Revengeance Data Storage – #7 Mistral, Self-Acceptance and Erotic Pleasure

I’ve spent a lot of entries discussing Revengeance’s conception of violence and the ideology that supports it. In this respect, Mistral allows us to carry the discussion a step further.

MGR is such a textbook example of how to get female representation wrong that I don’t think it’s even worth discussing in depth.

[Here are a few sparse thoughts about it. Everyone is male, only 2 female characters, one working with the good guys and one working with the bad guys. Both are subordinates, side-kicks. The good one, Courtney: angelic. Attractive, but tame. Colour code: Light colours, white blouse, blonde hair. Caring figure, motherly figure, saviour figure: she saves the game for us. The bad one, Mistral: mixed origins, impure, demonic. Colour code: Dark colours, black outfit, red hair. Sexual agency, hypersexualized. Confronts Raiden about his unconscious and his repressed desires, as we will see. Also, note her costume, and more than that, the camera, as in the screenshots above and below: it barely frames her as a person, preferring multiple objectifying shots of her body that end just above her lips.]

Moving on from the questionable gender politics of the game, Mistral is a very interesting character. She represents Raiden’s double, but she has accepted herself, whereas Raiden still hides and represses himself through ideological justification of his actions. Like Raiden, her origins are split between a first-world affluent country like France and an African country, Algeria, torn apart by a civil war that marked her childhood. (For Raiden, the two countries were US and Liberia)

The dialogue before the boss fight is emblematic: immediately she frames herself as a sexual agent via an innuendo “I can show you a better time than that crusty old bear”. She addresses Raiden through all the characterizations he rejects and doesn’t identify with: “Jack the Ripper”, his nickname as a child soldier, “Liberian, but white as snow. A natural-born killer.” Of course, Raiden distances himself from all those: “That was a long time ago.” Mistral gets to the point: “Cut from the same cloth, you and I”. From here onwards, the dialogue is a back and forth between Mistral pointing out what they have in common and Raiden denying everything.

Mistral is right. They have a lot in common. Not only their childhoods are similar, but they both “fell in love” with violence and the adrenaline rush of a challenging fight, before adding any ideological content to that violence. Mistral accepts that, honestly and openly, without shame: “[During my childhood]I realized I am a killer too. And a good one at that. […] I’d found my calling”. And unlike Raiden, who would like to erase his past, she doesn’t have an ounce of regret, even though she has grown since then: “What happened, happened”.

“And then…I met him. And I knew what I’d been missing. His ideals gave my life meaning.” She doesn’t fight for nothing anymore. Actually, she celebrates fighting and dying for a cause. But, despite that, she doesn’t reject the underlying, “pure” pleasure she takes in fighting. Now she controls that drive, she directs it towards her purpose, but she doesn’t repress it, she lets it flow through her. And her erotic charge, which culminates in the moans she produces when getting ready for the fight, is symbolic of that acceptance: she allows herself to find (sexual) enjoyment in her natural desire of fighting, because she’s at peace with it, she has accepted herself and only needs to gently nudge her drive in the right direction.

Raiden, by contrast, is extremely repressed. He maintains that he fights for his ideals, first, and that violence only happens to be necessary in that regard “I… protect the weak. And if I must kill to protect them then so be it.” The lie here is that Raiden would be happy to protect the weak even if the best way of doing so happened to be, for instance, diplomatic negotiation, or medical or journalistic work. Violence is not an accidental by-product of his ideal. We have already seen that his belief that violence is a regrettable, but necessary evil is deconstructed by his own actions: the violence he employs is never as little as it could be. And, I believe we are allowed to identify Raiden and the player in regards to the enjoyment the player should take in the violence that underpins the gameplay.

The difference is that Raiden doesn’t allow himself to enjoy violence openly, and so he needs his whole ideological construct to justify the pleasure he nonetheless finds (the relief he needs?), by reframing it as necessary for justice. In other words, he creates a sort of blind spot for himself, so that he can enjoy his violence without having to admit that he is doing so. From the perspective of the (assumed) player: the player is playing MGR because they enjoy the base, violent gameplay, but they need external justification from the narrative apparatus that they’re the good guy, fighting for a good cause, so that they can reassure themselves that they would not enjoy the base gameplay of MGR if they played as a villain.

By contrast, Mistral admits that her enjoyment of violence is primary, and her fight for her ideals is super-imposed (and that’s not to say that her ideals are not important to her). Again, my claim is that Raiden is exactly the same: for him too the enjoyment of violence is primary, and the ideals are super-imposed. Only, he denies that by constructing a narrative that reverses cause and effect. Therefore Mistral is a destabilizing force, (the unconsciousbut also the sexual temptress) the woman that may reveal and unleash the man’s secret, unutterable desires, and as such she needs to be tamed and silenced – i.e. killed – in order (for the Super Ego) to regain control.

Mind, this is not a value judgement: I don’t even know, at this point in the game, what Mistral is fighting for. Who really is the good guy here, what the right thing to do would be, is beside the point. (They’re terrorists, the game has already ascribed all kinds of horrible actions to them, it’s not even particularly interesting) Mistral, like Raiden, sees herself as fighting for a good cause, and that’s enough for me in this context.

What’s fascinating is how different their relationships with themselves are, how much more honest with herself Mistral is. She is right when she calls Raiden “naïve.”

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