Madison Paige Does Pull Triggers

Madison Paige, the female protagonist of Heavy Rain, stares off to the upper left. She is a hazel-eyed caucasian female with short, cropped brown hair. Rain droplets cover the left side of her face.

Madison Paige, the female protagonist of Heavy Rain, stares off to the upper left. She is a hazel-eyed caucasian female with short, cropped brown hair. Rain droplets cover the left side of her face.

(Warnings: trigger for rape, sexual assault, and spoilers for Heavy Rain)

Heavy Rain’s Madison Paige has had some eyebrow-raising marketing use. There has been much talk of a strip scene that occurs in the game. Then there’s this past year’s videogame females in Playboy edition, which includes her.

Among the primary problems with these images is the context in which they are given. The images used for Playboy look to be the exact same ones you can encounter in game, but they are plucked out of the context of the game and placed in a magazine known for showing nude women for the pleasure of men. Therefore, I frowned at the company’s use of her image, but withheld judgment on the game itself until I could play it.

On the one hand, before starting the game, I was glad that there was the inclusion of being able to play a female character, in a roster that looks fairly typical from a media standpoint, even if it escapes the videogame demographic of younger males. On the other, I was very nervous about how she would fit into the game’s plot. Any further thoughts below this paragraph are rife with spoilers and triggers, I emphasize the latter point more than the former:

Madison after waking up. She is staring out a rain-soaked window, her hands pushed flat as her body is held at more of a distance. She is wearing white panties and a tank top.

Madison after waking up. She is staring out a rain-soaked window, her hands pushed flat as her body is held at more of a distance. She is wearing white panties and a tank top.

The introduction to Madison is triggering, but not immediately. She wakes up in her apartment, groggy. Paralleling Ethan’s introduction, she sets about performing mundane tasks: making coffee, turning off the television, and taking a shower to start. What is noticeable about the shower scene, in comparison with Ethan’s, is how the gaze is focused.

Ethan’s puts the camera at a distance, looking up at him, highlighting his naked back and bare ass. He starts by taking off his boxer-briefs, an appropriate object present to prevent his penis making any screen time. Madison’s strip focuses on both her panties and shirt. When taking off the shirt, her back is out of focus, instead putting that focus on the sink and mirror installment she has, signaling the developers were at least somewhat aware of what territory in which they were headed. Unfortunately, what occurs in the shower becomes even more troublesome. Instead of the same treatment as Ethan (which already used the same filmic techniques attributed to the male gaze), her shower is designed in a much narrower quarter, so that the camera pans around her a few times, taking note of her back, ass, and breasts in equal measure.

This would perhaps not be as troublesome as it is if she did not leave her bathroom to momentarily be aware of an intruder in her apartment. After some tense moments, Madison is in the corner, debating going for her phone or door. The phone will result in its missing, the door will be stuck and suddenly she is assaulted by a man in a face mask. This sets a string of quicktime events into motion whereby she escapes this attacker to discover she is facing more than one, fighting in her panties and a tank top. Knives are drawn, she is thrown on to a bed, et cetera. The scene ends with her locking herself in the bathroom, only to have an intruder come up behind her, put a knife to her neck, and slice across; to cue Madison waking up in a cold sweat, the previous events having only been a nightmare.

The stranger rape and violence against women media implication and fear has begun.

While violence visits all the characters in the game, there is a sense that all the scenes involving Madison have a tinge of sexual assault threatened on top of everything else. The scene I just described, in particular, does not seem to aid the story in the slightest. It is so tinged with triggers and emotional tenseness that getting any feel for Madison as a character falls to the wayside, and it does nothing to progress the plot. It serves as an introduction to Madison Paige as a constant potential victim of sexual assault, and for those worried about triggers, it sets the par for the course.

