Get it? It’s like “Virgina is for lovers”… Eh, nevermind.
Not that it won’t unleash an angry mob of Portal lovers, but I just have to say this. Wait, first, I should probably say I think Portal is awesome; if I hadn’t left my PC in the States (or, you know, if I was willing to shell out the cash for a 360), I would doubtless by among the Portal-infatuated hordes. Also, I should say SPOILER ALERT! So with that out of the way, I’m going to go ahead and ask: is anyone else seeing the potential lesbian thing going on in Portal?
Granted, the game has a great sense of humor, so any sex/gender imagery we deconstruct here has to be taken with a grain of salt–and a permanent smirk. Still… Okay, let’s go through the evidence:
1) It’s an all female game. Not that that makes it “lesbian” per se, but let’s take a moment to stop and appreciate how infrequently that happens. We’ve got Chell, and we’ve got GLaDOS. Hot girl-on-girl (plot) action.
2) There are some definite implications of romantic interest in Portal. Sure, Chell “kills” GLaDOS, but she also breaks her heart. Then there’s the beloved weighted companion cube, which GLaDOS thinks Chell should be all cuddly with. Not only does it have those girly pink hearts on its sides, but it’s her “companion.” That’s a word like “partner” that often gets used as a euphemism for lover or girlfriend. Is that stretching things? Of course. All the more fun!
(Addendum: an actual player/commenter informs me the weighted companion cube is referred to as a “he.” That confuses thing a bit, but let’s keep thinking. We could say the cube doesn’t count as a real male character–only an object. It’s still feminized by the hearts. But if we’re sticking with the idea that it’s a “man,” we could call it commentary on the usefulness of men: they’re cute, but they’re a burden. Any other ideas?)
3) We’re dealing with a reshaping of a highly masculine genre, the FPS. If that itself weren’t “queering” enough, there’s the whole holes issue. We’ve talked before about how the guns in first-person shooters act as phallic avatars–that is, as penises. But in a world of women, this gun doesn’t shoot bullets. It shoots orifices. Openings. Fine, vaginas. Vaginas you, a female character, have to enter/exit to solve puzzles. I don’t say this often, and almost never with so much support and enthusiasm, but that is so gay.
So, anyone who’s actually played the game instead of just read about it obsessively spotted anymore interesting sex/gender imagery in Portal? All I can say is I’m thrilled that something so fun–and so funnily subversive–has been both conceived and adored by mainstream gamer land. Now I’m off to dream of plush weighted companion cubes…