Help I found this article again and now I’m too engrossed to get up and grab lunch.
In my last post on No More Heroes I mentioned the game’s conflation of sex and violence vis-a-vis Travis’s beam sword. I thought it was a fairly light-hearted joke in the game — ha ha, you have to pretend to masturbate with the controller. Then Michael Clarkson had this to say in the comments:
I found it interesting that most of the sexual content has to do with sexual humiliation. I mean, without spoiling too much, Travis is deceived, used, and humiliated in nearly all his relationships with women, and then there’s the dialogue every time he goes to “train” with his “master”. Not to mention the regular calls he gets from the Beef Head video girl, which also have overtones of humiliation to them. Travis’s success with women usually involves killing them. Speaking of which, do you think the fight with Bad Girl might symbolize a confrontation with his sexual haplessness?
It’s a sobering analysis, and I was taken aback that anyone read the game on such a serious level. But when I used Michael’s comment as a jumping-off point to probe a bit deeper, I decided that the sex-violence conflation is perhaps less light-hearted than I thought. This was my eventual response:
Bad Girl is the most overtly sexual of Travis’s female targets — she exudes a mix of submissive innocence (her coy nickname, her Lolita-esque little girl outfit, her crying) and violent dominance (her baseball bat, her endless conveyor belt of cloned S&M-bound men). If we set aside the old woman Speed Buster, she’s also the only female target who Travis enjoys killing.
Significantly, the final blow isn’t just a straight-up decapitation. Travis impales her with his beam sword — which, I remind you, has been infused with phallic symbolism throughout the game — as she unsuccessfully tries to beat him away with her bat. “Naughty girls need spankings,” he mutters. After bleeding to death, Bad Girl goes limp lying on top of him with her legs spread, the sword still sticking through her body.
Now, what does that imagery remind you of?
No More Heroes is not a game about rape, but when we consider its conflation of violence and sex there’s an unmistakable edge to the sexual humiliation theme. In the end, Travis’s “revenge” goes beyond the hackneyed fights of destiny with Jeane and Henry. He’s trying to be something more than the loser otaku everyone takes him for and get back at them in the process.
Is it a stretch? Sure. Does it jibe with the vague uneasiness I felt after the Bad Girl fight? Absolutely.
Okay, this is interesting, but I read this fight WAY differently than I think that this person is implying. :|a
I honestly believe that Bad Girl was the aggressor throughout this fight. Travis tries to fight back and does eventually succeed, but while he’s succeeded in stabbing her, she’s still wailing away at him while he holds up his hands to protect himself. He actually tells her that she wins, even though she dies and he wins anyways.
Soooo…IMO, that’s definitely not a victory for him—he totally got dominated by Bad Girl there, winner or not, which I believe is kinda metaphorically about him not knowing what the heck he’s doing sexually at all.
I’ve got extensive headcanon for Travis and sex—he’s always come across to me as all bark and no bite, especially since the woman he lost his virginity to (I assume) brutally murdered his parents with her bare hands and everything. I also headcanon that Travis and Jeane had had sex on the day that she killed his parents which ADDS SO, SO MUCH MORE TRAUMA TO ALL OF THIS HAHAHAHA OH BOY….
I think that that theme of humiliation continues throughout NMH and into NMH2, though; notice how in NMH2 he’s uncomfortable with every woman’s advances on him (except for Sylvia, but she’s Sylvia). He has. No clue. He can talk all he wants, but he’s just too confused and uncomfortable, especially after everybody pretty much shoves his ego into the dirt and expects him to be an awkward virgin, to really make any solid moves on his own. (And that’s why, if you notice, Sylvia initiates every time. She takes the lead there because he won’t.)