When Madison is not being threatened with sexual assault, she is taking care of Ethan, acting as his nurse or finding information for him (the latter usually resulting back to the threat of sexual violence). She as a character is never wholly developed, and having a sense of who she is sends mixed signals that highlights an ambivalent character design. Madison is simply not well written into the story (whose writing does not really set any new goalposts with which to begin).

Jayden has problems with ARI, a technology he uses to scan crime scenes, that causes hallucinations and withdrawals, on top of being an FBI agent in a police investigation that is hostile to him. Ethan has lost one of his sons and has the other kidnapped. Scott is researching the victims of the Origami Killer, though his story also goes deeper. Madison is the odd one out, a journalist who stumbles on the scene, but whose journalism is always for the cause of Ethan, never for her own use until the very end, when she writes a book on her experiences. She serves as a foil for Ethan, even engaging in an awkward scene where they can kiss.

The information gathering sequences to aid Ethan include visiting a doctor for information on a location Ethan visited, which leads to the owner of a nightclub, Paco. In the case of the former, the doctor prepared a drink for Madison in my playthrough. Not drinking it gained me the ‘Smart Girl’ trophy, which told me all I needed about what would have happened otherwise. My decision was based on the camera scene I was presented as Madison entered the house, where he looked her up and down as she walked toward and past the camera. I left his house directly after finding the information I needed, but had I not, I have researched to find I would have been knocked out, tied up, and presented with the task of escaping.

Madison checking herself out in a mirror, her back angled so that she can gain a look at both her breasts and behind. She is wearing a red blouse with the buttons undone to present her cleavage.

Madison checking herself out in a mirror, her back angled so that she can gain a look at both her breasts and behind. She is wearing a red blouse with the buttons undone to present her cleavage.

Gaining the attention of Paco in the club led me to have her dance to try and gain his attention. When this failed, she made herself up to be more typically ‘sexy’ by opening up her blouse to expose more cleavage, tearing off a sizable portion of her skirt, and applying makeup, all of which you control with the Sixaxis. The following dance scene is a bit odd, as I was so focused on the buttons I had to press that I did not pay attention to the split-screen, where Paco was making lascivious mouth movements and such toward Madison (something my roommate and his girlfriend pointed out while watching me play).

Madison Paige in the cleavage-showing red blouse being escorted in a darkened room by Paco, a male whose race is hard to ascertain, but has brown, receding hair, and a vandyke for facial hair. He wears blue sungalsses and a zebra print shirt, rings adorning every one of his fingers.

Madison Paige in the cleavage-showing red blouse being escorted in a darkened room by Paco, a male whose race is hard to ascertain, but has brown, receding hair, and a vandyke for facial hair. He wears blue sungalsses and a zebra print shirt, rings adorning every one of his fingers.

This leads to getting his attention and being suggestive about going to his room, where Madison plans on pressing him for information at the point of a gun. This is where the game wishes things to seem more  complicated, as she quickly has her purse with the gun tossed aside, and Paco demands she strip for him. When she refuses, and you have no choice to agree at first, he pulls his gun and demands she strip. The game puts her in a situation where she has to be at gunpoint to strip, at the same time as it presents a trophy for keeping her dignity if you can knock him out before losing more than one article of clothing.

She proceeds to tie him up, squeeze his testicles, and get the information for which she came. I am fairly certain this was meant as an empowering scene for Madison from the standpoint of Quantic Dream, but considering all the other sexually-tinged violence presented to Madison by that point, it felt hollow and sidestepped making any actual comment about the world in which Madison lives. To engage him on any level, she still had to threaten his sexuality. I could not even ascertain if it was within her character to do so, because I had not been given a strong enough character identity or map by which to gauge her actions. Again, all her actions are in the aid of Ethan.

When I wrote about the father complex in Heavy Rain for Vorpal Bunny Ranch, I noted, “In many ways, the game feels like a macho contest of wills between Jayden and Blake [the tough guy cop], and Ethan and Scott. Which is also why Madison feels like a more interesting, if problematic character–particularly as both she and Shaun are the ones navigating both very much within and outside these spaces.” This is only aided by the fact that she is often left feeling tokenized, the other females in the game seemingly a footnote (and almost all mothers faced with the loss of their children); Ethan’s wife is a plot device, and Lauren often feels an empty caricature of the bereaved mother who is betrayed.

