This article deals with gender-related terminology. Any unfamiliar terms are available here easy reference.
Hello everyone, and welcome to another riveting installment of my column about getting representation in videogames! For those who have forgotten, “Disregard Canon, Acquire Representation” is a column I have devised where I tell you which characters are queer, trans, disabled, mentally ill, or some other marginalized identity that does not get representation. In some cases, I pick apart a character’s narrative and give you all the cues that resonate with being trans, while other times I analyze their body language and vocal cues; however, there are also going to be times where I tell you to just live with it because your favorite characters are trans. And this is going to be one of those times, so buckle up everyone and let’s get ready for a wild ride!
Even without the suit she could break you!
Samus Aran is totally a transgirl; how could we possibly have missed it? To start, she’s huge and supposed to be built like a brick house, as illustrated above! While short transgirls tend to exist that’s not to say they cannot be tall, and in fact many transwomen are usually really tall with regards to cis women. As well, the amount of muscle she has and her weight also lean toward her being trans, as that’s especially common among transwomen who transition later in life. Between all of that, there’s also the fact that this is a science-fiction universe, and it’s not so far-fetched that transness could be detected early and Samus could have been given the proper chemicals, hormones, and body reconstruction to ensure she developed through childhood as feminine as possible! There’s all sorts of ways for Samus to be trans, and it’s really not that outlandish, anyway!
Samus, after receiving an injury that would’ve disarmed most people.
As with Commander Shepard, it’s very important to have action transgirls in our media! Especially with Samus, being such a long-established character with many games under her belt and an almost universal level of recognition, she would be a great character for transgirl recognition! And, in a universe where you’ve got evil humanoid lobsters, a giant semi-immortal pterodactyl monster, and energy-sucking jellyfish, this doesn’t seem very unusual! In fact, there are many species even on our own Earth that can change gender at will, and this seems something fairly common in a large galaxy full of a variety of lifeforms both sapient and not. But perhaps the most compelling argument for the necessity and normality of Samus being trans is that transwomen exist now, and they exist doing all manner of awesome things in life. This degree of representation is really important, and should be taken into special consideration.
Noted abuser, authoritarian, and now transphobe.
Adam Malkovich is a strange character, first appearing in Metroid Fusion. Samus describes him as her gruff commanding officer. She also said that he makes a point of identifying her as “lady”—a strange thing to take note of in this future. Except, maybe it’s not so strange. When joining military forces, they get access to your medical records, and while they’re kept a secret, maybe someone said something and Adam found out. Perhaps his calling her lady started as more a bitter, perhaps sarcastic comment, surrounded by air quotes. Maybe Adam is a transphobe, and his calling her “lady”, his restricting her equipment in Other M, and when he even stuns her to go on his glorious death march—maybe all of those are expressions of transphobia.
This addresses two issues: one being transphobia, and the other being Stockholm Syndrome and regarding your abuser as a good person worthy of respect. The actions Adam takes throughout the game are wholly unnecessary and ultimately are him abusing Samus psychologically and in the end even physically, putting her life in danger and threatening the safety of the mission. Perhaps his heroic sacrifice was him realizing that he’s an awful person and deciding to do some good with his last breath. Or, maybe it’s him realizing he’s an awful person and doing something so that he’d be remembered as a good person after his death. That she later thinks of him as a respectable person isn’t unusual; most people maintain a positive view of abusers long after they’ve cut contact with them. It’s common that transwomen face abuse—that a strong transwoman faces abuse and is still presented as strong for it is incredibly important.
If you land on these the wrong way, you’ll fall flat on your back. The right way and you’ll break your toes.
In short, Samus is already an amazing character and would be made, like, ten times more so if she were a transwoman. She’s a strong intergalactic bounty hunter who frequently defeats horrifying evils, so being trans isn’t the most unrealistic thing about her life. Nevermind that transwomen have done amazing things in reality already! We exist, we’re fantastic, and we deserve representation that’s just as fantastic as we are! So, as the column’s name goes, I am disregarding your canon and acquiring representation. Samus Aran is a transgirl, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Alternate explanation: People are taller in the future (on average, we’re about 4 inches taller than anyone from 150 years ago), Adam called Samus “lady” as a sign of chivalrous respect (acknowledging her femininity in a sea of dudes), and Other M is a terrible game.
