“What?!” was probably your reaction when you saw this screen on your game console. You had finally gotten 100 percent completion on Metroid and were about to get the secret ending for your troubles. Then Samus Aran cast off her Chozo-built suit and revealed the bikini clad body of a woman.
You had thought you were playing as a man all this time, but you couldn’t have been more mistaken. You found in that moment that you had been controlling one of the most badass women in all the cosmos, one that would go down in history as one of the most heroic women in video games.
That reveal changed a lot. She became a fan favorite of men and women alike, and let young girls know that being a warrior was more than a valid option. Who could possibly have a problem with such a strong female character?
Enter trans activist, game designer, and all-round crazy person Brianna Wu.
For those blessedly unfamiliar with Wu, he is an attention-seeker of the highest order, often saying very insulting things about groups of people such as gamers, then claiming he’s a victim of death threats and online hate mobs when they respond. He even claimed he was forced out of his home at one point, but this has been held in question.
Thin to Nonexistent Proof for This Sexual Appropriation
On Tuesday, Wu’s method of getting attention was to try to take a video-game heroine from girls everywhere by saying that heroine is actually a transgendered person. You can read Wu’s argument in full here at The Mary Sue.
“That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you that one of the most famous women in videogame history happens to also be a transgender woman! It’s none other that [sic] Nintendo’s Samus Aran!” write Wu and Ellen McGrody. What’s their proof?
They backs up this claim by referring to one of the graphic designers who had worked on Metroid, by the name of Hirofumi Matsuoka. During a post-development interview in 1994, Matsuoka and others within the development team shared secrets that only they know about Samus. His? “Samus isn’t a woman. As a matter of fact, she’s actually a shemale.”
That’s about it. A guy who worked on background production during the game made a claim, and that was enough for Wu to claim that one of the most looked-up-to women in video game history actually belongs to the trans community. Oh, and it’s not just a claim. According to Wu, “IT’S CANNON!”
Wu’s ill-spelled claims aside, one man’s likely jest about the sex of Samus does not canon make. You’ll see on the interviews that another man claimed to know where her beauty mark was, and another could tell you her measurements. Programmer Fujii Yashuhiko said Samus had no secrets, so if we’re taking these guys at face value, then we’re getting conflicting reports here.
Matsuoka is not a canonical source, regardless. Wu and McGrody list him as a “creator,” but Matsuoka worked on the backgrounds within the Metroid games. That’d be like the guy who set up the background scenes during the filming of “The Lord of the Rings” claiming that Aragorn had the power of flight.
Let’s Ask Nintendo
What is canon is that Nintendo has always referred to Samus as a woman. This was even acknowledged in the official manga. In fact, Nintendo included Samus in its celebration of female characters during Women’s History Month just this year, an event The Mary Sue itself acknowledged. “In Honor of Women’s History Month, Nintendo is highlighting some of everyone’s favorite female characters such as Samus Aran, Rosalina, and Toadette,” Nintendo proclaimed.
Wu is correct, however, in saying that Samus has been drawn to resemble a petite womanly body more and more over time, but this is only more proof that Samus is indeed a woman, and that’s how Nintendo wishes her to come off.
To gloss over the rest, much of the remainder of Wu’s article is a back and forth between another trans activist on Twitter and a Metroid fan arguing that no one can know what Samus’s birth-assigned gender was, despite it being shown in games, and even claiming that perhaps she was just perceived as a girl by her fictional peers.
Wu even laments that people can go along with bird aliens (an integral part of Samus’s origin tale) but not choosing a gender. He even backs it up by posting the tweet of someone saying how problematic it is that people require proof.
You Can’t Have Samus Aran
Normally, none of this would matter. Samus Aran is a fictional character, fighting fictional aliens. The thing is, Samus Aran is much more than that. As I’ve stated before, Samus is an icon to many. She was the first in a long line of video-game heroines that would inspire girls with strength and determination. She’s the shining example against the social-justice warrior’s claim that gaming is only for men, and that women are little more than background decoration. She’s just as important to many as Superman or Spider Man are to others.
What Wu and his small army of trans activists and allies is doing is selfishly taking this beloved character and twisting her so she fits into the narrative the way Wu wants her to. In the end, that’s what this is all about: Wu’s world. What can Wu have? What can Wu take? What can Wu claim so Wu’s narrative and cause can strengthen to benefit Wu more?
Well, Wu can’t have this.
Samus is 100 percent a strong, fierce woman. She wasn’t once a man who decided to become a woman. No, that would take away from Samus’s feminine strength. She’s not bogged down by questions about her identity. Samus knows who she is. She’s confident in it. She’s one of the greatest representations of pure girl power. There is nothing wrong with that, and everything right with it.
If Wu wants to retcon the childhood hero of millions, then he’s more than welcome to try. He’ll fail, rest assured, but he’s more than welcome. I’m just curious as to why a game developer who feels that trans people are tragically underrepresented in the gaming industry just doesn’t just go and create one himself? Why not create strong trans characters instead of bemoaning that developers are only concerned with pretty, skinny, cis characters in games?
Can’t wait to see what you come with, Brianna!