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"I raised you, I loved you, I've given you weapons, taught you techniques, endowed you with knowledge, there is nothing more for me to give you. All that's left is for you to take, is my life…."
The Boss is the best female character ever to be represented in a video game, period.
With the recent articles about women in games, highlighted here by IGN's own Colin Campbell in which he covers Elizabeth in the soon to be released Bioshock Infinite, I felt it was time I sat and wrote this. In a time of overly sexed and misrepresented female characters in games, people neglect to mention the Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3 and what a bench mark she represents. The Boss is one of the best characters I've ever witnessed in a video game and most certainly the best in a female lead. She is strong and powerful, yet shows the vulnerabilities that keep her in touch with femininity in a world that has no time for any of this. In the face of unspeakable betrayal and horrors that would shake lesser people to the core, she is able to maintain her loyalty to the end and set the stage for one of the best gaming franchises of all time.
The character is voiced by a woman named Lori Allen and truly steals the show in a game full of great performances. Her voice is resolute, assuring and seemingly invincible, but conveys the most subtle hints of vulnerability. From the first time she is introduced via codec, to the final gunshot from Snake himself, her longing and raspy tone continues to ring in your ears and is the reason her story, as well as Metal Gear Solid's third iteration has such impact in the end.
Being the beginning of the entire Metal Gear Solid timeline is a heavy burden. I can only imagine what Hideo Kojima was feeling when creating her. He had to make a character that not only stood equally against the protagonist, the eventual Big Boss, but had to do it as both a villain and a hero. In hindsight, for a franchise full of unbelievable occurrences and convoluted storylines, he created his greatest and most human character. She is the cog that makes the entire Metal Gear wheel turn and with circumstances only being as strong as the characters themselves, the Boss's story was allowed to take shape.
A vague synopsis of her story is as follows.
- Born in 1922 to a founding and high ranking member of the Wiseman Committee, who would later become the philosophers and set the stage for the Patriots in Metal Gear Solid 4. Learning their secrets from her father, he was killed and she was raised by the Philosophers.
- Considered to be the mother of America's modern special forces, many point to her and the Cobra Unit she founded as the catalyst in winning World War II. Also develops the founding concept of CQC, allowing in the snatch and grab missions of many important persons during the war.
- Ordered by the government to assassinate one of the top scientists from the Manhattan Project under suspicion of being a Nazi, she learns she is pregnant, a child grown from the love of her and a member of the Cobra Unit, The Sorrow. Upon finding this out, she subsequently blows her cover and allowing emotions to take hold is shot in the head while protecting her unborn baby. The bullet was meant for her stomach. She makes a full recovery after being in a coma for some time. She grows to blame herself for failing the mission even when it is found that the scientist was never truly a spy, a victim of soviet misinformation. Yet she feels allowing him to live set the stage for the Cold War, making her partly responsible.
- During the D-Day landings at Normandy, The Boss and her Cobras were sent on a mission to destroy several V2 rocket installations near Juno beach. It was there that she gave birth to her and The Sorrow's child on the battlefield. The caesarean section required in the chaos left her with a snake-shaped scar on her torso. She gave birth to a baby boy, though he was soon taken away from her by the Philosophers. In 1947, after the end of the war, The Boss disbanded the Cobra Unit.
- In nuclear testing she is exposed to radiation, rendering her infertile. This is where she meets Jack aka Big Boss/Naked Snake and spends more then a decade with him. She teaches him everything. their relationship is explained as transcending love. Jack was in essence, part of her.
- Assigned a new top secret mission, she is forced to abandon Jack, not telling him why. It was her way of protecting him from what she felt she had to do. It involved spying and recruiting on the Russian space program for America after they learned they were drastically behind Moscow in the the Cold War. The CIA refused her help as she was viewed as a nuisance, which forced her to rely on Philosopher connections and channels for success. She succeeds in placing an agent and the CIA took over namely to take the credit. The Boss begins to notice discrepancies in the information provided by her agent presents her case to the CIA. She is ignored and accused of wanting to retake some of the glory. She takes matters into her own hands, infiltrating Russian territory. She finds that not only has the agent turned, but that the CIA was pocketing large amounts of the money intended for the spy. Since this was all done without government consent, the CIA blames the entirety of the failed operation on The Boss.
- Findings in tow, The Boss knew how close the Russians were to sending a man into space and volunteered for the Mercury Program. This was headed by America's top minds and where she meets Dr. Strangelove, one of the central characters of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. She is used as a test dummy to further America's space plans and to measure how much the human body could take in relation to space travel. This results as her unofficially becoming the first person in space, but due to the American government’s insistence on having a window in the space pod, the flight was a failure. The Boss crashes in the ocean and is again thrown into a coma which she survives. Seeing the world from space sparks her dream to see the world as one, as seen from her space pod. The record of her flight is stricken from history as the Russians had successfully sent a man into space and bought him home safely. This was a failure and would be seen as an embarrassment to the government if released and they fabricate the story that she was taking part in the botched "Bay of Pigs Invasion" in Cuba.