Your “alternate explanation” is really just series canon. You do know the purpose of this column is literally to disregard established canon and provide representation to marginalized identities, mostly of the trans variety, right?
So people are taller in the Metroid future. So Adam and his squad are all just shorter than average? Or is Samus that much taller than average, like many transladies are?
Adam calling Samus “lady” isn’t really chivalrous when I imagine that in the Future there’s less of a ban on service than there is now, and there were probably many more women under his command. However even if it is, chivalry was based around misogyny, as it is heavily involved in the (false)idea that women are frail and require men to protect them. Acknowledging her femininity isn’t something that’s necessary, unless he felt that she was either A) less than feminine, or B) took issue with her being feminine. Probably because she was trans.
Other M is awful, yes, and some discrepancies from it I’ve ignored. However, the abuse of Samus is something that can’t be disregarded. It’s something that was intentionally put in there. Even if he literally was like, “Let’s use only the minimum amount of force needed for the obstacles before us.” There was no reason for him to lock the Varia suit or tase Samus and go off on that suicide run. There was malicious intent behind both of those, and the suicide run was meant to be the ultimate gaslight, the “If he’s so awful why would he give his life for the mission?”
I understand the purpose of the column, and I do think you made a good argument for Commander Shepard in the last one. Here, though, I would have chosen to disregard Other M as canon to restore the integrity of Samus as a strong female character.
She’s the first positive female role model many gamers ever had. Although I recognize how powerful it would be for her to be a transgender hero, acknowledging Other M to do so takes away Samus’ identity as one of the greatest heroes that cisgender women—another marginalized group, at least at one time—have ever had.
Samus being a few inches over 6 feet tall is plausible even today, though certainly not as common, and let’s not forget that the Power Suit adds a little more height.
Chivalry, as I understand it, is based around graciousness and service to others; chivalrous men aren’t misogynists, but especially respectful and even honorably subservient to women. I’m not sure if this always been the case historically, but this is how I understand chivalry to be.
Regarding being called “lady”, in Metroid Fusion, Samus states: “…from anyone else, it would’ve sounded sarcastic, but Adam made it sound dignified.” Acknowledging one’s femininity is not automatically a bad thing. My sister, for example, has always been a tomboy and fits right in with the guy crowd, but she LIKES to feel like a woman sometimes. Then there’s the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou, which celebrates being feminine. Yes, you CAN interpret this as offensive, but it doesn’t HAVE to be.
Could Samus be transgender? Absolutely. But being told that she IS, and “there’s nothing [I] can do about it” seems to take something away from people who look up to her as a strong cisgender hero, and validates the undeserving canonicity of Other M.
Why do ciswomen, specifically, need a strong hero that transwomen cannot have? We’re women too, we are hurt by men in the same ways, we are marginalized by society in the same ways.
Samus being an icon for transwomen doesn’t take away her being an icon for cisgender women, because transwomen are just as much women as cisgender women. However saying Samus shouldn’t be an icon for transwomen literally tells me, and all the other transwomen that DO look up to her as a transwoman hero, that we’re hurting other women by wanting to be represented by a powerful, feminine heroine that’s been used for decades to represent women already. And, with you having nothing to gain from this argument one way or the other, I am lead to believe that you’re arguing out of internalized transphobia.
Let me spin this back to you: Why do transpeople, specifically, need a strong hero when there are cisgender heroes in the world? If we’re going to differentiate, it has to work both ways; otherwise, we’re inadvertently promoting inequality from another angle.
I didn’t say that Samus shouldn’t be an icon for transwomen. A hero is a hero; anyone can look up to anybody they please. But, as I’m sure you’re well aware, sometimes it’s important to be able to identify directly with the race, gender, religion, politics, etc. of your hero.
“Look! Samus is __________, just like me!” It matters how you fill in that blank. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be writing this column. And if filling in the blank with “transgender” made the statement equally applicable to the same crowd that’s currently filling it in with “a girl”, then you wouldn’t be writing this column, either.
I don’t take issue with the the possibility that Samus is transgender. You make a fair case for that, even though I’m inclined to disagree (in large part because Other M is so inconsistent with the rest of the franchise that I question any use of it to establish or illustrate Samus’ character). I object to the “I’m right because I say so” argument that concludes the article, and the implication that transwomen and ciswomen can look up to Samus equally, but only if Samus is transgender.
