Big Boss as Che Guevara

BIG BOSS AS CHE GUEVARA:

A LATIN PATRIOT’S VIEWS ON PEACE WALKER,
THE CIA, AND KOJIMA’S POLITICAL COMMENTARY

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If there’s one thing we have no shortage of in the world, it’s the perspective of the USA’s media and public.  Rarely do we hear intellectuals from other nations; they’re not relevant to “Americans”, no matter how deeply we’ve impacted their culture and history.  This insulated and ignorant way of living is why the Metal Gear series has always tried to include international viewpoints, raising awareness of global issues such as nuclear holocaust, oil shortages, and abuses of the military industrial complex.  The characters we meet are not usually one-dimensional bad guys for the USA hero to destroy, but outspoken victims of war themselves, reflecting the tragic aftermath of the struggle between self-interested superpowers.

This guest article explains the ongoing importance of Che Guevara around the world today, and how a silly little PSP game like Peace Walker can open old wounds that most Americans know nothing about.  The Latin folk hero of the 1950’s and 60’s may be “iconic” in North America, but in the most reductionist sense of the word, appearing on t-shirts and capitalist merchandise without a shred of irony.  And although Peace Walker focuses heavily on the Latin American struggle for independence and justice, few fans realize the significance of its political and historical commentary on issues that still burn with significance in the hearts of millions around the world today.

I hope you’ll share my interest in how Kojima designed Peace Walker and Big Boss to pass on a message of international sensitivity and awareness in a world dominated by US propaganda.  As we’ve seen, this awareness is only growing deeper and darker as we approach Metal Gear Solid V, and I think the words of our friend A. Sylazhov should be kept with us as we look forward to the politically-charged and insightful next chapter of the Metal Gear series.  Enjoy.

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(Note from A. Sylazhov: Because I am Uruguayan and the author of this website is Canadian, I will refer to citizens of the US throughout this article as “Unitedstatians,” derived from the official demonym in Spanish “estadounidense,” which we use in the Spanish language to safeguard our right to our American identity and avoid confusion over usage of the term. From Canada to Argentina, we are all Americans, and the US shall not deprive us of this right. The word “America” or “American” used to refer to the US and to US citizens in this article is only used when quoting sources, never by me.

The views expressed in this article are exclusively my own, and do not represent the views of any specific political party, social movement or of the owner of this website.)


Introduction

How is Che Guevara viewed in Latin America, and why is he so revered?  Why is he demonized constantly in North American and European media? Why do right-wing circles hate him? Where does the myth end and the truth begin?

In this article, we shall take a look at Che’s life, deconstruct the lies that seek to vilify him, analyze the left-wing aesthetics of Peace Walker, Che’s role in the game and explain why Kojima settled for a positive portrayal of Che Guevara, all from a left-leaning and Latin American perspective. We will analyze the similarities between him and Big Boss and why Kojima would compare his fictional creation to Che. Throughout the article, we will also gradually debunk the common belief that Kojima’s view of Che is directly shaped after Che’s portrayal in the 2008 film “Che” starring Benicio del Toro, as I explain here, Kojima exhibits knowledge of Che not present in the film, which he obviously must have performed himself after becoming interested in Che.

The goal of this article is not to make you agree with Che’s ideology, but that you do not fall for the propaganda of spin doctors. Facts can be spun around to defend or attack Che, infinitely. This article merely aims at explaining why most of us in Latin America admire him. After you’ve heard all the bells, then you can decide for yourself how you wish to view him and his legacy. This article doesn’t aim at changing your perceptions of him, but rather show you sincerely how most of us in Latin America view him, especially in the left.

 

Obliviousness Revisited

“It would take a thousand years and a million pages to write Che’s biography.”
-Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian journalist, writer, author and poet.

che_billboardNothing pains me more than seeing the general response by Metal Gear fans to Che’s portrayal in Peace Walker; I’ve seen several atrocities written by the poor deluded gamers who clearly have been influenced by the Unitedstatian media and their hypocritical society beyond repair, so it’s to be expected. But it’s still worrying and disturbing. The most common reactions of Metal Gear fans to Che’s portrayal in the game include the typical “Che was a murderer/terrorist/rapist/racist/whatnot” along with some “why would Kojima fall for this propaganda?” Guess again, kids. Hideo Kojima is a man who knows exactly what he’s doing.