The ending I received for Madison brought me some mingled hope and despair. She was signing autographs of her book about the Origami Killer, when suddenly a book is handed to her and a male proceeds to tell her that she deserves a more dangerous adversary. While this could mean a possible sequel with her, it sets up many fears for what she would be subjected to in order to ‘engage’ me. Then again, it could just be a cliffhanger that spells out exactly how the Quantic Dream team envisioned her character, a constant possible victim of the male aggression surrounding her.

While I would love to say all these things were put forth to make the audience aware of what females may face in a world where their sexuality is seen as a commodity, Madison is never fully enough developed to allow such a statement. Paired with the way she is treated in both plot and camera, she is a character I would warn off many people I know just because of the constant triggers with which she is faced.

About Denis Farr

Denis Farr is a white, androgynously gendered, TAB, German-born and U.S.-schooled, male-sexed queer person (with a penchant for other male-sexed queer persons) who started writing about games at Vorpal Bunny Ranch (in other words, he's loquacious). He has continued with this endeavor, expanding his writing to both GayGamer.net and here at The Border House. A strong proponent of expanding diversity in games, his focus is often on how characters are depicted in games, and exploring the language we use to explicate games themselves.
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32 Responses to Madison Paige Does Pull Triggers

  1. Gunthera1 says:

    There will be spoilers in this comment.

    I agree with this assessment of Madison’s character. I had such problems playing her story line. That nightmare of her’s as an introduction to the character was very jarring and seemed to serve no purpose other than causing her insomnia later in the game. Then that insomnia is never really explored so we get a very triggering violent scene for what?? Every other character seemed to have a clear motivation for their search for the Origami Killer (even if those changed or where different than you expected as you played). But early in the game I never got a sense of why she was present. When she started to act as the nurse for Ethan I found that illogical. Why help him? Why trust him? He was not a kind patient to her and yet she continued to help him. Once she knew that he was wanted by the police she actively sought to help him even if that put herself in danger. I kept thinking she was only there to serve as a nurse for Ethan. While that was not the complete story that impression remained with me for most of the game.

    I can talk about the scene in which she gets trapped by the ex-doctor. I also got the Smart Girl trophy but then did not leave the house quickly enough.

    Warning that this will also be a triggering scene description.
    When she gets captured and tied up in the basement the doctor laughs about how they will have lots of “fun” together. He is threatening her with power tools as she is tied up to a table. In the fight to get away she ends up killing him with a one of his tools. It was a horrific scene and the smirk on the doctor’s face when he mentions having fun with Madison implied even more sexual violence. Her going to the Blue Lagoon AFTER this scene was remarkable. Is she doing all this just for Ethan? Those are remarkable lengths to take for this man she does not know.

    Once I learned that she was a journalist it felt too late for the revelation for me. I had seen her as nothing more than an aid to Ethan’s story arc and even when she was revealed to be a journalist her motivations were never explored further.

    • Denis Farr says:

      Yes, she is very much not well written. She even tells Ethan she’s a photographer at first, I believe.

      Unlike all the other characters’, whose motives are presented very early in their sections, Madison is never really given either a motivation or occupation until much later. This seems to fall into line with classical ways of treating women. She’s more focused on how she relates to the other protagonists, rather than who she is.

    • Tom says:

      I found the Club Card and got the hell out of there before I could be captured… I didn’t know for sure what would happen, but it really alarmed me how from the second she entered, Madison was obviously alarmed and uncomfortable, and the old guy was obviously looking at her in a predatory/creepy way. I didn’t stick around, but it reinforced the fact that every scene she starred in (sans Ethan/main players) focused on potential sexual assault Every single thing she did felt badly explicated by the plot. No one would do this for a potential murderer they met in a hotel.

