Girl in the Machine
Friday, June 22, 2007
Katt Monroe's Evolution

Warning: Ending spoilers follow!

When the original Star Fox came out for the Super Nintendo in 1993, I was but a wee six-year-old, as well as a novice at video games. I wasn't too good at this already difficult game, but I loved to watch my older brother navigate through each planet and ultimately defeat the incorrigible Emperor Andross, saving the Lylat system from certain doom. Watching the silver polygons flying around was exciting indeed, but what I really loved about the game was the large cast of characters. Each had their own personality and would react differently to Fox McCloud's actions and commands. Unfortunately, Star Fox, while bountiful with interactive persons, is also, undeniably, one big sausage fest.

So when Star Fox 64 arrived four years later, I was delighted to discover that progress had been made, and a grand total of one female character had been included. Now old (and coordinated) enough to pilot an Arwing myself, Fox and I set off on our grand adventure through Lylat, eventually happening across the polluted planet of Zoness. In the thick of enemy craft and sludge-covered sea monsters, I was saved by a lone ship piloted by one Katt Monroe.

At first, Katt's basic character history sounds very promising for the series's first official female character: a rogue pilot, she flies a Venom Invader ship she stole after the Venomian army destroyed her own ship. She fights on whatever side is against her enemies.

Unfortunately, Katt's less inspiring characteristics far outweigh her good ones. She steals a Venom Invader all right . . . but paints it a mind-numbing shade of pink (to match her equally pink fur, no less). She also has a well-known history with Falco Lombardi, a hard-headed member of the Star Fox team, which she never seems to let him or the player forget. These things may be easy to forgive by themselves, but it's what Katt says in the game that damns her character as embarrisingly misogynist:

“Starting without me? Boys, I’m crushed!”

Oh Katt, you little minx.

“Beautiful! I could kiss you for that!”

Seriously though, quit it.

“Is that any way to greet a girl?"

Oh, for God's sake . . .

“You trying to damage my pretty face?”

Huurk--I think I just threw up in my mouth a little . . .

It doesn't end there, either. Along with calling the Star Fox members "boys," Katt uses several pet names when talking to them, such as "hon," "little man," and of course, "Tiger." Her cringe-worthy voice only rubs salt into the wounds. It also doesn't help that whenever our plucky female pilot swoops in to save the team, a bouncy little ditty that I can best describe as Malibu Barbie-esque plays. Katt oozes girliness to the point of nausea, and it's unsettling. While all the male characters had personalities not directly related to their gender, SF 64 Katt seems to be nothing but "The Girl" of the game.

Even ten years ago, I was never a big fan of the really girly characters in video games. And yet, I really liked Katt. But why? I've recently come to realize that I gravitated toward her because she was female, and I could better relate to her in that respect. I loved all the cool aspects of her and let all the embarrassing declarations slide. Being the only female character in the game, I tolerated her flaws. This is what happens when a female character exists in a game merely as The Girl and not as a persona.

Star Fox Adventures came along, and Katt disappeared from the series. Star Fox Assault followed in 2005 with no sign of the feline pilot; the role of The Girl in the series seemed to be filled by Krystal, a character I had no interest in. In spite of Katt's sugary-sweet girlishness, I missed the skilled rogue pilot who didn't fit the damsel in distress role that Krystal sprung from.

In mid-2006, the first Star Fox game for a handheld system was released in the form of Star Fox Command. The game featured a winding choose-your-own-adventure style story that allowed for the introduction of a plethora of new characters. All of a sudden, there was no longer only one female character in the series; Krystal had to make room for Lucy Hare and Amanda. Along with these new female characters, it was in this game that Katt Monroe made her glorious return, completely revamped.

Instead of the cotton candy fur of SF 64, Katt now sports a coat of dark grey. She is garbed in bold yellow, red and orange with only pink trimmings; her ship has also been repainted with a fine shade of dark red. If that's not great enough, her personality has gotten a complete face lift as well; gone are the pet names and sexist double-standard exclamations. During Falco's storyline, Katt swoops in to save him not only once but twice. She never flirts with Falco in the game, and her relationship with him is mentioned only once. And when, at the end of the game, Falco feels jilted by the Star Fox team for defeating the Anglar forces without him, it is Katt who tells him to act:

Falco is consumed with rage. If all had gone to plan, he, Fox, and all the rest would be heroes writ upon a galactic stage, reveling in endless retellings of their victory, Instead, fate has seen fit to ostracize Falco from the Star Fox squadron. And then, just when things were bleakest, Falco got a message from Katt Monroe. "Forget those losers! Grab a couple of friends and form a new squad!" Falco was usually too stubborn to heed advice, but this message came at the right time. Falco took Katt up on her offer, and they hunted for a third pilot, eventually finding their man--an elite Cornerian pilot named Dash! Together the three of them formed Star Falco, a unit that rivaled even Star Fox!

It's refreshing to see that Katt's personality finally matches her history of an independent renegade. She retains her femininity without succumbing to the confectionary dregs of The Girl. With the introduction of several new female characters, Katt is allowed to deviate from the suffocating label and have a mind of her own. While not perfect, she has grown quite significantly from her static heydays on the Nintendo 64. I applaud Nintendo for their decision to update Katt into a more unique persona that rises above merely being defined by her gender, and I hope to see more of her in the next major game in the series.

Special thanks to IGN, Gamehiker, Wikipedia, and Nightshade 64 for images

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
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