Friday, 21 March 2014

On the nurses in Silent Hill 2


The theme of spousal abuse runs throughout Silent Hill 2. I've written already about James Sunderland's treatment of his wife as a sex object, and his frustrated sexuality. But that was more on a macro level. There is a small, intrinsic part of the game that speaks to the subject of domestic violence, specifically when James encounters the nurse monsters in Brookhaven Hospital.

Simply put, the most effective weapon against them is James's boot. Bludgeoning them with a pipe or shooting them with a gun makes them crumple to the floor, but unless James gives them a kick while they're down, they typically stand back up. Of course, James can kick to death other creatures in the game, but it usually takes two or three stomps before they're killed. The nurses however only take one. The sharp, pugilistic kick is a finishing move.

It's interesting because of all the creatures in the game, the nurses are the most overtly female: they wear fetishised nurse outfits, own heaving bosoms and have their legs exposed. That they're so vulnerable to James's kick hints at a sense of power, that these women can be kept firmly "in check" by a man using, as it were, his bare hands. The act of James kicking a nurse to death  is emblematic of the violent control he exerted over his own wife. It surmises the blunt, terrible force of domestic abuse.

Perhaps that's why the nurses have no faces. Though they're the only creatures in Silent Hill 2 that have human heads, those heads are contorted, blank. It's as if by withholding from the nurses any specific identity, any marks or features that would give them individuality, Silent Hill 2 is making a blanket statement about domestic abuse. It affects not one specific person, but people in a generic sense. It isn't isolated to a relationship between two individuals; it's a large, widespread problem, interceding on the lives of an indiscernible mass.

Certainly, that has been my experience with it. Domestic abuse can take many different forms and affect many different types of people. It is not necessarily violent or physical, nor is it always psychological or prolonged. It's a vaporous problem. For some people, it's hard to detect or accept that it's happening. Like the nurses' faces, it's hard to make out.

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