      I was wondering. Are any readers here based in Europe? I think Europe can access the “Taxidermist” DLC (starring Madison) while we in NA can’t… I’m curious to see how she acts/is treated in that excised scene.

      • [TRIGGER WARNING on this comment: graphic description of assault–Ed.]

        I couldn’t agree more about the scene in the club after the scene with the Doc. I had the exact same thought.

        The Doc’s basement was so harrowing for me, I was like SWEATING afterwards… I mean, they force you to play through so many horror movie cliches without telling you that’s what’s happening – they tie madison up, splay-legged, and after some fruitless controller shaking, give her a single option: Scream.

        So “scream” I did, and the Doc begins to press his drill straight into Madison’s inner thigh… (I mean okay, we don’t need to plumb the depths of that particular symbolism), and then… the doorbell rings. Sheesh! So I get out, he comes back, we fight, and then he knocks her out. As she’s “unconscious,” he massages her ass and starts to pull her body towards him. Then, it turns out she was faking it (why didn’t the game make me hold down buttons to fake being knocked out? That would’ve been far more effective), and Madison turns the drill on him and escapes.

        Then, like an HOUR later, she’s going into a club and doing stripteases for Paco? And weirder, she’s all cheeky about it (in her head), saying “You go, girl” and whatever. Beyond bizarre.

        I had a lot of issues with Madison in general – she seemed like a cipher to me, and why she would endure such hardship for (and, in the case of my game, actually DIE for) a total stranger was, of course, never satisfyingly explained. All we got was that she “liked to play the nurse for her brothers.” At the time, I read this as purposefully vague so as to make us think she might be the killer? I dunno.

        But really, it all comes back to that first shower scene. Denis, you described it exactly as I experienced it. “Wait a second, this shower scene is not like Ethan’s. Lame.”

        • Alex says:

          Hey Kirk, thanks for reading and commenting. Two things:

          — Please don’t use the word “lame” in comments here as it is ableist language, and we try to keep the posts and comments sections on this blog as safe a space as possible.
          — I know there’s already a trigger warning on the post, but when describing violence, particularly sexual assault, in detail please try to remember to include an additional trigger warning at the top of your comment (as I have edited your comment).

          Check out our discussion policy for more details, and feel free to email editors at borderhouseblog dot com with any questions. Thanks.

  2. Jayle Enn says:

    Atop everything else (and there is such a mountain of it there), I find that implicating the player by making them ‘tart’ Madison up with the Sixaxis to be incredibly disturbing. Can the player get away with just ruining her skirt hem, or scribbling a Joker grin with lipstick, or is it some kind of Male Gaze Minigame?

    • Denis Farr says:

      No, as you describe it, male gaze minigame sounds pretty apt. The way this game starts reaching the uncanny valley is not only graphical, but in its intent. Oftentimes the character is presented with all these small things they can do (pour coffee, go to the bathroom, shave), that it becomes jarring when one wants to make a decision that is not allowed.

  3. Good observations. I do agree. I was quite disappointed with Madison. Her motivation and background are sketchy at best. The other characters have a much better established sense of purpose and much more focused goals. In contrast, Madison just randomly hangs around. She does get more active later in the game but as you’ve mentioned – the reason why is not established at all. The love scene is cool by itself but meaningless and quite out of place – the characters barely know each other. Nathan’s severe injuries and the urgency to save his son should have prevented such things from happening. The relationship between Shelby and Lauren is much more realistic and much more dramatic considering how the story plays out.

    However not all is lost. I think there are cool things about Madison. For example, while she is attractive, she represents a more realistic female character when you compare her to the usual video game clichés like Lara Croft. The shower scene shows her naked but at least there is a male shower scene to balance it off and it has a more neutral tone than similar scenes in DOA:Beach Volleyball for example. She is in danger often but is able to defend herself without any male help. Actually, it’s the opposite – she is the one who rescues Ethan. The scene you’ve missed – the one in doc’s basement creates even somewhat of a character arc: fear of assault at the beginning and overcoming that fear by being assaulted and surviving. In that context, it somewhat makes sense why she would do such a bold step in the next scene at Blue Lagoon.