In fact, I do have something to gain from this argument, though not so much for myself. I really do believe in gender equality, no matter how much my other beliefs might make me sound like a transphobe, and I’ve seen underrepresented groups of all kinds overshoot equality and end up advocating inequality in their favor instead. I see hints of that in this article and in your responses here. If I’m right, then this argument is an opportunity to shed some light on that, which could potentially shape the way you write future articles. If I’m wrong, then I apologize in advance, and will refrain from aggravating you further in this comment thread or elsewhere.
I think what I’m seeing here is a misunderstanding I see a lot with marginalized groups speaking up. Somebody makes a threatening statement and people come back saying “So much for equality!” or “You don’t like when people say that about you, but it’s fine to say that about us?!”
These aren’t literal intentions, though. It’s catharsis. They’re the equivalent of coming home after a frustrating day at work and saying “I hate my boss so much. I just want to torch the place sometimes.” It’s never going to happen, and everyone can generally assume that—but the express can make you feel better. The imagined scenario places you in a position of power that you can’t find in normal life.
But, you’re basically playing the part of a friend coming along and saying “These threats of violence are getting out of control. You need to calm down; maybe see a therapist.” When you just got off from a really rough day at work, you want your friend to say “Man, that’s pretty bad” rather than “I think you’re overreacting”.
Nathaniel, I think the issue is that you’re taking the “there’s nothing you can do about it” statement as somehow becoming physically manifest. In Robyn’s case, being told “It’s canon. There’s nothing you can do about it. Go make your own company if you’re so upset about it.” is basically something xe has to deal with every day. And, in Robyn’s case, it’s very much real. Outside of starting a gaming company and producing games with underrepresented characters, there really is little to be done outside of writing an article and venting some steam. For every other person, they can just switch tabs or turn around and look at the TV and say “Yeah, there I am.”
I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve been in that position of “Uh, I’m a straight cis white male from a middle-income Christian family. Saying you wish I’d die makes me uncomfortable.” But, then I realized that it’s not about me personally and there’s no real threat to me. Other people aren’t so lucky, so I stopped worrying about my feelings being hurt when that’s all it really is for me.
That’s why I stopped saying “Hey, I thought you wanted equality!” and instead started trying to incorporate representation into my own work. I’m a game developer. I have an opportunity in front of me. If we can actually get some representation going for people, Robyn won’t need to write this column anymore…right?!
When Samus was a little child her fathers were killed and she was almost killed by space pirates. She was found by the Chozo in the destroyed human colony K-2L. The Chozo “Gray Voice” alter her DNA using his blood so she can recover fast and be strong enough to survive in Zebes (Their home planet). This alteration made her part Chozo, cause her to develop a stronger and bigger body and able to control Chozo technology, like her Chozo Battle Suit Ver SA1-4468-VM6-P when she was young.
Yes, that is the canon explanation! However the purpose of this column is to disregard canon and provide representation to marginalized identities, so certain elements of canon may not be applicable anymore.
Wouldn’t it be possible for the Chozo to administer hormone treatments along with the DNA supplements? Also, in a post-production interview for one of the games, background designer Hirofumi Matsuoka acknowledged Samus as a trans woman, albeit in a transphobic manner.
Also a good point! Through science fiction it’s possible to have many different transition narratives!
And you are correct there, too! I’m wondering how to address that in the context of this article, and the quote in question.
サムス は女ではなく, じつはニューハーフである。
“Samus is not a woman, as a matter of fact, she is transsexual”
Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones) is 6’3″. Ronda Rousey is one of the pound-for-pound toughest fighters in the world. Both are cis women. To say that a fantasy character who possesses both traits can’t be a cis woman is false, and sexist.
I’m not saying cisgender women can’t possess those qualities and features, I’m saying because she has them I read Samus as transgender. In a medium where six foot tall women are rare, doubly so if they’re built with considerable muscle, it seems to be a tell toward Samus being transgender.
However either way it isn’t sexist, Samus as a transwoman is still Samus as a woman, and thus is a tall and heavily built woman with muscles.
I was expecting something I could respect no offense. If you mention not being able to respect my comment because of my issue of not using proper punctuation then know it’s just my preference to get my own opinion on your article finished.
Now I felt very off put by your article as it seemed more aggressive than anything. I myself am a trangirl and found your opinion more unfair towards anyone. Your opinion rings thru the silence though and that is what mattered most.
