I won’t embed the video here since there is a special page for it over at the SnakeSoup. It’s probably best to go there and see the introduction and follow-up material provided by Ravi Singh. On this page I’ll give my impressions of the video and reply to its arguments.
First I’ll give my own two cents about Big Boss being a villain. I’ve got mixed feelings about Big Boss as a hero or a villain, because I’ve always liked the idea that he was both or neither. He isn’t supposed to be somebody you can easily judge or praise. I tend to think of Big Boss as an example of a character who challenges our notions of heroes and villains the way that ancient kings and conquerors do. Big Boss is what you get when a powerful leader sets his own course in a corrupt world, and does what it takes to come out on top. He lives by his own code, and that code is far removed from the civilian ethics of peace time, who wouldn’t understand the choices of those who bear the burden of a crown. I could go on like this, but I’m basically just projecting my own interpretation onto the character instead of going by what is said in the series. I’m not the biggest lore guy, so I know I’m a step behind when it comes to official facts of what his motives were at any given point.
The stated goal of the video is to prove that Big Boss actually does become a villain in MGSV, as Kojima promised. It does this by highlighting his legacy. Those who were shaped by him, used by him, or inspired by him are always bent on destabilizing the (evil) world order (of the Patriots) at the cost of innocent lives, with the exception of Solid Snake, who was merely meant to die on his first mission. The other clones of Big Boss strive for their own version of “Outer Heaven”, which is a glorification of war. Solid Snake rejects this glorification of war, and therefore he is the hero and the voice of peace in the series’ narrative — even though he always ends up being the tool of evil powers in the process. For this moral conundrum we can easily apply the immortal Gray Fox quote to explain why Snake shouldn’t feel bad about the unintended consequences of his missions: all he can do is fight for what he believes in using the unglamorous skills he was given. He prevents nuclear devastation and eliminates the threat against world peace, and therefore he is righteous.
Snake makes it clear that he’s not a hero, repeatedly. This is because a hero lives his life as a good example in addition to a fighting for a noble cause. Snake’s life is not a good example. He is therefore an “antihero”. This is different from a “villain” such as Big Boss and his disciples. Antihero characters are known for being willing to break the rules and committing regrettable sins for a greater cause. Villains are those whose ultimate aim is selfish and conceited.
The funny thing is that, from this point of view, Big Boss could also be considered an “antihero” after Snake Eater. He stops trying to live by the rules or keep a clean conscience, and instead forges his own path using the unglamorous skills (and title) he was given. But is his aim selfish/conceited, or is it noble? Is it simply misguided? I’m not sure, and the Parasitic Legacy video doesn’t quite convince me either way. I might have to watch it again.
The video also contrasts Big Boss to The Boss, who is a notoriously tricky character to discuss. She was only shown in one game as a real character, and after that we only learn about her from characters who claim to have understood her. Kojima deliberately shrouded The Boss in misunderstanding as part of her character’s legacy. One of the reasons Big Boss is so angry is because the world will never know about The Boss. The video — like all fan commentary I’ve seen — doesn’t judge The Boss for her failure to teach her disciple how to think and what to believe. The Boss always seems to be accepted as a blameless character by fans, and it’s clear this is what Kojima intended, but I would like to see more justification for this attitude about her. I’ve yet to see a very compelling argument for why The Boss’ approach to training Naked Snake — she repeatedly shoots down his requests for guidance — isn’t worthy of blame.
“Venom Snake” is a whole nother matter, but it contains spoilers and is confusing as shit to me, so I’m going to reserve my judgment about that part for now. It’s hard to follow, and that’s no fault of the Snake Soup. With MGSV we almost have to lean on the “meta” dimension for insight into Venom Snake’s motives (he’s practically a blank slate), but yet we’re asked to go by official in-game quotes for the rest of Big Boss’ logic. It’s very hard to piece together a coherent “character” this way, and yet we’re told that Big Boss is evil.
In the end, Parasitic Legacy emphasizes that war is evil if nothing else is, and war is what Big Boss wanted for the world. In order to defend Big Boss’ legacy, we would have to defend the atrocity of warfare and — calling it by another name — terrorism. Big Boss is a terrorist in the eyes of the world, after all. And although we aren’t given the power to commit atrocities as players in MGSV, we come close enough that we can see how the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. Raising child soldiers and feeding them back into the war machine is not so different from violently kidnapping, imprisoning, brainwashing, and then dispatching patriotic young soldiers fighting who were just fighting for their country, is it? We profit off of our men’s delusional devotion to us. Is that not evil? Where exactly is the line in the sand we shouldn’t cross? Is it building a Metal Gear and obtaining a nuke, even if we don’t intend to use it for our own selfish or conceited purpose, but rather as a defensive deterrence? I suppose I’d like to see a balanced analysis of the big picture before seeing somebody take a stance on whether Big Boss was really a villain, or just an antihero with a loose grip on reality.
Again, go check out the page and decide for yourself. It’s a thought-provoking video that’s perhaps a little too dense to be digested on the first go, so I suggest you get engaged in the conversation it is bound to provoke.