    But despites these details, I do agree that her character still remains one of the dodgy parts of the story.

    Still, if you look at these characters, they are light-years ahead of the usual videogame staff and I hope other game developers will be able to catch up with Quintic Dream and improve from here. We have a long way to go.

    • koipond says:

      Hey Krystian.

      I would disagree with you that the characters are light-years ahead of the usual video game stuff. What they’ve managed to create is a human looking avatar that could be mistaken for an improvement, but what’s still created is the visual object for the male gaze, as Dennis points out. The shower scene that you point towards as being egalitarian isn’t. Refering to the post above:

      Unfortunately, what occurs in the shower becomes even more troublesome. Instead of the same treatment as Ethan (which already used the same filmic techniques attributed to the male gaze), her shower is designed in a much narrower quarter, so that the camera pans around her a few times, taking note of her back, ass, and breasts in equal measure.

      The other thing that is pointed out is that she is constantly not in physical danger in the ‘masculine’ sense of being blown up. Dennis points out several instances where the physical danger she is in is constantly mixed with sexual violence. This doesn’t serve anything other than to reinforce the male gaze and use her as a signal for sexuality.

      • I see your point.

        So if which game characters do you think are better written?

        As for the treatment of Madison vs. other characters. Yes, I see there is a difference. However, I don’t think that completely ignoring the gender of characters is the way to combat stereotypes. Egalitarianism can be just as unfair as an prejudices.

        I think in general they did a good job at walking the between familiar character roles without falling too much into silly and tired clichés (damsel in distress). We should take into consideration that is is a unique and very experimental title. Familiar character roles have a function here – they guide the audience through an otherwise alien experience. The best example is the character of Shelby. He is as much a stereotypical film-noir private eye as possible. But I see this as a good thing. It gives me as the player an idea of what his background is and what I can expect from him.

        • koipond says:

          I don’t think this is a question of egalitarianism vs prejudicial tendancies.

          I think it’s really annoying, frustrating and triggering for a metric ton of people when the only type of danger that a female character runs into is danger ladened with a heavy dose of sexual violence. The rest of what you brought up is distracting from that point, and the point that Dennis was making, which was it doesn’t matter what purpose you think that serves, using the threat of sexual violence constantly is full of fail.

        • Denis Farr says:

          I think a comparative studies in terms of just videogames is also faulty. The game has obvious ties to film, and with that in mind, the stereotypes they use fall flat.

          While the other characters have varying degrees of better writing, Madison seems like a character that was designed to fill all the holes for Ethan, rather than be her own character. When such a character is subjected to sexual violence all the time, her gender and sex are being overplayed. I have a feeling this is to compensate for how few females are actually making a noticeable appearance in the game itself.

          • Tricky situation. Compared to films, this really is mediocre writing at best.

            But even though the game seems to reach for film quality, it obviously fails in comparison to film in every category – writing, visuals, animation, voice, “acting”. I think applying film standards is insightful but ultimately unfair, considering how different this is from the video game clichés we had to put up with for so long.

            If you look for stereotypes you will certainly find them. But you should also take into account the all details that don’t work so well with that interpretation. She drives a quite brutal-looking motorbike, she isn’t a helpless victim but actually does some rescuing and ass-kicking herself. I would also argue if the doc scene is really a sexual threat. You see a short glimpse of doc’s former victim and he is male – suggesting that gender doesn’t play a role here.

            • Brendan says:

              I think, considering where the Doctor was going to put that power drill, it is hard to argue that that scene is not a sexual threat. At the very least, it is a very blunt metaphor of a sexual threat.

