October 17th, 2007

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

Tags: controversy, queerness, sex/gender imagery, Women rock!

132 Responses to “‘Portal’ Is for Lesbians”

  1. Nenaptio Says:

    The companian cube is a girl, if you go to the secret room, the companian cube is attached as a head on top of a woman XD

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  3. Portal grą dla lesbijek? « Altergranie Says:

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  5. 20071110 - Adam Crowe Says:

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  7. Viper7 Says:

    Just wondering… did any one notice?
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  8. Daniel Panzer Says:

    Let’s make something very clear:
    Portal is NOT for lesbians, that is a terrible statement.
    Plenty of MEN enjoyed Portal, including myself.

    I can give you very good reasons why the main character was changed to a female:


    They changed the main character to a female so as to avoid the sexual innuendos of MALES ENTERING & EXITING PORTALS AKA VAGINAS.

    When I played the game, it was about the puzzles, until GLADOS TRIED TO KILL ME in which the game became an intense game of escaping the psychotic computer program. There was this side plot of Glados putting a bunch of test subjects through these “tests” keeping them in utter isolation to the point of these test subjects getting attached to thus said “companion cube.” If anything, I was wondering why Glados was keeping a lot of innocent girls captive and running them through these tests just to kill them… I thought Glados was an insanely scary computer program who killed everyone in charge to run her insane program… BLACK MESA tore apart the dimensions & brought aliens to Earth, while APERATURE created a psycho program that killed everyone, oh the irony.

    I feel that your view of lesbianism in this game is really forced. Basically, you took something and raped it via lesbianism, like raping a prepubescent girl with a dildo. There are a lot of females who complain that they are portrayed in a sexual way, and by you saying that Portal implies lesbianism, you are not helping these women. And now the next time I play Portal all I will be able to think about is LESBIAN SEX. I suppose your job is to make things sexual though, so thank you for ruining Portal for me, I might as well go watch a lesbian porno.

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  11. Audiophile Says:

    Life. Get one.

  12. Jas Says:

    the companion cube is a guy, and just because it’s a game with most of the characters girls dosn’t make it lesbian.

    Metal Gear Solid is allmost all guys, that doesn’t make it gay.

  13. Dunno Says:

    You can think of the companion cube as the gay best friend.

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  15. Portal is about lesbians | technovagabond Says:

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  17. Cool Games Says:

    Just finish playing Portal 2 is pretty good and I am not a Lesbian lol.

  18. Caitlyn Says:

    I do consider all the ideas you’ve offered to your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for novices. Could you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  19. Kaeleigh Says:

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  20. klp Says:

    Lolololol, totally going with this!

    So Glados gives Chell a “Gun” that opens “Portals”, and you play with them- clearly, she handed her a Vibrator! Thus, Glados is a seductress.

    The Cubes come out of long tubes, they represent the possible offspring Chell might have. But they are “weighted”. They hold Chell back. And Glados makes Chell destroy them. Even the Companion Cube. So Glados doesn’t want Chell to have Children, and forces her to kill them. Maybe because getting pregnant is tied to heterosexuality, or because Glados wants to be the mother. It would fit her overimposing ways.

    Chell eventually destroys Glados MORALITY core, and her voice goes all deep and seductive. Also note the round shape of the cores. Chell either destroys Glados’ breasts in an attempt to free herself from the homosexuality Glados imposed on her OR Chell castrates Glados symbolically by shooting of her balls. With a cannon. OR Chell uses her PORTALS to redirect MISSILES from a CANNON towards Glados. Aha, they are trying for a child with the help of a sperm donor! So Glados is the mother after all!

    Gee, this is fun.

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