We’re talking about the man who released the highly intellectual MGS2 merely to prove a point to oblivious fans in denial, who misunderstood his works. Che’s portrayal in the game is not something unrelated to this. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe Che’s portrayal and the strong presence of an FSLN unit depicted as good guys and allies of Big Boss were meant to raise serious questions about the game’s content by Unitedstatian gamers, to encourage them into actually researching Che’s history and learn more about the situation of Latin America under the Cold War. After all, countless briefing tapes, which can be heard at any time in the game, contain crucial information about Latin America’s situation, the role of the US in it and why Che is viewed as a hero throughout the entire region. But nobody seemed to bother much with this, and those who seemingly did pay attention fell for the propaganda of the US, even attacking Hideo Kojima for his “anti-US” views, which they found offensive. We could say, summarizing, that the oblivious fanbase of Kojima has just as much failed to appreciate this as those who misunderstood MGS2’s meta-narrative when it first came out.

If you’re reading this in this website, you know this is all about meta-references, that Hideo Kojima uses Metal Gear as a vehicle to convey his feelings and frustrations (like every artist does when expressing himself through his works) and that everything he ever includes in his games, no matter how minor or obscure, serves a specific premeditated purpose. Like a complex piece of machinery, in Metal Gear games everything comes into place, functioning efficiently and in unity to get the player somewhere he hasn’t been before, to the realm of thought and introspection, to self-doubt and skepticism. And this realm, like MGS2 tried to do, sometimes can be so harsh we are extremely willing to cover our ears in denial hoping Hideo Kojima is at our beck and call and that his role is to satisfy our stupid shallow action-packed whims derived from what society tells us to mindlessly consume.

To be honest, I was extremely moved and surprised about Che Guevara’s portrayal in Peace Walker, and the inclusion of the FSLN guerilla unit helping the main character being depicted as inherently good. It was most definitely unexpected, and bold. Throughout Peace Walker’s cutscenes and briefing tapes, Che is lauded as a hero, a great warrior, the most complete human being of the 20th century and more by the game’s central characters. Respect is shown to him invariably, constantly, without a single line of dissent being expressed by any of the characters in-game. Not even the North American characters of the game, such as Big Boss and Kaz Miller, express dissent, all the contrary, they admire him. The FSLN guerillas, particularly, speak of him as they would of a legend.

[SNAKE]

I’ve gotta hand it to you. It takes guts to conquer your fear like that and live a guerrilla’s life in the wild.

[AMANDA]

It is nothing. El Che did not let asthma stop him from leading the revolution. Compared to him, I am no hero.

Comments like that are abundant in Peace Walker. This is, without exaggerating, one of the gaming events of the century.

If you know anything about Che Guevara, you will also know that he’s regarded as little more than a genocidal monster and by extension “a dirty commie.” Depending on how specific the source wants to be, it will also be pointed out that he was a ruthless killer, a supporter of nuclear war, a rapist, a homophobe and a racist, among other things.

This negative profile of Che is the one that proliferates generally in North America and Western Europe, and in Latin America it has also become popular among right-wing circles influenced by neoliberal pro-US views. In Latin America, we currently find ourselves in an extremely polarized war between those of us in the left standing up for the Socialist beliefs Che had, usually the poorest sectors of society and the most intellectual, and those in the upper classes seeking the Unitedstatian way through capitalist exploitation, upper-middle classes and wealthy oligarchs/businessmen. Venezuela is the spotlight to this fight, with a democratically-elected Socialist president fighting against media manipulation, CIA-sponsored terrorism, wealthy oligarchs loyal to US interests and constant “student” protests from highly organized criminal and mercenary groups with US backing which disrupt daily life and cause enormous damage to public property, not to mention Venezuela’s image at a worldwide level. It is now common to associate Venezuela with a dictatorship due to the strong media manipulation. If a lie is told often enough, it becomes truth.

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