Samus Is Trans, and Ronda Rousey Probably Shouldn't Play Her

Updated March 29, 2016 3:28pm PDT
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Ronda Rousey wants to star in a Metroid movie. 

This shouldn’t be too surprising: Rousey, the UFC’s former Bantamweight Champion and box office phenomena, has been slowly transitioning to film for some time now. She had what amounted to a cameo role in Furious 7, stars in the remake of Road House, and will join Tina Fey in the future white feminist classic Do Nothing Bitches. A Metroid film, however, represents something else: A potential jewel in the crown of Rousey’s near-unprecedented crossover success.

Though there hasn’t been a Hollywood film based on a Nintendo property since 1993’s Super Mario Bros.—a character like Metroid’s Samus Aran has unlimited franchise potential. And a star-spanning, alien-blasting action hero needs a badass occupying her power suit, so why not the MMA star?

“I’ve always wanted to be Samus,” Rosey told GameSpot’s Mat Paget. “That would be badass.”

The prospect of playing a gaming character she’s loved for years while hanging out in a CGI suit eating donuts does sound like a dream gig. There is, however, a bigger obstacle standing between her and this lush role than the men who jumped onto GameSpot’s comment section to say she wasn’t attractive enough for the role:

See, Ronda Rousey is a transphobe. A pretty prominent one, one who has used her media darling status to make sports an unwelcoming and unsafe place for trans women.

And Samus Aran? She’s a trans woman.

See, canon is a tricky thing, as tricky as gender itself. In 1994, the Japanese strategy guide for Super Metroid included a quote from Hirofumi Matsuoka, who said that the 6’3”, 198-pound intergalactic bounty hunter was a “newhalf,” which for the uninitiated, is slang for “trans woman.”

It’s a throwaway line in a strategy guide, more than likely a joke about Samus’ unreal proportions, but we live in a gaming ecosystem where there aren’t many iconic female heroes in the games everybody play. Few anchor franchises. That one might suggest one of the most popular is trans is, well, about as shocking as the original’s reveal that the gun-toting bounty hunter in the power suit is, to quote Rousey again, “a hot chick on the inside.”

I’m willing to give Rousey the benefit of the doubt here and guess that she doesn’t know this bit of Metroid lore, not because she’s not invested in her favorite character, but because it’s tucked away rather far out of sight. Unless you’re looking for it, you’d never know. Metroid isn’t exactly huge on character, and nothing in the games refutes or supports Matsuoka’s glib reveal.

Those offended by the proposition that a character they’ve been playing for years may reflect even less of their experience or sexual preferences than first thought often point to the lack of a transition narrative in any of the games, as well as Nintendo’s tweaking of Samus’ design to that of a younger, more comely woman.

Why and how a woman would fill the player in on her transition while fighting Mother Brain is beyond me, but it’s true that Nintendo has shifted away from their portrayal of Samus as a burly supersoldier. But hey, trans bodies come in that size, too.

I hate to be pedantic, but if Samus Aran ever gives birth in a Metroid game, it’ll be happening far enough in the future that uterine transplants aren’t uncommon. And if you’re saying “Hey, Colette, that’s awful small of you,” I’m not the one looking for ways to say that a video game character isn’t trans.

Does a video game character’s gender identity matter? I’d say no, in most instances, because characters were so scanty with detail in my youth that it was possible to identify with any protagonist, no matter how bushy his moustache. Super Mario Brothers 2 and Final Fight feature characters whose transness is established as inconsequently within the universes of the game as Samus, as even games that feature female characters are usually made with an eye towards a male audience. Poison, the Final Fight henchwoman you beat up time and time again as you scroll from one screen to the next, is only trans because it was deemed more acceptable for your avatar to strike a woman if that woman had a penis at some point in her sketch of a backstory.

It’s unfortunate that what stake we have in Samus is rooted in a joking slur buried as an Easter egg in a Japanese strategy guide, but we’re so hungry for representation, for the ability to play the hero just once, we’ll take what we can get, all the while pushing our way out of the market that forced this scarcity upon us.

Where would that leave Rousey, if this hypothetical Metroid movie were greenlit and she cast as Samus? Playing a woman whose womanhood she’d vehemently deny in any other circumstance.

Rousey probably shouldn’t play Samus Aran—doing so would make her, in a sense, a poster girl and role model for thousands of the sort of women and girls that she doesn’t want on her team (and let me go ahead and preclude your pithy little retort with yes, MMA does have teams, the analogy is very appropriate). Her contribution to Nintendo’s vast media empire would become a sad inside joke as canonical as Dennis Hopper wondering why nobody’s delivered his pizza to Koopa Castle.

And if all this isn’t enough to deter her, than an appeal to her own politics: if she doesn’t want trans women involved with her passions, than she should stay out of something that means so much to trans women gamers.

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Colette Arrand is a trans essayist, poet, and critic living in Athens, Georgia. Her work has appeared in The Toast, The Establishment, Autostraddle, and a number of literary magazines.