Portal 2 developer commentary

Chell, crouching

Unusually among game heroines, Chell is complete non-sexualised. (A white woman of slender to medium build with somewhat messy dark hair. She has bare feet, wears an orange jumpsuit, has braces on the back of her calves, and carries a handeheld portal device, which looks like a futuristic ray gun.)

Portal 2 is not a perfect game from a diversity and inclusiveness standpoint. There are definitely a few moments where it gets things wrong, but there are also a lot of things that it gets right. Most notably (and like its predecessor) it features two strong female characters in Chell and GLaDOS, neither of whom are in any way sexualised. It not only passes the Bechdel Test; it blows it out of the water.

However, this isn’t what impressed me the most about Portal 2. What did impress me most was this comment, from within the game’s developer commentary:

Project Lil is our codename for an internal push to make our comments more accessible to the whole Valve community. It was pointed out to us in mail from a fan, that in some of our previous commentary, the designers referred unfailing to the gamer as a “he”. Although in natural speech most of us normally tend to say tend to say “they” and “their” rather than “he” and “his”, some stuffy, over-active minion of the grammar-police went through and revised all those usages to make them confirm to an oppressive, gender-biased rule. However, research shows that “they” and “their” is a perfectly acceptable and even older form and we’re happy to fall back on it and let people talk the way they normally talk, and screw the so called “rules” that alienate our fans. Thanks, Lil.

This comment, made by writer and designer Marc Laidlaw, can be found in test chamber 13 in chapter 3, for anyone who wants to go and check it out for themselves. (I’ll also note that I transcribed it manually, and may have introduced some errors in doing so. These are my fault and not Valve’s.)

The thing that I love about this is not just that they’re making an effort to be inclusive, but also that they’re willing to admit that they got things wrong in the past. Admitting that you got something wrong is seldom easy and usually takes some degree of courage, so I always cheer a bit when I see things like this.

This is also direct evidence that developers like Valve are learning, are improving, and are willing to engage with us when we politely point out problems we see in their work. I can’t see that as anything other than fantastic news. Thanks, Valve!

About rho

Scientist, woman, lesbian, transsexual, gamer, geek, feminist, liberal, rationalist, and various other labels. Gamer since the days of the ZX81. Feminist since the time I realised that the label was not synonymous with transphobe. I keep a sporadically-updated personal blog about whatever's on my mind at the time.
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70 Responses to Portal 2 developer commentary

  1. I’m curious what you believe they got wrong. When I played it, it was a breath of fresh air on all counts. I thought it was brilliantly inclusive.

    • rho says:

      Rather than reply myself, I’ll just point you at the other comments on this entry, where several people point out problems they had with the game. I think it’s particularly interesting to note that there are also people (such as yourself) saying that they didn’t have any problems. I always find this interesting, because it serves as a reminder of just how incredibly difficult it is for writers and developers to create games that absolutely everyone can feel good about.

  2. bluestar says:

    Just a quick comment: I’m not sure if I’d use the phrasing on the caption “A white woman of slender to medium build.” Chell’s base for face and body is Alésia Toyoko Glidewell, and she is Brazilian American and Japanese. I always thought that Chell was deliberately modeled to look mixed (as she looks quite similar to Alesia), to reflect Alesia’s background. Chell has light eyes, but so does Alesia.

    http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Al%C3%A9sia_Glidewell

    http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/File:Al%C3%A9sia_yellow.jpg

    • Lyss says:

      Seconded. And it’s not the first time I’ve seen photos on this site labled with a specific race – usually white – when the subject could arguably be something else. Why label at all if you’re not 100% sure?

  3. Kimiko says:

    Nice going :)

    I never understood the problem with singular ‘they’. It’s one of the better features of English that it has such a gender-neutral pronoun I think.

    • Pai says:

      Do some people have an aversion to not knowing the gender of a person being talked about? I never got it either.

      • Bakka says:

        I think some people probably do have such an aversion. But the “gender-neutral” use of he does not really give the gender of the person either, though it gives the illusion of doing so, and apparently people don’t actually hear it as gender-neutral. They hear it as male.

