Of all the stories that came out of this year’s Twitchcon streamers convention, the most surreal news is that Megan Thee Stallion twerked on stage with Master Chief.
If you want to see the star of Halo Infinite get some much-needed downtime to fight the Banished, you can watch it below. That’s what I’m here for, but like many twerking videos, it ended up making me think about postmodernism.
Meg the Stallion twerking in Master Chief has got to be the 5 best moments in Twitchcon history pic.twitter.com/1v8lLFYTmfOctober 9, 2022
Seeing a Chief cosplayer’s funky new moves so readily embraced by such a huge voice in pop culture feels surreal, and it’s not the first time this week I’ve had this reaction to video game news.
As surreal as it may sound, Master Chief’s dancing cosplayers are nothing new. There’s a fundamental joy in seeing an emotionally constipated super soldier make a move like he’s in a nightclub from Final Fantasy 14. Seeing the stoic Spartan who saves humanity let loose and have fun for a change is as captivating as it is absurd. Somehow, seeing John-117’s massive body doing its rhythm fills a void in my soul that I didn’t know I had.
There has always been great joy in fans taking the characters in crazy and unexpected directions. After all, when Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons shared a release day, fans started imagining mashups of the two games, something even the developers have embraced:
However, going from fandom meme to full performance with a world-famous artist is certainly a step forward. For the most part, fans reacted positively, in contrast to the response to Chris Pratt’s performance in the first trailer for Super Mario Bros. Though he has an accent in the trailer, it has to be said that Pratt’s attempt at the distinct tones of a Brooklyn accent leaves a strange aftertaste.
What Master Chief and Mario have in common is their relatively recent place under the warped rays of the pop culture spotlight. As video games have become more ingrained in pop culture, we’ve seen characters squirming and squirming to fit into more popular molds. While this isn’t a bad thing by default, seeing beloved characters change in this way can be shocking.
In the case of Master Chief, we get to know him through the narrow lens of the Halo games, as a defender of humanity. It’s fun to see him rocking around the stage with Stallion or recreating memes, but it forces me to see him in a broader context than sci-fi super soldier. He is less and less Master Chief of Halo, and more and more Master Chief, as seen in the Halo games.
My reaction to Mario is even stronger. Mario’s long history is at the heart of this; he’s been jumping on Goombas since before I was born. And despite appearing in a wider range of games and genres, alongside a wider cast of characters, than Master Chief, they have always been in the context of being Nintendo games – a company that tightly controls tone and standards. . Each new step for Mario felt consistent with the one before. Pratt’s voice feels like a leap in comparison, and now I have to recontextualize a character who has felt largely unchanged my entire life. If Mario isn’t himself, then who is he?
Jack Black as Bowser is perfect, though. No grades.