- Resenting her perceived failure, the government sends her on a new mission to Russia. This culminates in her facing her former lover and father of her child, The Sorrow, in battle. He'd returned to his home in Russia after the Cobra Unit's disbandment. Under threat of losing her child forever from the Philosophers if both of them survived, they decide together that he must die and she must live. She stays in Russia after this mission, going underground for the next two years after being contacted by a former SAS partner, Zero. Together they form the first FOX unit.
- The CIA fearing her rising legend in the ranks begin to plan her elimination and lay the groundwork to reclaim "The Philosopher's Legacy" A secret stash of overwhelming wealth formed by the worlds three great super powers rumored to be held by a GRU commander in opposition to the current Russian government. She is ordered to defect with a gift of two small nuclear warheads. Again using her Philosopher network, she reaches out to the GRU commander Volgin and defects with the warheads as a gift. The Boss helps Volgin reclaim Russian top scientist Sokolov, being rescued by her former pupil Jack. This mission is expanded greatly when Volgin fires an American warhead on Russian soil, essentially an act of war on America's part.
- This leads to Operation Snake Eater in which The Boss allows herself to be assassinated by her former student. Not being able to reveal her true purpose or motivations, she is made to be an example and proof that she acted alone, without American government orders. She understood that she had to give her life in order to save the world from nuclear war AND to accomplish her goal that she found as the first person in space, having the world be one again. Buried in an un marked grave and remembered only as a traitor and a war criminal of the highest order. Future generations are taught of her betrayal and in turn she is stricken of the record books of American military history.
- Following these events, The Boss's life and spirit are the basis for a new AI created by Dr.Strangelove and Huey Emmerich. The result is the first Bi-Pedal Nuclear Deterrent known as Peace Walker, essentially the first Metal Gear. The events in Peace Walker lead to the Outer Heaven uprising and Jack embracing his Big Boss persona. Thus setting the stage for the entire Metal Gear story afterward.
This was probably unnecessarily long winded and if it came off as such, I apologize, but these fundamental points have to be known to you the reader to get a grip on the depth this character has.
"I've been waiting Snake, for a long time. Waiting for your birth, growth, and the finality of today"
There are three facets to the Boss as a character and I will attempt to break them down in the following paragraphs.
The Soldier-The highest order of soldier you can imagine, accomplished in every way and able to best any foe, man or woman. And not in an over the top anime manner, she is real and so are her skills. She was simply a superior warrior and this was highlighted every time you faced her as she disarmed you, disassembled your gun and left you helpless. The ice cold sincerity in her stares when she tells Snake to go home at the beginning of the Snake Eater mission. Even Volgin, who plays the role of evil personified in the game, is intimidated by her. Another quality of a soldier was her unwavering duty to her mission, the singular pursuit to herself and her own personal mission that transcended borders and ideals no matter what the cost. Her nickname as a soldier was The Joy, for the near ecstasy and grace she brought to battle. She believed all soldiers should shred any emotion they had before finding the one that was their reason to fight. Joy was hers. Considering the circumstances of her character, it's quite ironic.
The Mother: The most intimate thing a woman could give of herself and give to the world is the gift of life. Again, an ironic statement made from Kojima as she is a herald of death itself. She gave birth to a child and it was taken from her, that child being Revolver Ocelot. Yet being a mother of a child isn't the only representation of "mother" she is given. She is the mother of the American Special Forces. She is the mother of the Cobra Unit, further shown with them being lost without her. She is a mother to Snake/Big Boss, loving him and teaching him everything she knew. She gave him the keys to carry on her will, entrusting him with her future when she knew she would not be able to accomplish it herself and finally, a mother to the entire Metal Gear series. Her story gave birth to the stage that these games take place on.
The Woman– The most important facet in my eyes, she is a woman first. What Kojima was able to accomplish with a woman as his main character is nothing short of genius. Through every unbelievable and shocking event she goes through, she shows that the human spirit can persevere. The battles she has fought wear on her face, almost as if they show her story without speaking. I was captivated by her eyes when I originally played the game on the PlayStation 2. They said everything I was to learn in the end and afterward. Through all the pain, she could still smile and show kindness. She trusted one person to tell her story, another woman, and one of the most despicable characters in the entire franchise when you think about it. Yet, she saw the good in her and Eva saw the truth in The Boss. She also loved with everything she had and that love was what led her to entrusting Snake to kill her and carry on her legacy. If someone was to do it, it was going to be the man she loved and trusted the most.
"One must die, and one must live…."
I've shed a tear once in a game and this was that moment….
She is a woman who was created out of war, but in the end wished for nothing but peace, no matter the cost. A flawed concept to be sure, but any great character requires flaws. It's what makes us human after all.
To me, the Boss is one of the most human characters gaming has ever seen, a person to truly admire, despite her faults. She is the foundation that Metal Gear is based on, the beginning and the end. Metal Gear Solid 4 ends with Solid Snake saluting Big Boss’s grave and he notices a grave beside with a white flower on it, signifying the stage of her final battle. Marked, "A True Patriot", this is the Boss's grave stone and if this is truly the end of the numbered MGS franchise, her vision was seen through to the end. It would have been what she wanted. I firmly believe that Kojima should make a fifth entry into the franchise and use the Boss as the main character, she deserves it and so do we. In a medium that is criminal in its generalization of women and races, the Boss could once again show that there is no gender border when it comes to gaming.