        • Trodamus says:

          Grammatically, standards have swung back and forth as to whether it is acceptable to use “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “she.” Current standards of formal writing dictate the latter, which you’ll see much of in, say, RPG sourcebooks as they alternate between sexes in describing classes.

          Whether someone uses he (or she) generically, they or them, or ” he and/or she”, none of them are actually incorrect, but some are more correct than others. As always, there should be other indicators if someone is taking a more hardened gender stance than what pronouns they’re using, and if that makes up the entirety of your case against something then you’re grasping at straws.

          Unless you’re not! I guess.

          • grammatically, none of those examples are incorrect, but from a social standpoint the use of “he (and/)or she”, “he/she” or “s/he” can erase nonbinary folk. “he (and/)or she” can include bigender folk or intersex folk that are comfortable with using both socially accepted gendered pronouns, but lots of folks are uncomfortable with widely accepted usage of such binary pronouns because it erases their identity and existence. and further justification of the use of such pronouns just contributes to that erasure because then it means people aren’t bothering to listen. kind of sucks.

  4. CthulhuMythos says:

    The only thing that bothered me about Portal 2 were the fat jokes. I just kept thinking to myself that it wouldn’t have been nearly as “funny” if the avatar were male.

    • Hirvox says:

      The game does mock itself for making those jokes near the end, though.

      • Kate says:

        It also mocks the very concept of making fat (or anorexic) jokes and/or comments early on in the co-op mode.

    • Bakka says:

      I have heard this criticism a bit around the web. I am working on a blog post in response.

    • Kimadactyl says:

      I actually thought this was a deliberate poke at how generic and pathetic fat jokes are – this is a company with a famously(?) overweight CEO. Personally I thought it was a deliberate kind of dig at the laziness it entails – not sure if I’m giving them too much credit or not?

      • Holly says:

        The writer said the fat jokes were a reference to a passive-aggressive aunt who used to say the same kind of things to him when he was a kid. Obviously it’s slightly different coming from an adult woman to a child as it is coming from a (robotic) adult woman to another adult woman.

        But I think the actual joke about GLaDOS’s fat insults weren’t their laziness so much as their pettiness. GLaDOS hates Chell more than anyone else, and is torturing her to death, and yet to hurt her feelings all she does is make fun of Chell’s weight. Also, GLaDOS redeems herself at a point near the end where she defends Chell from being called ‘fatty’, not because she wants to defend Chell but because the person insulting her doesn’t understand why it hurts her. (There’s also that co-op line where she tells the brobots that ‘humans frown on weight variance’.)

        Personally, while I understand that lots of women find it justifiably annoying that a female protagonist is reduced to being insulted for being fat and having bad fashion sense, that irritation was outweighed for me by my enjoyment that a game was trying to hurt my feelings like a girl. The game tried to get the player to identify with a first-person female character by calling the player fat and saying they wore ugly clothes, not by (as usual) making fun of the player’s penis size and ball heft.

        The only fat insult that grated for me was Wheatley’s one right at the start of the game where he says Chell looks ‘…healthy’. It really makes no sense since he’s not trying to upset her and Wheatley has minimal self-censorship ability and Chell is NOT fat (although she IS larger in Portal 2 than she is in 1) – all I can think of is that it’s a line that wasn’t cut from an earlier version of, perhaps, Wheatley’s personality.

    • Meg says:

      Yeah, I remember thinking that Glados seemed much less creepy and much more catty than the first time around.

      @Anon, I haven’t been harassed about my weight since I was 14. At least, not by another woman, anyway. Stereotypes != ‘femaleness’. And, even if it was, what’s the alternative? Should all “neutered” (nonstereotypical) characters be male then? What’s wrong with having female characters who just happen to be female?

      • I didn’t notice until I went back and compared, but yes, there’s a marked difference in GLaDOS’s portrayal between the two games. It does make sense in-universe though – remember that, at the end of Portal, GLaDOS got a load of behavioural inhibition spheres removed from her. The first one in particular caused a really big shift in demeanour from “coldly mechanical” to “sultry murderess”.

