Adam hadn't "authorized" her to remain on site, but she decided to do so anyway. Well... why should she care what he "authorized" her to do or not? He didn't tell her to shit off when she showed up, so what does it matter?

Actually, it does matter. I have to step out of theater mode for a second to say this, but it is still relevant for the story. Immediately after this cutscene, a notice comes up saying that Samus is choosing not to use missiles or bombs until Adam "authorizes" it.

So, to recap: Samus opens a door with her missiles, Adam gives her a look of disapproval, so Samus decides not to do that again unless specifically asked. Well, there are two ways to interpret this. Samus could be essentially flipping Adam the bird, punishing him for that look by not helping them out unless specifically asked. However, the use of the word "authorize" in this context suggests the alternative: that Samus is willingly placing herself in his chain of command and won't do anything that she believes he wouldn't approve of unless he explicitly allows her to.

We'll find out which way Other M is going with this presently.

After a bit of gameplay, we meet back up with the squad. They've come across a corpse that has various green fluid on him. Samus monologues that he was attacked. Things were so much better when she didn't talk. The body twitches a bit, but only because a purple bug crawls out from under it. One of the GF guys goes apeshit and shoots it wildly. A lot. Samus monologues some more obvious stuff, then she actually decides to speak. She tells Adam that his team will need her to get through the facility. Before she can go on, bugs start coming out of the walls; they form into a big monster made of bugs. Boss time!

Well, nothing seems to be working on the guy. So Adam authorizes his team to whip out freeze guns. He's quite the micro-manager that Adam; he has his men trained to stand there firing ineffectively at something until explicitly told to use another weapon. Then Adam says the oddest line: "Samus, I'm authorizing missile use."

... what? I'm not even talking about the character implications (yet). This makes no sense on a basic continuity level. Adam never told her to not use missiles, so how does he know to authorize their use now? He doesn't know that she's withholding their use. I mean, unless the two of them have some code language where "death glare" means "knock that shit off unless I say so." And if so, it's kinda important to tell us that sort of stuff. With all of the pointless monologuing going on, they couldn't spare one sentence for Samus to say that she recognized that look?

Also, we can scratch option one off of that list of how to take Samus's restricting her weapons voluntarily. There's no question now; she did it because Adam didn't like her blowing up that door without being expressly ordered to do so. And that's what's important to Samus: making Adam happy.

Why am I not making this up?

Anyway, Adam tells his men to freeze some part of the creature, and Samus should shoot that frozen bit with a missile. Of course, Samus does in fact have an ice beam herself, but she doesn't turn it on nor does Adam suggest doing so. And yes, Adam does know she has it because he'll talk about it later. But whatever; the plan works and the bug beast is killed.

Adam reluctantly realizes that she's probably going to be useful. Yeah, I guess the badass bounty hunter who is wearing Chozo-built magitek powered armor and is responsible for the destruction of entire specieses and worlds might be useful. But Adam says that she has to follow his commands. And I quote, "You don't move unless I say so. And you don't fire unless I say so." So Samus kicks him in the balls and tells him to go fuc- no, she goes right along with it.

This prompts another flashback. At least it's a more appropriate time for it. It starts on Adam's face, standing in his uniform. He says "Any objections, Lady?" looking off to his right. Adam's briefing his men. Well, his men and Samus.

Samus monologues about the history of giving the "thumbs up" at the end of a briefing, but she instead gave the "thumbs down". Oh yeah, I'm sure they let people get away with that non-conformist shit in the military. She explains her reasons for this as follows. Adam was generally not known for joking, but he was joking when he ended briefings with "Any objections, Lady?"

We are going to talk more about this.

Samus says that other people would treat her like a child or otherwise differently because she was a woman. And we should note that Samus is something like 16 or so here. But when Adam treated her differently because she was a woman, she was grateful. She monologues that her past (which this game will not speak of in any detail) left her uneasy, but she was touched by Adam using the term "lady" to refer to her. And yet, she says that her thumbs down was a way to express derision at being called a lady. So... which is it Samus? Were you touched or did you not like it?

Samus then monologues that the other soldiers smiled at her and were supportive despite her youth. So... she became "increasingly bitter." We then cut to her walking in some hall, saying that she was angry and afraid that she would be broken if she let her guard down. Even so, she could see that Adam knew her. Indeed, she figures that Adam knew her better than anyone.

More of a cousin or a flighty friend.

