From Side-kicks to Soldiers

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Uncategorized


The portrayal of women as protagonists has changed quite a bit since earlier games. Some evidence of this can be seen in my earlier post, the Evolution of Women in Games. A few female leads that I find especially intriguing are the women who have been placed in male-dominated games. Games such as Halo and Gears of War are both game franchises that have main characters as these “manly men.” However, in the earlier Halo games and Gears of War 1 & 2, these men were not without help of intelligent female side-characters. In the Halo series the main protagonist, Master Chief, was able to save the planet from the Covenant Forces numerous times with the help of A.I. Cortana. Cortana was one of the few women who played a vital role in the Halo series until Kat was introduced in the newest Halo game, Halo: Reach. Kat is the first woman to join the elite ranks of the Spartan army in the Halo franchise.

As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the A.I. character and the actual solider in the game. Cortana’s femininity is very much accentuated when the lines are somewhat blurred with Kat’s character.

Kat From Halo: Reach

The second example I have is from Gears of War. Similar to Cortana’s character, Anya Stroud plays as the female support of the male characters, namely the main character Marcus Fenix. In the game, Anya is extremely intelligent and appears to have a soft femininity about her.

Anya Stroud

However, in Gears of War 3 (Yet to be released), she has taken on the ranks of the other Gears (soldiers) and with a new look to boot. Her well-groomed hair is now shorter and rugged. She now wears partial armor and has become more buff.

Anya Stroud as a Gear

Two things stand out to me in these images:

1) At first, the women acted as intelligent support for the main, macho men in the two games. As

the intellectual sidekicks, they are much more feminine and passive looking.

2) When the women join the ranks of soldiers in these male-dominated shooter games, they take on a completely different look. The women are more masculine, rugged,strong and project an aura of power that they did not have before. Where once their eyes were doe-eyed, they are now narrowed and angry.

The reason for these transformations? I believe that in order for the idea of women to be apart of these violent wars to be convincing to the audience, they have to take on a more “manly” appearance. As Christine Gledhill put it, women who do cross over to the man’s territory

…must abandon or suppress those features characterized as feminizing

If Cortana and the original form of Anya were to be in the middle of the battlefield holding guns, it would not fit the normal view of what a solider looks like.


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