        For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR3jlwvjL9M

    • I think it’s a complete misinterpretation of the game’s humor to take the fat jokes at face value. I see it working on two levels. First, there’s the fact that while GLaDOS is a hyperintelligent AI, she’s getting some very catty pleasure out of insulting Chell’s weight–it brings GLaDOS’s insults down to the level of a middle-schooler’s. Second, Chell is stuck in a massive complex, the situation outside is ambiguously apocalyptic, a homicidal AI is trying to kill her…any “weight problems” she may or may not have are quite simply the least of her worries. Attempting to burn her in a fire, siccing turrets on her, attempting to psychologically manipulate her–GLaDOS seems to think that those are nothing compared to the horror that is telling Chell that she’s overweight. The game doesn’t want us laughing at the fat jokes–the game wants us to laugh at how pathetic and petty fat jokes are.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @CthuluMythos I thought the fat comments were a decent example of writers embracing their female characters’ femaleness for once. They wouldn’t have been as ‘funny’ if they were directed at a man, since they’re not such cruel things to say to a demonstrably not-fat man. Being called fat despite not being fat is something women are expected to be (and usually are) hurt by and GLaDOS is trying to make Chell feel hurt whether it makes sense or not. It’s not /progressive/ to have GLaDOS use such stereotypical ‘bitchiness’, but I can see why they did it.

    They could just as easily have completely neutered Chell and GLaDOS, but then in what sense would they have been strong female characters, as opposed to characters with female representations? I don’t take the view that eliminating femaleness makes a better female character.

    • Lucas says:

      I think it’s a pretty cheap way of embracing their being female. The stereotype that women use fat jokes to harass each other is rooted in the internalized objectification of women. And the whole point of the joke is to suggest that being fat means one is a failure.

      GLaDOS’s other ways of harassing Chell are inventive and based on their personal history and they develop their relationship even further. Why do they need such nasty comments to feminize the characters? It comes across to me as if the writers asked, “how do women harass each other?” and came up with “fat jokes,” rather than “how would GLaDOS harass Chell?”

      It was sweet when GLaDOS stood up to Wheatley’s “adopted… fatty” attack, but I don’t think the problems of those stereotypes were challenged. Just the context in which they were used.

      • M. Caliban says:

        “The stereotype that women use fat jokes to harass each other is rooted in the internalized objectification of women.”

        The stereotype that women use fat jokes to harass each other is rooted in the reality that women use fat jokes to harass each other. Much as men harass each other through gay jokes.

        • Meg says:

          Yes, some women use fat jokes to harass each other, just like some men use gay jokes to harass each other. Not all, though, or even most.

          Is having male characters who don’t harass each other with homophobic language “eliminating their maleness”? Would every male character be expected to behave that way by default? Would RL men who found that stereotyping offensive be told that it would be pointless to make a male character who wasn’t homophobic because it would “neuter” the characters? (I realize you’re [probably] not Anonymous, but disagreeing with Lucas without objecting at all to Anonymous’ post seems to imply that you don’t find it all that objectionable, so…)

          • Anonymous says:

            I am Anonymous and I agree with Lucas’ post. It is cheaply using a stereotype and there is fat-shaming in that stereotype and a whole lot of baggage they didn’t have to deal with. The writers’ room conversation strikes me as very plausible (although it was probably more ‘how do we make jokes about women harassing each other?’). They didn’t try to challenge the stereotyped dynamic.

            But they did try to make a female character have to deal with some stupid thing a woman may have to deal with (and I got the impression they knew really it was stupid, so they thought they could joke about it). It’s not a progressive or bettering depiction, but I’ve dealt so much with macho men stereotype stuff in games it’s nice to see someone doing something different in a mainstream release.

            What I mean is I get the impression that their use of the stereotype was a way to say to the player ‘we’re telling a woman’s story now: in most respects it’s not so different from the mens’ stories, but she is expected to deal with some different things sometimes because of her gender’, and to communicate that in as few lines as possible.

            There are a lot of other ways they could have written that! They took the stereotyped shortcut that most people would understand. I freely admit I may be giving them too much credit.

      • Deviija says:

        I’m glad that Lucas pointed out what I was thinking to post. It came across the same way to me upon hearing the interplay of the “fat jokes” in the game.

