August 30th, 2007

This is why I love Penny Arcade. Their latest comic is a play off the TV show–itself fascinating on way too many levels–To Catch a Predator. “What were you going to do with this little sister?” “We were just going to, you know, hang out.” “That’s not what this chat transcript says.” Classic.

I’m hoping to write a longer piece for the Voice on the excellent-ness that is Bioshock. In the meantime, let’s tease out some sex and gender themes together, shall we?

First, of course, we’ve got the Little Sisters. Seeing as how they symbolize corrupted innocence, how they can be “used” by the adult male protagonist, and how they come paired with–protective but curiously named–Big Daddies, we can agree with Penny Arcade and say they come with overtones of pedophilia. At the same time, the Little Sisters’ actual (as opposed to linguistic) relationship to the Big Daddies is far from sexual. Each of the girls refers to her protector, like a pet or a stuffed animal, as Mr. Bubbles.

There’s also the strange fact the girls seem younger when they’re possessed by sea slugs. Free them, and they turn eerily adult, looking players in the first-person eye and saying only, “Thank you.” It’s the possessed little girls that have power. (After all, they do wield super-phallic needles and shove them in and out of–albeit dead–bodies.) As for the saved little girls… Only time and x more hours of obsessive playing will tell.

More Bioshock-related sex and gender ramblings to come? You bet!

Tags: children, sex/gender imagery

7 Responses to “Little Sister, Who’s Your Big Daddy?”

  1. nectarine Says:

    ARRRGH more bioshock goodness! One day I’ll be able to actually read them :(

    I’m boycotting all things Bioshock till I actually get to play it, which could be years… I’ve skipped this post straight to your comments.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Sorry, nectarine. I promise there are no spoilers…

    And why will it take you years to play Bioshock? Go out and do it. Not having an Xbox360 is no excuse, BTW. I don’t own one. That’s what stealing (or, you know, just living with someone who owns one) is for :).

  3. nectarine Says:

    My only option is pc. To get my pc up to spec it’ll cost me at least 4 hundred bucks ($au). I was exaggerating, but yeah it’ll take me a while.

    It’s not so much spoilers I’m trying to avoid, usually people warn you. It’s the feel of the game, I want to go in with no expectations.

  4. Cybersexy Says:

    Bonnie, sounds like you’ve got Bioshock bad.

  5. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I want to go in with no expectations.
    Ah, I see. That’s probably actually a good idea, especially seeing as how this game defies expectations. (Sorry, I had to say it :).

  6. Jade Reporting » September 2 Says:

    […] Suffer the Little Children: Ethics in BioShock Little Sister, Who’s Your Big Daddy? […]

  7. BioShock » Ludonarratology Says:

    […] and wondered whether their horrific power drew from the simple fact of their gender. She also found the power relationship between the player and the little sisters to be troubling, and agreed with a Penny Arcade comic suggesting that it had overtones of […]

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