2. Jack The Man Child
In early June, as I was writing the second draft of my script, I came in contact with a super awesome person (who wishes to remain anonymous.) Thanks to her unique perspective on MGR’s suckiness, and her unrelenting argumentation, she was an immense help with making my video better than I ever imagined it could be.
One of the most startling realities that she informed me of, was that some fans actually beLIEve that, by embracing Jack the Ripper, Raiden was following Solid Snake’s advice of “finding your own name, and your own future” and “deciding for yourself.”
This was startling, because I actually encountered the opposite argument; In MGS2, Raiden was molded into the image of Solid Snake (8:10). By rejecting Solid Snake’s advice, and following Senator Armstrong’s advice of “carving your own path” (12:29), he’s no longer in Solid Snake’s shadow; he’s become his own man.
It’s extremely odd how both of us came across two seemingly polar-opposite positions. But as I thought about it, I realized that both carry the same core message; that by embracing Jack the Ripper, Raiden has “developed agency” and “grown up.”
As a matter of fact, even the game’s writer, Etsu Tamari (08:55) (aka the perfect running gag) claimed that Raiden has “grown up”, albeit “still suffering from the wounds to his soul that he received from the Civil War he fought in.” However, in the actual game, Raiden’s “wounds to his soul” are portrayed as a beneficial superpower; the Ripper is portrayed as growth, for both the protagonist, and the player’s abilities in combat.
The idea that Raiden “matured” through embracing the Ripper seems to be based on confusion as to what exactly Raiden’s problem in MGS2 was (as well as a very demented idea of what “growing up” means.)
In MGS2, it’s established that Raiden grew up as a child soldier in Liberia, and was conditioned memetically into being a psycho killer (01:45). Solidus taught Jack everything he knew (01:50). In essence, Jack the Ripper was Solidus’ creation (02:48)… not something Raiden chose for himself (46:44).
Later, Raiden was re-purposed by The Patriots as a test subject for their S3 plan. The goal was to see if The Patriots could control society through the use of social engineering (hence “Selection for Societal Sanity.” The stuff about molding Raiden into the image of Solid Snake was actually secondary (07:54); a by product of a larger scheme.) Raiden was chosen because, unlike his Liberian comrades, he refused to acknowledge the truth; he thrived in living in a fantasy rather than deal with the realities of his actions. In essence, he was a game player (05:42).
Appropriately, the people who criticize Rose for constantly interrupting Raiden while on “an incredibly important mission”, perfectly reflect Raiden’s immature, reality-denying mindset. The reason people hate Rose, call her an “annoying bitch”, and other crude insults, is because she was trying to snap Raiden/the player out of their delusional fantasy.
As Kojima himself explains;
“She was based on past girlfriends or female acquaintances that I’ve known, she was supposed to be the character who – even within this fantasy game where these men were going to war – she was like the real character who would come and talk to the player.”
In short, Rose’s role in the game was to get Raiden/the player to “see me for what I am, ok?” (05:10); to look past the illusion and see the truth, of both the game, and ourselves.
That’s why she kept talking about the day they met (08:17)/their relationship (01:41)/Raiden’s empty room (a reflection of his empty heart); to remind him of the reality away from his “Solid Snake fantasy.”
His life outside of the “game.”
Rose was trying to get Raiden, and the player, to “grow up.”
Kojima probably predicted (correctly) that Rose would have been dismissed as a “bitch.” So in order to reinforce his message, he reiterated the point Rose was trying to make to Raiden/the player, through none other than the legendary Solid Snake himself.
Unlike in Rising (01:05:56), Raiden in MGS2 is genuinely haunted by his past as a child soldier (02:37). When talking with Snake, he says, in sorrow, “I’m Jack the Ripper, a dirty reminder of a terrible mistake.” (o6:09)
But Snake would have none of Raiden’s defeatism. He tells Raiden “You can stop being part of a mistake, starting now. (06:34).”
Kojima, through Solid Snake, acknowledged that his game is a work of fiction. But he used his fiction as a means to convey an important message to Raiden/the player; that no one is a prisoner to their fate. That they can choose their own legacy. That everyone can find their own names, and their own lives.
Raiden: You mean start over?
Solid Snake: Yeah, a clean slate. A new name. New memories.
By throwing away his Dog Tags (01:04), Raiden rejects both the player’s control, and his past as Jack the Ripper.
(Ironically, Metal Gear Rising references this fact in the game’s first Chapter (00:31), albeit in an optional Codec convo. Too bad the game gleefully undoes all of that later (01:41).)
And what does Raiden do with his newfound free-will?
“But what about Raiden’s relapse in MGS4?” you might be asking. Mr.Wolfe wrote a very good article on this subject, and how it relates to the Kojima/Snake, Raiden/Player parallel (ie Raiden represents players who didn’t understand Kojima’s/Snake’s message.)
Sadly, the author left out several key scenes of Kojima/Old Snake reiterating the point he was trying to convey in MGS2, and how Raiden ultimately does return to his family. This was amended when I briefly covered the subject in my video. (14:40)
Which brings us to… Metal Gear Rising.