        Lucas’ point that with women it comes with internalized objectification of women is very appropriate and relevant, imo. Also, there can be more than one thing something is rooted in.

  6. Line says:

    How come Chell is referred to as white in the caption? I suppose there’s no definitive labeling for a character without any explicit backstory, but her model is based on the voice actress Alesia Glidewell, who is of Brazilian and Japanese descent. When I played the first game I really appreciated not only that the hero was casually female, but casually a woman of color as well. That’s how she appeared to me, at least.

    • rho says:

      The short answer is that she’s described that way because that’s how I’ve always seen her. I had no idea that she was modelled on a real world actress. Why I’ve always viewed her that way is a more interesting question, and I suspect the answer is down to one or more of the following:

      1. My own white privilege.
      2. The different way that Hispanic and Latina/Latino people are viewed in the USA as opposed to my native UK.
      3. I have an extremely non-visual mind, and don’t notice things like this easily*. Choosing images and writing captions is always the hardest part of any post here for me.
      4. Many differences in ethnicities are down to culture rather than just appearance.

      * As an example of this: once when I was taking a BSL class, we were describing our houses, and I was asked what colour my front door was. Despite the fact that I’d lived in that house for a couple of years at that point, I had no idea. While I’d seen the door, I’d never really noticed it. Its colour was something that my brain instantly filed away as extraneous information that could safely be forgotten.

      You’re right, though. Describing her as white isn’t right. I’m not sure what the best way to describe her would be, though. Indeterminate and possibly mixed race? I think it would also be wrong to describe Chell as being of Japanese and Brazilian descent, just because that’s what her model is based on. I’m not sure, though. (I confess that I’m not as knowledgeable about race issues as I could be.)

      • rho says:

        Oops. My line breaks got eaten. Sorry if that list isn’t as clear as it could/should have been.

      • Line says:

        Yeah, it’s a tough question, isn’t it? You could always just say that Chell is a woman with light to medium skin tone and dark hair, which is more descriptive in some ways and less descriptive in others.

        To me it sort of depends on the purpose of the Border House writers’ use of racial identity labels in picture captions. As a reader, it seems like there could be a few reasons for it. For example, since most images here are of videogame characters, it calls attention to the inclusiveness (or lack thereof) of the games being discussed. It also echoes the identity declarations that the writers make at the start of the post, which seem to be a statement of “this is where I’m coming from.” So I can see why it’s done.

        Still, the definitive nature of these labels can sometimes come across as discordant. After all, this is a space that in part defines itself by an acceptance of people with ambiguous identities of all kinds. Does the Border House have a style guide that explains why the captions are written the way they are?

        • rho says:

          We don’t have any codified style guide that I’m aware of, but you’d have to ask our intrepid editors for a definitive answer on that one. For me, I use the captions to try to describe the image to anyone who can’t see it for any reason (including but not limited to people who are blind or visually impaired, people using older technology such as text-only browsers or low-bandwidth connections, and people who habitually browse with images disabled for whatever reason). However, I’ve never actually spoken to any of these people, so I’m not sure what would be best practice in terms of what’s most useful for them, so what I write is mostly guesswork on my part (especially when combined with my non-visual brain which I mentioned above). I’m certainly open to suggestions and constructive criticism.

          • bluestar says:

            I might suggest the following in this case, since we explicitly know the background of her model:

            (A woman of slender to medium build with somewhat messy dark hair. She has bare feet, wears an orange jumpsuit, has braces on the back of her calves, and carries a handeheld portal device, which looks like a futuristic ray gun. She is modeled on a woman of Brazilian American and Japanese descent.)

            Hope that’s helpful!

            • Bakka says:

              Bluestar, that is a great description. Can I use it for my blog post, too?

            • bluestar says:

              @Bakka

              Feel free to use the last sentence as you wish, but the rest of it is pretty much verbatim from the caption in the original article, so you know. :)

  7. Bakka says:

    Yes, I caught that bit of the commentary, too. I agree it was great.