              I may be wrong about this, but I think I recall saying something along the lines of the male victim being a cop who snooped too much, but Madison would be a special project of his, or some other term that implied he was going to enjoy doing whatever it was he would to her and it would not just be a matter of neccessity.

              That said, Krystian, I agree with to some extent with what you have been saying about stereotypes. While I agree with every point made about Madison’s narrative made in this article, I believe that Quantic Dream were attempting to use archetypic trope characters from filmic thriller/noir genres. ‘Trying’ to make a specific genre instead of just letting your work fall into a genre by means of what it turns out to be is always dangerous as your use of mechanics and rules and highly likely to just turn into stereotypes and I feel that that is what has happened to Madison through utter under-development.

              I agree that they generally walked the line between familiar character roles without falling too much into silly and tired clichés most of the time, but there were certainly scenes that made me cringe with the sheer cliche-ness of them. And, when I think about it, most of those were Madison’s scenes. If her scenes had been a bit more careful walking that line, perhaps Heavy Rain’s treatment of females could be seen in a more positive light.

  4. Ronijn says:

    I liked the game and thought it did a lot of interesting things particularly with emotion and having to make quick decisions that would affect the outcome of the characters. However, I think it did leave quite a bit to be desired, especially in terms of the lead characters.

    First, we’ve got 3 white guys and a white woman. Could we not have a little more diversity in this cast of protagonists? I can understand perhaps why Ethan and Scott were white – if the developers think that this is their main demographic, and they want them to identify with these two charactersI can understand, though I think it’s rather narrow-minded. But Jayden in particular I think could have been easily been portrayed by “anyone”: female, or of some other racial background. (Also the only black character we see is a big, criminal/junk yard owner, which is not exactly great since there was few other representations of people of colour – the store clerk/father and the gangster Madison seduces come to mind).

    As far as Madison herself, it took me quite a while to realize who the heck she was in relation to the other protagonists. Ethan-dad, Scott-Private eye, Jayden-FBI: totally revealed and understood with their introductions. At first, I thought she might be another parent with the insomnia and all. But the way her nightmare unfolded didn’t seem to make sense – why was she having nightmares about being assaulted/killed by strangers? What did that have to do with this case? I hate that it continued the trope of ‘getting assaulted by strangers’ when most often you are assaulted by someone you know and often trust.

    But I found the whole ‘I’m a journalist’ thing frustrating for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t actually see her in that position anywhere – she isn’t giving a report or performing interviews at the crime scene, she isn’t going in to work at an office and getting pressed to continue the story and/or drop it. It’s an amorphous job – why can’t she have a ‘real job’ that we see both Ethan, Jayden and Scott doing? How is she doing any of the ‘work’ as a journalist? (And how do you really see any of that work unless you happen to get the book-signing ending?)

    Second, even though she does do some snooping like the other protagonists and has some serious physical combats and challenges like they do, her motivations make the least sense because she lacks the context of her job and she is primarily used in the story as a love-interest and potentially part of the heterosexual ‘happily ever after’ story. Her story line isn’t really about *her*, it’s about her relation to Ethan and helping him.

    I thought personally, it would have been more interesting if Madison’s character had maybe been Ethan’s wife. A lot of similar things could have been accomplished such as the snooping for clues and even their relationship gaining more tension/being re-ignited by searching for their son. Or, alternatively, have the prostitute character (whose name escapes me at the moment) who hooks up with Scott have more of a substantial role. Oddly enough, it seems that both Madison and the prostitute fulfill similar roles – some snooping, kind of a prop to the male protagonists and love interests.

  5. I generally agree with you. Some comments tho:

    Racial diversity – Yeah, you are right there. On the other hand, this is a French game. Racial diversity in media is much less of an issue in Europe.

    There is the African American grave digger you’ve missed but this one is a rather minor character. At least Quanitic Dream’s former game, Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy had a African American character.