I remember something about Samus’ saying that Adam was like a father to her and after playing other m again I had noticed Samus already decided to limit herself as she was there watching out for Adam’s squad before Adam said she wouldn’t even shoot without his say so. She respected Adam till the end so by saying she showed signs of Stockholm Syndrome sounded unfair in your judgement but again this was your opinion. The bit about from 10ing her lady says the same to me as other people that he respected her as trans while yet knowing the difference of her being trans.
Although this seems to be all from other m which has been noticed by fans as inconsistent in itself. This article being from last year you should know this if you’ve done consistent research of Samus and the game franchise or her involvement in other games like smash. Meaning you my nonbinary friend have used short sighted vision to theorize and hypothesize. I haven’t read any other comments nor any of your other articles so I don’t know if you’ve realized this or changed your opinion or anything that has to do with my opinion of your opinion being unfair. Meaning I am using sort sighted vision myself. Thank you for reading and if you comment back thank you for that as well… Even if it isn’t positive thank you.
I mean, you can feel off put about my aggressive tone, but I don’t feel a neutral and coddling tone is necessary. I’ve been aggressively shouted down many times for my transgender headcanons, so I feel like putting my opinion forward in an aggressive manner in a corner of the internet one would have to go out of their way to access is not uncalled for.
Samus said Adam was like a father figure to her, and many people in the military can say the same thing about their superior officers. However, many of those same people might also be able to describe abuse, whether verbal, physical, or sexual from those same superior officers, so. Samus deciding to limit herself in sensible ways(No missiles, plasma blasts, or super bombs because who knows if any of those might depressurize the ship and destroy civilians) isn’t the same as the ways Adam limited her(No defensive options on her suit, namely the Varia suit being disabled. What purpose could that serve, save to demonstrate control over her, even when she existed outside his authority.) Stockholme Syndrome comes from how the only way we see and hear of him, as a human, is in Other M. His senseless limitations to control and restrict Samus’ defensive capabilities that leads to her life being endangered seems at odds with how she refers to him first in Metroid: Fusion, and later in Other M itself. A “perfect military mind” wouldn’t find the need to disable the Varia suit, especially once they found the ship had a recreation of the Zebes ecosystem. I can only assume the entirety of their military career together reflected this, Samus being denied essential equipment for her mission just to satisfy Adam’s ego and/or cruelty. Even zapping her and beginning his “I’m gonna die the most noble death possible” thing feels more like a forced redemption than anything actually heroic.
Adam calling her Lady seems entirely uneccessary, as well. She says it felt endearing, but again it sounds like she’s unable to confront something abusive as such. It’s not exactly polite to single her out over such a thing, what’s the purpose of it especially given we could assume the space military is fully integrated considering many of the world’s militaries are currently approaching full integration. It seems strange to single out that she’s a girl unless it’s an act of microaggression.
As for using Other M as analysis for a lot of this, most of Metroid Canon doesn’t provide a ground for Samus’ identity one way or the other. There’s considerably less to analyze or write about if I go “Other M was a shitshow, let’s pretend that never happened at all.” And it’s unfortunate Other M features so much characterization, considering that a lot of it falls short of what one would expect. I try to provide articles that are interesting to read, and two paragraphs followed by “I’m right because I’m right” isn’t exactly a good read, you know?
Before I respond I would like to take a second to point out some of my own issues in my comment. I Didnt reread so I now noticed I had said “from 10ing” and I remember nothing about typing it. i apologize for that and possibly others i have yet to notice.
Aggression is needed I agree but what I had meant by “aggressive” is that you used every bullet in your arsenal aggressive. Being assertive isnt bad is one thing i do know for certain. As a person going out of their way to find same minded people on the fact Samus is trans I respect that you wish to put your opinion in a bullet more than a holstered gun in your own part of the internet.
You have a point with the suit. I would imagine his own team wouldnt have such upgrades to their suits though as samus does as Anthony was the only one with a weapon to truly equal Samus’ own weapon strength. As I said you have a point with the suit piece but what if Adam wanted her to be on the same level as his own men which were obviously far more poorly equipped in comparison then what? She’s saved the universe how many times now right? So how bad would it make Adams team look if Samus someone that left the galactic fed after serving under Adam for a time came in and did everything in a matter of less than probably half the time they had taken? Pretty bad I’d imagine. He may have showed distaste often but he more or less approved of her joining his team as a type of back up slowly finding he needs more of her power the more his guys get killed. But yet… what would the galactic fed do to them if Samus came in and took over the whole thing? That I cant figure it out from my analysis but I digress. She would once again have a spotlight but seemingly stolen from Adam and Adam would appear useless for not taking care of it and the traitor wouldnt have done his job.