  8. Laurentius says:

    Though I consider right away Portal2 to be one of my favorite games and probably best or one of the best single player experience I really dislike the change Valve made to Chell appearance. Sure we only see her from time to time moving between portals the difference between P1 and P2 is somehow disturbing. In P1, as we see on the picture, Chell was exactly as described, woman but also genuine human being fighting her way through the technicized world of Aperture Science, it was really easy to feel attached to her and her story, which became really heart warming. In P2 Chell is sexed up and even had time to put her make up on, all in all she looks like supermodel doing all the puzzles, much harder to feel connected to her… definitely not needed change. Still I think P2 is absolutely great game, it’s been years since I felt that game was fully worth (or even more ) the price I paid.
    PS. Co-Op is also extremely satisfying experience.

    • rho says:

      I confess that I’ve not really looked a whole lot at the Portal 2 appearance of Chell. I’ve only glimpsed her when my portals have lined up so that I can see myself through them, which is a rarety, and I’ve never stopped to really look at her. If she is sexed up, as you say, then that’s both sad and disappointing.

      • Laurentius says:

        In game she looks exactly as Valve’s promo pic :
        http://www.fpstime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/portal-2-chell.jpg

        • KIrving says:

          I’m disappointed that Valve felt the need to change her appearance.
          What’s with the jumpsuit tied around her hips? How practical is that when jumping through portals? It would be constantly slipping off and tripping her up. I’m sure it’s not correct jumpsuit wearing procedure.

      • muttonchoppe says:

        The developer commentary says that they were going for a “rolled up her sleeves and getting down to business” thing, along with throwing off some of the identity Aperture forced on her.

  9. Kimadactyl says:

    Agree with the article, rho, but: does it pass the Bechdel test given Chell never speaks? :)

  10. portal 2 is one of those games that i’m having a really hard time with. not because of gameplay or how it portrays female characters or anything, but because of the extreme levels of ableism displayed all throughout it. there’s multiple jokes made at the expense of people with disabilities, and glados’ character development throughout the second game strikes me as inspired by society’s twisted perception of sociopathy, derived from misunderstandings of anti-social personality disorder. and from an abuse standpoint, her responses to the character is incredibly triggering.

    co-op was done spectacularly, and i’m very confused as to why they developed that route so well and yet fell into so many problematic twists with single player. it almost feels like with single player, it was done intentionally – which just adds to the triggers and general unease (what a light way of putting it) through playing the plot.

    don’t mind my scattered thoughts right now, sleep deprived. but i do plan on writing about these struggles more indepth, considering how hard these problems make it for me to play the game at all. i couldn’t even last an hour the first – and so far only – time.

    • UGH THE ABLEISM.

      Yeah it was pretty cringeworthy.

      • ikr? if my voice had been working that day i probably would have been ranting and flailing about out loud, even though no one else was home.

        • Yeah the ableism was the first thing I ranted about (Well, okay other than “OMG THE ENDING IS AWESOME”; that got said first.)

          The fact that nobody else seems to be noticing (or dismisses it with “Well Cave is an asshole” Great, so my life is the butt of jokes AND a way to prove how evil a character is. I feel SOO included (sarcasm)) has been extremely frustrating.

          So yeah.

    • Bakka says:

      Can you give some examples? This aspect is interesting to me, but I did not see it as I played. Which aspects were ableist?

      • infantilizing folks with brain damage, frequent removal of their integrity as people (such as referring to them and folks in comas as “vegetables”), references to glados as a “maniac” (derived from mania, a concept first devised as a way of describing women who were deemed “out of control” for society in past eras, which was later expanded to include all folks regardless of gender, but still having a lot of focus on women), and supposedly (i say supposedly b/c i haven’t reached this point in the game yet) there is a moment where someone says a disabled employee who was a wheelchair user asked for ramps to be installed, and instead of installing the ramps, the business owners just fired the employee b/c “ramps are expensive anyway”.

        just some of the examples i can remember off the top of my head. and this isn’t including my interpretation of glados’s character development and the possible inspiration that i mentioned above.

        • Hirvox says:

          That guy is Cave Johnson, the CEO of Aperture. He also fires the safety officer, so it’s no wonder why Aperture is a hazardous place to even Olympic-level athletes. And it gets worse when you find the vitrified test chambers and use the intercoms. He’s no hero, and Valve initially planned to make him the main villain.