    I don’t think the Prostitute fulfills a similar role. Sure, she tags along Shelby for most of the time but it makes sense Shelby being the professional private eye here. Her motivations are much more clear, her emotional involvement is a much more frequently addressed. Finally, (SPOILER) she plays a vital role to tie up some very important loose ends if you manage not to catch the Origami killer. In this scenario, the entire story suddenly turns out to be focused around her.

    But I send your thought on Ethan’s wife. The way she is treated is just horrible. She should have played a much more important role in the story.

    • Denis Farr says:

      While it is a French game, it was designed to be in an American city. With that in mind, the game has many small details that draw away from this experience. Some European entrances into the game is one thing, but racial tendencies as they are in the game are horrible stereotypes. Either Quantic Dream should have used a different setting or done better research.

      Whereas you say racial diversity is less an issue, I think it does inform us differently that they made such a blundering mistake in this game. The violent criminal who is known for his physical prowess and then the good ol’ boy who’s a gravedigger and was friends with the young white boys? The Indian shopkeep? These would be instances that would be less noticeable with more variety in the cast overall.

      Lauren is an interesting case, and I have not yet seen the ending that you highlight. Her motivation is clear, where Madison’s is not. This again makes me think Madison was used to plug holes and fill gaps–not designed as a primary character from the beginning or left as a nebulous other.

      • Oh, that’s a tricky one! I love it! :)

        The game may take in an American city but that doesn’t mean that the choice of the cast has to follow an American code of political correctness.

        African American take up only 12% of U.S. American population. It is entirely plausible that if you pick 4 random people they will end up being all white.

        I do understand that this is a sensible issue but trying to avoid any racial tendencies creates a paradox where you will always tend to choose minorities as main characters: If you add one minority to you cast and they will be criticized as being merely a token character. You could say that of Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy where there is a African American character but he’s not the main character so it comes off as only the cliché black sidekick. The only way to introduce a character with a different racial background that isn’t problematic is to make him/her as pivotal to the story as possible. And it has to be one of the good guys too! It almost has to be the protagonist by default.

        I think understandable if Quantic Dream decided not to get into that kind of dilemma – especially if it is a non-issue where they come from.

        But on the other hand I do agree that the examples you’ve listed show they didn’t really try to avoid tired racial clichés. So at least as secondary characters go – point taken!

        • oliemoon says:

          The game may take in an American city but that doesn’t mean that the choice of the cast has to follow an American code of political correctness.

          It’s not about “political correctness,” whatever that is. It’s just about being realistic, and if you want to realistically depict a typical US city, it’s not going to be all white with token POC stereotypes.

          African American take up only 12% of U.S. American population. It is entirely plausible that if you pick 4 random people they will end up being all white.

          African Americans are not the only non-white folks who live in the US. Latinas make up 15% of the population, for instance. All together, POC comprise over a quarter of the US population so while it might be plausible that four random people selected from the US would be white, it is not statistically likely. That also ignores the fact that POC in the US are not spread out evenly across the whole country: statistically, we reside in urban areas in larger numbers than rural, making US cities more racially diverse on the whole.

  6. (sorry to come late to the thread; arrived from Shakesville’s Blogaround)

    For those looking for a similar type of game (somewhat) with better women characters, check out Uncharted and its sequel, Uncharted 2. The former is better than the latter, I think, in terms of its treatment of women: the major NPC/ally for Drake is a reporter, one who is quite comfortable and useful with a firearm, and who doesn’t need rescuing any more than Drake does, particularly. She’s also realistically proportioned, and dressed in a reasonable way for the environment (a tanktop, sometimes, other times a dress shirt-type thing, maybe a buttondown, with jeans and trainers, little to no makeup) – in subtropical and tropical conditions, where many games would have her in a ripped t-shirt or an outright bikini.