What I noticed was samus trying to stop him as he walked into sector zero which we unfortunately never get to see (Im disappointed about that tbh) he knew that by she would try to stop him as Anthony and Samus both talked about the incident with Adams little brother Ian and her trying to do that again if it ever happened again which if not for his zap knocking out her suit so itll reinitialize as shes walking to him she wouldve succeeded effectively making sector zero an unnecessary part of the game to visit as she didnt know how to kill the metroids since only the babies can be frozen and killed. they wouldve had to make the game different if for it to truly be what you were thinking of for your opinion on why he zapped her and went off on his own… didnt he also say it could be detached from inside the sector? Samus wouldve been trapped if he didnt do it and he plainly noted he cant win against Riddley which is true. He didnt have chozo dna or metroid dna infused in him like her I imagine. Not to mention every upgrade shed gotten thruought the game while they most likely werent authorized by people above Adam to pick them up or acquire them thru combat like Samus could. Back to the varia suit issue. Whos to say he even knows about Samus’ varia suit though? Just because her coms working and he can see what she does thru her visor doesnt mean he’d know about it Right? If he did then no one really knows for sure except the devs.
The forced redemption bit I agree with because she decided to leave the g.f. and he could have possibly felt responsible for it if not for being unable to handle the mission he was on without her.
The calling her lady part is duly noted that he isnt one to joke. Going by your logic it does seem out of place but as going by my logic he genuinely cared about her enough to pick on her. You can display affection for someone by picking on them. I myself do this and so does everyone else in my family as we would say Adams “giving her a hard time.” Then Anthony called her princess picking on her cause I could only imagine a woman like her could outmaneuver even the best she worked with given the chance which she was able to do as a bounty hunter. Calling her lady cant be disdain without there being visible proof like upfront sexism and transphoebia. When you have to dig and dig thru good looking things too find anything bad youll find something equivilant to a student fishing for a compliment. you fit the little bad pieces together like a jigsaw only to find out you forced the piece into a place it wasnt supposed to go. What you thought you saw couldnt have been on the surface let alone skin deep. Hes obviously a very cold man but not a stupid one. She never mentioned his abuse of her making it most likely psychological. If it isnt psychological abuse then sexual? The game already paints her as mentally unstable as she faces Riddley and a baby metroid why would a ” perfect military mind” need to cause her anymore harm physical or emotional? He could manipulate without causing damage whereas sexual abuse wouldnt make sense with your opinion because hed be transphobic. I would imagine he wouldnt want to touch her after finding out shes trans.
Ah. Now you get to something I noticed. Articles that are interesting to read. It was tthat but that seems to be the point. you caught my attention with your aggression and at first I liked it as I saw it on googles results but then found myself upset and decided to comment. Finding something I dont agree with to the point of commenting is like a sweet white chocolate pip to me as theyre my favorite of sweet treats. I like digging deeper into these things and by digging into yours I still dont agree with you but thats my opinion.Yours changing isnt my intentions no matter how it seems.
And one last thing thats bugged me since i read you article… It didnt connect dots to me.
Thank you for replying.
Ah um… Yes as you most likely have read and replied to my previous comment I had gone upward and read a little of the comments before mine and had found some things that has softened my previous opinion and understanding of the article but without changing my own opinion of it. You said it’s to disregard Canon yet you used Canon. Specifically the aforementioned Canon on her height and weight and chozo acquisition and adminstration of chozo DNA. Not to mention he use of Adam stunning her and calling her lady. I am more confused about it than I was and my opinion is still s it were but what I said about your short-sighted vision has become null and void due to my understanding that you meant disregard for Canon.
Calling this “Disregard Canon” is meant more for how characters are often read as straight and/or cisgender if there’s no direct statement saying they aren’t. People often claim that characters are canonically cisgender and/or until the narrative of the videogame goes out of its way to establish them as otherwise. And referencing canon makes this more satisfying anyway, as well as giving me material to build off of as to how I came to my conclusions. I’m not just throwing a dart at a board after all, each entry is chosen based on how much material I have to write about. Otherwise these articles would be one sentence, “X is transgender because I said so.”
Thank you for explaining. 🙂