        • Armand says:

          Who had brain damage in the game?

        • Armand says:

          Hit enter to fast… the joke about the ramps his painting Cave Johnson as a villain. The guys a complete jerk, but that’s his character. He says some pretty messed up things about poor people too, but it’s all to show his inhumanity.

          • thing is, i’m not exactly a fan of using oppressed minorities – especially seeing as they could be playing the game – as a way to develop characters or plots, especially to just demonstrate how evil the character is. the problem isn’t that they’re an asshole, the problem is why they can even be an asshole in that fashion, and if anything is done to promote progressive inclusion instead of just being the butt of some evil being’s joke.

            like i said. i haven’t played far into the game yet, largely because i’m not being given much of a reason to. so far the game is telling me that i, and others like me, don’t have any real integrity. we’re being used as tools or props, and worse, as ammunition. this game, despite the company’s attempts to be inclusive and progressive in some ways, just winds up being part of the problem in other ways. which isn’t exactly encouraging.

            • Maverynthia says:

              I mean especially since in the first game GLaDoS was pretty much an asshole and the way she did it was trying to kill your character, kill your only friend, and generally make life unbearable.

            • Laurentius says:

              Spoilery
              Are GLaDos and Cave Johnson constructed on expense on minorities or oppressed minorities? In Johnson’s case I would say – yes, but not entirely, it’s rather used as an unfortunate and cheap way to emphasize his personality that is rather well constructed. He is actually a person who thinks and acts with certainty that his goals can only be achieved on expense of other people i.e. mocking safety procedures, testing on humans, laughing from accidents during experiments etc. Now GLaDos, we can argue that Valve’s added in P2 some layers to her personality but for entire first and half of a second game, GLaDos is generally a sadistic killer, bearing most of the typical evil A.I troupe with special grudge against Chell. I can’t really see where oppressed minorities fits into this.

            • Trodamus says:

              I’ll toss in my two cents and say that Cave’s defining trait is in making nothing but ridiculously poor decisions, often against the advice of experts. This becomes funny because the we know that they are bad decisions, among the many that lead to the downfall of himself and his company.

              Given that he didn’t “get away” with anything, I’m with Laurentius and Mav in that those particular groups don’t really enter into it.

              Making fun of the brain damage with Chell in the beginning, sure. That was… odd. But talking about how Cave shouldn’t have made those comments is like saying he shouldn’t burn your house down with lemons.

            • my last comment regarding the entire thing, because this is becoming quite tiring for me and i need to reserve my energy:

              @laurentius: “it’s rather used as an unfortunate and cheap way to emphasize his personality”

              that is the point. the fact that it is used as a way to emphasize his personality, and nothing else. the fact that the only reason it’s brought up at all is to demonstrate why the person is an asshole that you shouldn’t like. it is an example of how he acts at the expense of others. it is there to be an example, a negative example, or added spikes to glados’s hatred of the main character.

              how does one imagine that would feel for disabled players? that the only reason we’ve been included in a supposed progressive game at all is to demonstrate how someone isn’t progressive? i’m sorry, but that seems like a cheap shot to me.

              as for glados, i admit that my original commentary on her was pretty vague, but i stand by my concern of her possible ‘inspiration’ and further development being derived from society’s understanding of sociopathy, which the concept of ‘sadistic killer’ also stems from (and is often included within).

              on top of all of that, her attitude toward chell in this run strikes me as abusive – and victim blaming for the entire thing. after all, she’s asserting that it’s ‘her fault’ since chell killed her. which further feeds into that concept i mention above, and is massively triggering to boot.

              anyway. any further commentary will be in my own writing.

        • Bakka says:

          Oh yeah, I remember the wheelchair example now that you bring it up again. I don’t remember the brain damage or vegetable examples though. When did that happen? (I just want to clarify, I am not asking because I doubt your interpretation, but instead so I can replay those parts and take better notice myself). Thanks for informing me, I appreciate the effort.

          • Hirvox says:

            The brain damage and the vegetable lines are right at the beginning with Whatley. There’s a callback to it in the final chapter if you do something.. counterproductive.

