The Call of Duty Modern Warfare II space has been invaded by thirsty TikTokers who are going absolutely feral for Simon “Ghost” Riley, one of the game’s main characters who has never revealed his face. The sequel dropped less than two weeks ago, but in that brief period of time Ghost edits have racked up millions of views across hundreds of TikToks.
Ghost was in the original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 (he died in that one) but was brought back for the reboot. He was rewritten to be a bit more lively and playful than previous iterations and also recast–he’s now voiced by DJ Samuel Roukin, but was portrayed by actor Craig Fairbrass in the original series, and Jeff Leach in Modern Warfare 2019. The newer, friendlier Ghost seems to be a hit amongst TikTokers, whether they’re Call of Duty fans or not, if the swath of videos about him are any indication.
The videos include fanart of Ghost looking demure or otherwise sexualized, people reacting to Ghost’s voice, and cosplays of Ghost. But most of them utilize audio taken from the “Alone” mission in Modern Warfare II, where John “Soap” MacTavish and Ghost chat over a radio while sneaking through a Mexican town. “Take it off,” Soap tells Ghost, referring to the skull mask he’s worn in every Call of Duty appearance. “Show my face? Negative,” Ghost says. When Soap asks if he’s ugly, Ghost responds “quite the opposite” in a voice that can be best described as a sexy growl. We reached out to both Infinity Ward and Ghost’s voice actor to see if they intended to make him this sexy, but have yet to get confirmation.
That audio is paired with a veritable smorgasbord of thirsty TikTokers imagining what Ghost looks like when saying the line. Some draw diagonal pink lines on his face like an anime character blushing, while others suggest he’s smirking through the line read or playfully kicking his feet behind him while lying prone. Others have gotten even more creative, whether it’s squatting down like Megan Thee Stallion, wearing a g-string, or donning a full maid’s outfit.
Many of these TikToks are either made by or targeted to femme and queer-identifying individuals, which takes the traditional video game objectification formula and flips the script. There’s a decidedly feminine gaze at play here, with posters focusing on Ghost’s forearms or the timbre of his voice, or turning what is ostensibly a totem for military industrialized masculinity and making him a little femme boy. Booker, a 26-year-old who used to scour FanFiction.net for femme-leaning Call of Duty smut, tells Kotaku they’re enjoying this influx of Ghost porn.
“To take such a strong, stoic character as Simon and completely turn his image into something more sexual is so funny to me,” they tell Kotaku. “It makes the men rage, but I can’t help but think of all the Cortana porn I saw growing up. Or Lara Croft, or Princess Peach, or any female in any game really. To take guys’ fan-favorite character and make him something for the girls is the best thing to happen to COD.” Booker recently posted a TikTok of them scrolling through Google looking at Ghost pics. “Google, show me this guy’s balls please,” the audio says as they scroll.
Unsurprisingly, a character meant to represent the pinnacle of mysterious masculinity being babygirlified or bimbofied by Gen Z has the Call of Duty dudes pressed. Comments on sexy Ghost TikToks from self-identifying Call of Duty fans run the gamut (TikToks like this one from thecubancrusher lament “what happened to Ghost?”), but many of them complain about the influx of “new” fans that have come flocking to the franchise to fawn over Ghost.
“Sexualizing him is worse than sexualizing minors,” writes one commenter responding to a TikTok calling out the industry for sexualizing teenage girls like Overwatch 2’s d.VA, who’s 19-years old.
Jarred May is an artist who posted a TikTok of himself drawing sexy Ghost art in response to backlash about the character’s objectification. “The term ‘gatekeeping’ is the first thing that comes to mind when I read a lot of the comments from fans,” May tells Kotaku. “A lot of ‘you’ve clearly never played the games’ and ‘Ghost would be disappointed in you’—a fair few homophobic comments, too. Some fans seem to have taken this movement as some kind of attack on their own sexuality. Maybe they need to do some soul-searching, they might discover something interesting.”
Even popular Call of Duty leaker CharlieIntel has weighed in on the Bimbo Ghost discourse, tweeting, “There are thirst traps of Ghost being posted on TikTok. Everyone, please.” Clearly, whoever runs the account isn’t a fan, as are many players in the comments. But no matter what the stereotypical Call of Duty fans think about Ghost getting the bimbo treatment, there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing they can do to stop it. “I was able to curate over half of my FYP dedicated to him. I’m loving it,” Booker tells Kotaku.
Correction: November 18, 5:20 p.m.: This piece previously contained a sentence referencing former Ghost voice actor Jeff Leach that was incorrect and has thus been removed.