Friday, 21 March 2014
On Laura in Silent Hill 2
At university, while studying Gasper Noe's film Irreversible, my lecturers posited that the beginning of the film, set in a grubby gay club, represented an unclean "masculine" type of sexuality while the ending, with a pregnant Monica Belluci lying down in a field, surrounded by children, depicted an ideal, picturesque version of femininity.
This seems to me a patronising, infantalising representation of women, implying they are delicate flowers who need to be protected from the grimness of reality. By outlining the similar representation that pervades Silent Hill 2, I'm in no way endorsing it - I'm simply arguing that it exists.
James, of course, stands in for the virulent male sex. He's accompanied by his alter-ego, the serial raping Pyramid Head, and routinely exacts violence against fragile, womanly creatures, such as the mannequins and nurses.
Laura on the other hand symbolises cleanliness, purity, virginity. She is untouched by the sexualised world that James has created - she remarks that, unlike him, she doesn't see monsters or anything unusual in the town of Silent Hill.
She resembles Maria, the ideal woman James imagines, and by extent Mary, whom Maria is fashioned after, the implication being that Laura is what these two women looked like when they were younger, before they encountered James.
Both of these women are affected - governed - by James's male sexual desire: Mary is killed by James because she was too ill to have sex with him and Maria is literally James's imaginary creation, a short skirt wearing, seductive nymph, fashioned to suit his predilections.
Laura however is undisturbed, unblemished. She's a female who, throughout the game, is immune to influences of men, i.e. doesn't see what James sees. In that, she stands alone: Mary and Maria are both subject to James's sexual ideals and Angela, it transpires, is traumatised by the childhood sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. All of these women, in the same way that James's psyche influences the world of Silent Hill 2, have had their lives impacted on by the sexual whims of men. They are subjects of male self-interest.
With that in mind, the Good Ending of Silent Hill 2, wherein James leaves the town accompanied by a doting Laura, takes on a more sinister tone. Rather than save her, it's as if James has claimed her somehow, as if he's leading her away from the quiet town she envisioned and into an outside world, where women like Mary are murdered for being unable to have sex. Perhaps that's a cynical approach - perhaps, in the end, we see a new James, who has broadened his narrow view of women and learned to relate to them on a deeper, platonic level. But that's up for interpretation. It depends how much you feel for James.
However you see it, the theme of men and male desire somehow "corrupting" women remains. Mary is killed because she, by James's ultra-masculine standards, has become useless. Maria exists only as a canvass for James to project onto. And Angela, perhaps most tragic of all, is eventually driven to suicide by the memories of her father, and the abuses he committed to satisfy his lust. Laura, unable to see what James sees, constantly running away from him and calling him "a bad man" is the only female in the game immune to corroding male influence. But in the end perhaps she too becomes the subject of dangerous, misogynistic intent.