          • Laurentius says:

            Several times during play Wheatley and GLaDos rises subjet whether Chell has suffered from brain damage…it’s indeed done in jokingly/mockingly way…still both of them are exectly that nice personalities in the first place ( i would assume this falls into same category as calling Chell fat, adopted and horrible person ).

            • Laurentius says:

              I meant “aren’t that nice personalities” ,same apply to Cave Johnson (maybe even more ).
              Still these i would say jokes are there and i can understand that they may be find offensive.

    • Kate says:

      I would be very curious to hear more about your thoughts on the sociopathy aspect and how it was misrepresented (in Cave as well, or only GLaDOS?).

  11. Ike says:

    Thanks to everyone who spoke up about Chell being based on a real-life Brazilian-Japanese woman. It means a lot to me that she is a non-sexualized woman of color in a video game.

    • this this this. when i first saw the promo pictures of her (since i never actually saw them or her character model for the first portal game) i was all like “fuck yes, nonsexualized female-depicted lead character AND nonwhite!” i was, like, doing little dances in my head and shit. it’s even more awesome that she was modeled after a nonwhite actress, because they’re so frequently forgotten in public media (esp. if they’re multiracial).

  12. Trodamus says:

    Chell’s Portal 2 appearance is “improved” over Portal 1. Clearly they spent more time on her model, so her skin looks much cleaner, eyes brighter, etc. I’m not going to pretend to be able to tell if she’s wearing makeup in Portal 2, I’ve failed that test too many times to embarrass myself by trying.

    If hypertext works in comments, this should look ok… Portal 1 vs Portal 2.

    Personally, I think she looks like a female version of TF2′s scout in Portal 2, with the handwraps (not shown), that she’s wearing what appears to be athletic support underneath a tank top with her normal orange tester jumpsuit. She looks toned and athletic where she’s not covered up by the jumpsuit.

    • Laurentius says:

      Well, to be honest is one way to say it that they spend more time on character model, but if we assume that Chell has actually still the same face: the changes described by you are exactly what makeup can do to someone appearance: making skin smoother, eyes brighter , lips more colorful etc. Her attire doesn’t make her look more athletic ,especially with these new boots that looked pretty much like high heels boots, which adds even more to her supermodel look.

  13. Armand says:

    I for one loved the game. Would recommend it to anyone. Also, Chell isn’t white!! ;)

  14. Alex says:

    Singular “they” FTW! I like that they framed it so that it’s the people who insist on using generic “he” who are the humorless, unfun rule-followers. It’s a nice reversal on how conversations about using more inclusive language go.

  15. M. Caliban says:

    I also heard that in the dev commentary and thought it was neat.

  16. Jonathan says:

    I was hoping Portal 2 would get a mention here. The various insults that Chell is exposed to did get me thinking after I’d finished the game (and the fact that I was thinking about it at all is mostly due to this fine blog.) So many commonly-used insults have their roots in some form of discrimination. Is it still okay to use them if it is clear that it’s an unpleasant character saying unpleasant things? Should trigger warnings be required? PEGI (the European game ratings body) does have a indicator for discrimination, but a quick check of the website shows that Portal 2 hasn’t been given that indicator. It certainly contains depictions of discrimination against fat people and clearly some have been bothered by ableist content, which I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment on.

    I don’t mind fat jokes. Despite years of bullying due to my size (amongst other things, I’m a pretty stereotypical “gentle giant” which is tantamount to going through school with a bullseye on your back) I’m perfectly comfortable with it. If a fat discrimination is being depicted as perfectly acceptable, that’s a different matter. However, I know not everyone feels the same and I’m keenly aware of the effects of socially acceptable discrimination.

    As a result, I feel that indicators of such discrimination need to be present and it’s inexcusable that they’re not there when the mechanism for them is already in place.

  17. Tami B. says:

    Hey everyone, note from the editors here:

    Attacks to the original author of this post (rho) or any posts here are not allowed. rho has already said that she made a mistake by labeling Chell as white, so there is no need to continue to comment about it. Anyone who is not respectful will be blacklisted from commenting here.

    Thank you for your understanding!

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