When the game starts, Raiden has a very delusional, black-and-white sense of morality, with his “Tool of Justice” credo (11:42). He seems himself as the “reaper” for “people who terrorize and take innocent lives for money.” (05:43)
This makes zero sense, as Raiden should already be aware of the morally gray nature of war from Snake (06:20).
Raiden: People will only remember the good part, the right part in what you did.
Snake: There’s no right part in murder, not ever.
So even before the Jack the Ripper scene, Raiden’s characterization has regressed to how it was in MGS2. Some might criticize me for looking at Raiden’s arc narratively, rather than on a pure meta-level, but that’s just an excuse for shitty writing (much like how “the will of the Force” is the excuse for everything in the Star Wars prequels.) We’ve already been through the naive player-vector Raiden in MGS2, and we’ve already been through the miserable, family-less Raiden in MGS4. In MGR, Raiden is both naive and his family is relegated to an inconsequential footnote.
MGRising repeats the “Raiden is the player” motif from MGS2, but whereas MGS2 used this motif in order to drive home the game’s message of “finding your own name, and your own life” (by having Raiden discard his Dog Tags, rejecting the player’s control), MGRising uses it as simply another aesthetic reference (01:31:30) in order to trick people into beLIEving that MGRising is a “worthy Metal Gear game.”
MGRising doesn’t add anything of value to Raiden as a character, either narratively, or metaphysically.
Now, let’s backpedal to how Rose is treated as an inconsequential footnote. As I’ve explained before, Rose’s role in MGS2 was to snap Raiden/the player back into reality, away from the “heroic”/”world saving”/”powerful badass” illusions of fantasy games with fat roller-skaters and ex-Presidents with robotic tentacle arms.
Which is why the following line from MGRising is so laughable;
I can imagine allot of people nodding their heads at that scene, but as I explained in my video, it’s complete bullshit (44:59). Literally the entire point of Rose in MGS2 was to undermine Raiden’s denialism, not encourage it!
But MGR Raiden, like most players, didn’t understand Rose.
Many of Rising’s defenders would describe the scene with Monsoon as Raiden finally accepting the reality of his actions (07:31); that he kills because he thinks it’s fun, not because he has any higher ideals. And while the game really really really wants you to beLIEve that, what actually ends up happening, is that every morally sound character continues to unconditionally support Raiden (10:02), his moral compass is left perfectly intact (“They’re KIDS you son of a bitch!” (07:49)), and to top it off, he unlocks a new ability that makes it easier to cut down enemies like butter.
When the game starts, Raiden has a childish, black-and-white sense of morality. In Chapter 4, Raiden quits his job (02:07), neglecting his grown up responsibility of supporting his family (06:30). When Ripper mode is activated, Raiden gives off a childish laugh. Before the Armstrong fight, he says “Let’s dance!” (11:32) with a childish grin. And right before the game ends, he makes yet another childish, shit eating grin (12:27).
In Metal Gear Rising, RAIDEN ACTS LIKE A CHILD.
And yet, the game makes no effort to deconstruct or criticize Raiden’s actions. In fact, right before the credits role, there’s a close-up of Sunny telling the audience that Raiden is a hero (04:10). This sentiment is repeated by Blade Wolf in the ending of his DLC (12:28). And ultimately, it’s the charismatic Jetsream Sam who begins to doubt himself because of Raiden (08:34), not the other way around!
To claim that Raiden has “grown up” when he embraced the Ripper, is the equivalent to saying that a pedophile has “grown up” when he stops working to suppress his urges, and instead embraces his sick desires.
But Metal Gear Rising wants you to ignore that fact. Even though Raiden has (allegedly) abandoned the ideological basis for his fighting, all of his targets are (conveniently) enemy combatants. If Raiden truly has no ideological basis for fighting (that he only kills because it’s fun and “feels good”), then why does he act so reserved around Sunny? (01:28) If Raiden had truly “embraced the Ripper”, Sunny would have been reduced to a red puddle on the ground.
But instead, rather than show us the true consequence of Raiden embracing the Ripper, the game shows us Raiden having his cake (being a hero) and eating it, too (getting off from cutting dudes to pieces.) From beginning to end, MGRising keeps Raiden’s heroic power fantasy intact.
Rather than accepting reality (ie returning to Rose) and discarding the delusions of his “Tool of Justice” credo, Raiden (and the player) simply embraces another delusion; the badass Jack the Ripper power fantasy.
I’ve long pondered why Rose was absent in Rising, and after allot of thought, I finally figured it out… and I have a quote from Kojima to back it up.
“[For Rising] I wanted to focus on the power fulfilment fantasy where you’re this powerful cyborg ninja and can do amazing things. It’s sort of a stress relief as a player.”
And thus, we are shown the true difference between MGS2 and MGRising; MGS2 denies your childish power fantasy. MGRising fulfills it.
Rose is absent because she would distract from the game’s “power fulfillment fantasy.” In MGS2, she was designed to get Raiden/the player to accept reality. But MGRising wants you to forget reality as much as possible and “have some fun!”
MGS2 wants you to grow up. MGRising wants you to act like a child.
No wonder Kojima’s idea for a MGRising 2 is one where Gray Fox fights nanomachine-powered zombies; a childish premise for a sequel to a childish game.