Watching the trailer for Konami’s Silent Hill 2 remake, I’m reminded that not only do I hate protagonist James Sunderland and want him to die, but I would also encourage Resident Evil franchise’s Ethan Winters to stick his blond head in the oven as soon as possible, like Sylvia Plath if she were an untalented man in a video game.
This animosity might catch you off guard. I admit, I might have an evolutionary fear of ineffectual blond men, like how some people are afraid of snakes or intimacy. I’m certainly disturbed by Christopher Columbus, who Scientific American described in 1893 as being “with blond beard and hair, clear complexion and blue eyes.”
Like Columbus, who was famously too stupid for spatial awareness, I believe Ethan and James are both capable of accidentally inflicting death and venereal disease upon an entire continent.
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where this conviction comes from, but when I look at James, sniveling and swoopy-haired with a little green jacket, and Ethan, sniveling and swoopy-haired with a little tawny jacket, I want to start handing flyers out about why chemtrails are turning the frogs blond. It feels true. I feel it in my core.
Why don’t we do a side-by-side comparison and learn more?
- Outfit - army jacket, gray polo, unflattering bootcut jeans
- Blond? - yes
- Wife status - sick, then dead because he smothered her with a pillow, but sort of “missing” because James is so psychologically damaged by how horny he is, he forgot
- Temperament - shattered by angst, bewilderment, terminal horniness
- Revealing moments - as told by the Silent Hill wiki, “he leaves his car door open, doesn’t switch his flashlight off when hiding from Pyramid Head; reaching into a hole in a wall for a second time after being pricked by something, plunging his unprotected hand into a filthy toilet to retrieve a wallet (neglecting to wash his hands afterwards)”
- Catchphrase - (upon seeing a refrigerator) “There’s something that looks like a refrigerator.”
- Outfit - sherpa jacket, probably from L.L. Bean, gray hoodie, more jeans
- Blond? - yes
- Wife status - perpetually missing, riddled with mold
- Temperament - dazed, confused, dead
- Revealing moments - getting his hand chainsawed off in Biohazard and saying nothing, getting his fingers bitten off in Village and just saying “Shit,” getting his hand sliced off in Village and just saying, “Oh, shit!”
- Catchphrase - (upon seeing a dead body) “A dead body?”
It seems clear to me that James and Ethan are two sides of the same useless coin. Everything that happens to them is kindled by their more interesting sick, missing wives, and yet they get to be the protagonists. They get to navigate the marsh and the mist, waving their guns like lollipops, shouting “What was that!?” at every bump in the night.
It’s not fair. They’re bumbling and they never earn an answer.
I can understand being unequipped for the gross, mentally and physically traumatizing ordeals both James and Ethan go through—I wouldn’t exactly know how to react to my wife coming at me with a chainsaw, either—but I wish their games would give me anything to admire or empathize within these men we spend hours playing as. You can’t coast on luck and boyish perplexity all the time, as much as Silent Hill and Resident Evil insist otherwise. Though, I suppose men like Leonardo DiCaprio have been doing it for decades and we still reward them with more movies and 24-year-old girlfriends.
In her 1993 book New Maladies of the Soul, in exploring “who still has a soul,” psychoanalyst and critic Julia Kristeva writes that “held back by his aloofness, modern man is a narcissist—a narcissist who may suffer, but who feels no remorse.”
“When he is not depressed,” Kristeva continues, he is “a body that acts, often without even the joys of such performative drunkenness.” Hm, same. But bland James and Ethan, blond, handsome, and regrettably uninteresting, are prime examples of what happens when men aren’t encouraged to nourish their souls. They fumble in the dark with empty heads and they survive horror, but with blinders on. Women never get to shy away from gore.
I know I’m spiteful, but I think James and Ethan deserve what they get.