Then Samus says that, because her parents were killed when she was young, she saw Adam as a father figure. Shitting on Metroid #2: For saying that the Chozo we see with child Samus in a flashback in Zero Mission meant nothing to her, thus retroactively damaging that scene. No, that guy wasn't a father to her. Nor were any of the other Chozo who raised her, gifted her with her magitek powered armor, and trained her into a badass warrior. No, none of them were a father to her.

-_-

Anyway, Samus explains their relationship as youthful rebellion. By rebelling against him, it simply reinforced the bond between them. She even goes on to say that she would likely never find anyone like him. But she still left Adam; she says that she was "so young. Young and naive."

Back in the present, Samus is attending Adam's briefing, though she's not standing in the lineup here. Adam says that equipment thought destroyed is still functional. Um, why did they think it was destroyed? He goes on to point out that some "unidentified and lethal creature" has killed people. Why just one? Adam also says that their communications are being disrupted, so they have to use navigation rooms to stay in contact. Then he gives each of the crew an assignment, in different areas of course despite the fact that there are obviously powerful monsters afoot. With each assignment comes a face shot with various stats and information of what that person's job in the unit is.

And that might be worthwhile if anyone but Anthony was something other than a Red Shirt and had more than 5 lines of dialog. However, it is interesting to note that Adam is on a first-name basis with all of his squad.

Adam re-authorizes the use of freeze guns. But just for them, not for Samus. Speaking of whom, Samus's comm systems still work, so "everything you see will also appear on this screen."

You cannot imagine the number of plot holes that this one line creates.

Adam magnanimously authorizes the use of bombs, but he says that he'll think about it for the rest of her stuff as time goes on. But he does say that power bombs will not be authorized, due to their destructive nature. They can kill people behind cover and so forth. That makes sense; this is a rescue op, after all. So he's basically telling her not to use things that can cause collateral damage. Oh and BTW: Adam allows Anthony to decide for himself whether his plasma gun is allowed, but not Samus's plasma gun.

After that, Adam ends the briefing. His men give him the customary thumbs up. Now, given the flashback scene we were just shown, what would you expect Samus to do? Obviously it would be to give the thumbs down; that's the narrativistically appropriate thing to do, right? Or perhaps, she should show improved maturity (in her mind) by giving the thumbs up. Which is it?

Neither! Because nothing in Other M is allowed to make sense. Instead, Samus monologues about how this was the first joint mission with the GF since becoming a bounty hunter. And that's Shitting on Metroid #3: for pretending that Metroid Prime: Corruption didn't happen, where she went on missions for the GF directly, under the command of an Aurora Unit and Admiral Dane.* Anyway, Samus says that she "felt confused and strangely exhilarated" at the mission. Samus just says that she doesn't have objections and moves on to complete her mission.

Private Aran

I felt that if I let my guard down, I would easily be broken.
Samus Aran

So, the flashback scene. This scene is basically the ultimate form of Informed Attribute. The purpose of the scene is to establish the nature of the relationship between Samus and Adam. It has two tools for doing this: Samus's monologue and what we see.

But what these two things say are worlds apart. The monologue is telling us what we are supposed to think about what we see. But it just doesn't match up with what is shown.

Watch this entire scene and ignore Samus's monologues. Go just on what is actually shown; it's not a pretty picture. Take Adam's very first line, "Any objections, Lady?" Think about the situation in which Adam is saying this. Adam, a military commanding officer, has just given his troops a briefing about some life-and-death situation. This may be the last time he speaks to some of them. And how does he end it? "Any objections, Lady?"

Note that he's looking directly at Samus as he says this. The fact that she's the only female in the room makes his implication clear. Obviously all the men-folk understand the orders; they wouldn't have any objections, so I don't have to ask them. But we need to check in on little Samus Aran; does she understand the big words coming out of Adam Malkovich's mouth? Oh, isn't she so cute, she's giving the thumbs down. We'll just humor the little girl.

Adam is being an absolute asshole here, calling her out specifically in a briefing. He doesn't even have the balls to call her out by name; he calls her out by sex. The fact that she responds to it with a thumbs down shows that this is all she can really do about it. You're watching someone being harassed by her CO, and the most she can do is this minor act of rebellion: giving a thumbs down. That's all she's got; that's the sum total outlet she has for her feelings.

The fact that the men in the lineup also seem to be laughing at Adam's "joke" makes the situation even more cruel. Her entire squad thinks of her as a joke. This is the sort of thing that, in the real military, gets you put on report at the very least.

It's interesting that it actually gets worse when you put some of the monologue back into it. Remember what Samus said: Adam was not normally known for joking around. This means he specifically decided to make an exception in this case. He didn't do this for just anyone; he singled out Samus Aran as the butt of his "jokes". He decided that drawing attention to the fact that she was the only woman under his command was something that warranted joking about. And doing this in front of the squad no less. This speaks volumes about the attitudes of Adam Malkovich, none of which says anything particularly good about him.

