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How Metal Gear Solid 4 raises questions about our treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

Have you ever thought about how people should stop abusing and glorifying the theme of war? Perhaps they need a heavy dose of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and its central idea that no one should have to experience war at all.

Recently, I’ve been replaying the PS3 classic (mostly thanks to the long-overdue Trophy patch) and thinking about its ensemble cast. As fans of the series know, director Hideo Kojima has a knack for creating a variety of colorful characters. In MGS4, Kojima decided to make his “boss characters” a combat unit of women who suffered from an extreme case of post-traumatic stress disorder. This unit was called the “Beauty and the Beast Unit” (also known as the BB Corps). Seeing the group’s rampage and death made me wonder how much progress is being made to help those who suffer from PTSD in real life.

 

The BB Corps are comprised of four beautiful young women of different ethnicities: Laughing Octopus (Caucasian), Raging Raven (Asian), Crying Wolf (African), and Screaming Mantis (Hispanic). All four have suffered the horrors of war to a huge degree, developed a respective emotion from their experiences, and subsequently became merciless killers. Their fragile minds have been taken advantage of by main antagonist Liquid Ocelot, who enlisted the women into his army and fitted them with specialized battle suits to amplify their combat abilities. Ocelot would also tell the BB Corps that the only way they would be free of their nightmares was to kill the legendary Solid Snake. For the women, it was quite the opposite. Snake would eventually defeat all four Beasts, which forced them to shed their suits and relive their emotional trauma before their death. In essence, he cleansed the souls of the Beasts and turned them back into Beauties for one last moment of purification. 

The BB Corps in their Beauty forms after their Beast suits break down.

Some military groups are trying to get rid of the stigma that haunts those with PTSD.  It affects all ages, and no one is safe from its wrath. Women are more susceptible to PTSD than men, as they tend to react more strongly to it than men do. Has there been much progress in helping to alleviate victims’ pain? Maybe just a bit, though a huge problem lies in media influence. We all hear the crazy stories about veterans going nuts on civilians. News outlets have a troubling tendency to put military veterans and psychopaths together like peanut butter and jelly. Hey, bad news sounds so much more exciting than good news, right? Mental illness is still looked down upon to a certain degree by many people, meaning those who have one may not want to admit it.

There’s also the possibility that there are victims with PTSD than there is help. As long as leaders continue to preach violence as a means to an end, more and more people will be gathered to fight their battles. Violence leads to more violence, which can lead to a never-ending cycle of victims suffering from PTSD. 

A conversation between Snake and Drebin about Laughing Octopus' past.
“War transforms us, Snake … into beasts.” -Drebin

There’s a conversation in MGS4 I want to highlight regarding Laughing Octopus’ past. A weapons dealer named Drebin tells Snake about her tragic tale and this is Snake’s response:

Snake: Why are you telling me this? Do you expect me to feel sorry for her?
Drebin: Nah. I know you got no room for stuff like that in your world. Besides, this is war … right? In a way, though, I guess it was the right thing to do.
Snake: What was?
Drebin: Fighting you cleansed her mind.

Perhaps we need to enforce mandatory counseling as a way of saying “Hey, we’re all family here! We have to stick by each other.” You have to wonder if Ocelot sent the BB Corps out for “mandatory counseling” sessions with Snake. Given that Ocelot was later revealed to be guiding him on his mission, he probably thought of him as “family” (i.e. soldiers fighting against a common threat) to a certain degree.

With even police officers dealing with the stigma carried by PTSD, how can we renew the spirit of those with severe emotional trauma?

Actually, here’s a more important question: How much more violence needs to be brought into people’s lives before we say it’s enough?


Tony Yao is a blogger at Manga Therapy, a blog that covers the psychological aspects of Japanese manga, anime, video games, and other tidbits of Japanese pop culture. You can read his blog at http://www.mangatherapy.com.


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