    It’s not perfect, by any means, and there’s a distressing absence of any other female characters (in U2, there is another, but she’s a bit more problematic/conventional to a video game standard – her blouse is buttoned low, she wears very tight pants and a lot of makeup. She’s also a lot more sexual – if she were the only woman in the game, it would have felt like a long step back, but given that they retained the good character from the first game, and kept her in the same sensible-but-attractive ensemble, it can be rationalized a little by pointing out that some women do, of course, choose to dress to draw the male gaze, and that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that – feminism is about choice, after all.

    Good analysis on this game, and the warning for the triggers is valuable – I probably won’t play it, because even reading the article had me a little more anxious than I like to be – so my thanks for this.

    Cait

    • Denis Farr says:

      Welcome, Cait!

      We are indeed a fan of the Uncharted series here, particularly what we suspect is Amy Hennig’s influence in the depiction of its women. Brinstar has this excellent post about both Elana and Chloe individually, as well as praising Naughty Dog for how it goes about treating the romance in the game–something most games would have done horribly.

      While Heavy Rain was an experience I felt worth having at least once, among the reasons I wanted to write and share this was so that players who have triggers could avoid it. The game does really pull one into the action at times, and with Madison, it often left me feeling sick to my stomach.

    • Maybe it’s because I’m from Europe but I find characters, who are “comfortable and useful with a firearm” uncanny and unrealistic by default. No matter what gender.

      And yeah, Heavy Rain is the same here – Ethan is somehow immediately able to check the magazine of the pistol he receives from the Origami Killer. That looks like something a person familiar with guns would do. When would an architect learn to do that?

      • koipond says:

        If they had an interest in firearms. There are many places in the US where, if you have an interest in firearms, you can learn all about them regardless of what your day job is.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi everyone,

    First post on here so I’ll do everything I can to be completely respectful, though I’m sorry if I inadvertently do not succeed.

    Reading through Denis’ piece, I was surprised. I just finished playing through Heavy Rain, enjoying it immensely despite some voice quirks and odd Europeanizations. I never saw Madison’s shower scene. As her, I woke up, allowed myself a pensive moment in bed, walked over to and gazed out some windows, looked at my computer, and then went through the stress of her assault.

    I didn’t think to shower. Denis, and others of you, did. As you describe the camera angles, that scene does seem questionable, though, perhaps, this being a nightmare, it may have been a case of David Cage, our director, playing around with horror cliche–male gaze of woman in shower followed by attack. That doesn’t make it acceptable that this scene is more sexualized than Ethan’s, but it is an added quirk.

    As for her character as a whole, I too was, at first, frustrated that her past was so ambiguous. But, I actually began to appreciate just how enigmatic she was, and found the reality of it all–a journalist (presumably freelance) looking to find the story on this guy, but realizes he is struggling to save his son, so she becomes more emotionally involved–powerful.

    I always thought of it as her trying to help Ethan for Shaun, not for him. It only becomes about him as well when he becomes the absolute suspect, and understandable shift.

    Also, the entire game is based around extraordinary encounters. Shelby and Jayden both chase down or are attacked by dangerous men in many of their scenes. I think that Madison’s encounters are as dire as they are because she is truly working within the circle of the killer, the baddest of the bunch. They objectify her because they are misogynists or torturers. And she conquers all comers, becoming truly the bravest character of the lot in my eyes.

    I’ve written a lot, but a few words more on the club scene. This is the scene for which I really respected the game. At all times you can listen to Madison’s thoughts, and at all times she hates Paco and the idea of being sexy for him. The bathroom scene of dolling yourself up reinforces the artificality. The dance and strip scenes are the opposite of titillating–I felt disgust at Paco in the former, and panic in the latter as I tried to find a way out. The “you go girl” is for succesively fighting her way out of a terrible situation, not for exposing herself.

    Okay, hopefully this dissent doesn’t come off as combating. I really respect this site and its approach. Thanks all!

    • Alex says:

      Okay, hopefully this dissent doesn’t come off as combating.

      It doesn’t, no worries ^^b Thanks for reading and commenting!

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