Also, Samus considers her rebellion to just be another way of strengthening their bond. This is dipping dangerously close to the level of an abusive relationship, where the extent of the relationship is one person running the other one down all the time. Her rebellion only prompts more abuse. Thus... strengthening their relationship. Even worse, she says that her gesture of rebellion was because she "had a chip on my shoulder," implying that she now thinks she shouldn't have rebelled at all. That she should have just taken it.

Even worse, her monologue says that she thinks of Adam as a father figure. A father who routinely puts her down verbally as a "joke". She even frames her rebellion against him as just a teenage rebellious period, something everyone does to their father. And she even regrets doing it at all, saying that she was "young and naive." If there is a paternal relationship here, doesn't this sounds uncomfortably similar to how an abused child might talk about her abusive parent? He really does love me, honest!

This is not a nice door that the writers here have opened. It goes farther downhill in light of the way Samus reacts to being in Adam's presence. Take the missile door scene; before, there was no explanation for Samus turning off her stuff. But it makes perfect sense in light of what has been revealed here. She exercises her independence by blowing open the door without being directly asked. Adam gives her the "don't do that again" look. He doesn't even have to say a word; that's how well-trained she is. He lets her know that he disapproves, so she immediately turns off her missiles and bombs until Adam specifically tells her to use them.

This is not the act of an independent woman who prowls the frontier and takes out entire space pirate bases by herself. This is the act of a woman who somehow managed to escape an abusive relationship, then suddenly found herself confronted by her abuser. The old relationship reasserts itself; one look from him turns her into the obedient little child.

One could almost imagine that Adam picked her out early in her career. He saw someone who wasn't fitting into the unit, who was maybe a bit too young to be in the military. Someone young and vulnerable. So he decided to mold her as he saw fit, to play dominance games of power and control with her. To use abuse as a means to keep her in line. It's pretty despicable when you try to imagine how this relationship started.

Now let's be fair. This may not be intensional; it could just be inhumanly bad writing. After all, bad writing often creates Unfortunate Implications unintentionally. Fortunately, there's an easy test for this: bad writing tends to be haphazard and random. Therefore if we don't see anything else in the game that reinforces this view, then it's clearly just horrifically bad writing. But if we do, if this is a clear and consistent pattern within the work...

BTW: Shitting on Metroid #4: for turning Metroid: Fusion's "Any objections, Lady?" from being an endearing phrase signifying the trust in their relationship into verbal abuse intended to establish and enforce control.

19th May '12 10:56:42 PM flag for mods
comments
Eh, I agree with you on almost all the points, but less insults and jabs in every paragraph would be good. Especially in that hottip. It's possible to be negative without being mean spirited. And I re-emphasize that I still agree with you otherwise.
Tuckerscreator 19th May 12
Damn, that mention of the Prime games made me feel good; it's nice to know I'm not the only one outraged by that defense.

Loving your blog. :-)
Scardoll 30th May 12
Also, I think the "any objections, lady?" was supposed to be meant in the same way as in Fusion. It just doesn't work because we don't see a relationship built up between Adam and Samus before the line, so it sounds like he's just being a douche.
Scardoll 30th May 12
Actually when they find the first corpse, Samus doesn't monologue that he was attacked. James is the one who pointed that out. But either way, Captain Obvious saves the day.
thefavs 13th Aug 12
The only thing I have to say about the Prime thing is that if Nintendo is so stuck up to think what they and Team Ninja did to Metroid is better than what Retro Studios did FOR Metroid then the only canon I'm willing to recognize is Prime and won't buy another Metroid game unless the license is given back to Retro with full creative control.
sexybabeee 20th Sep 12
You missed a 'Shitting on Metroid' moment. In the manga Samus's relationship to Adam was no where near as messed up. And when Samus left it was because the GF was holding her back and Adam agreed that leaving was the right thing.
LeithSol 19th Oct 12
My only comment is that I disagree with the defense of Adam-Computer in Fusion. The... "Be a good girl and do as your told" attitude wasn't as readily apparent in that game, but you don't have to read too deeply between the lines. The way he/it admonishes you for your (railroaded) initiative in unlocking the Level 4 doors and getting the diffusion missiles, or for visiting the restricted zone, and afterwards the way it decides that "Welll I guess we can self-destruct, but it has to be my way" kinda spelled that out to me.

The big difference was that in Fusion, Samus didn't immediately roll over.
aubade 21st Dec 12
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