Mario’s new voice and twerking Master Chief are disturbing, and here’s why

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Of all the stories emerging from this year’s Twitchcon streamers convention, the most surreal news is that Megan Thee Stallion twerked onstage with Master Chief.

If you want the star of Halo Infinite to take a much-needed break from battling The Banished, you can watch it below. I’m for both of these, but like many twerking videos, it reminded me of postmodernism.

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It feels surreal to see the funky fresh moves of a Chief cosplayer so easily embraced by such a big pop culture voice, and it’s not the first time this week I’ve had that reaction to video game news.

Character flaws

(Image credit: Nintendo/Illumination)

Surreal as it may seem, dancing Master Chief cosplayers are nothing new. Watching an emotionally constipated super soldier move as if he were in a Final Fantasy 14 Nightclub is a fundamental joy. It’s as endearing as it is absurd to watch the stoic humanity-saving Spartan break free and have some fun for a change. Somehow seeing John-117’s hulking frame fills its groove on a void in my soul I didn’t know I had.

There has always been great joy in fans taking 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 embraced:

However, it is certainly a step forward to go from fandommeme to a full-fledged performance with a world-renowned artist. Most fans have reacted positively, in stark contrast to the reaction to Chris Pratt’s appearance in the first Super Mario Bros trailer. Although he has an accent in the trailer, Pratt’s attempt at the different tones of a Brooklyn accent leaves a strange aftertaste.

Master Chief and Cortana, standing side by side

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What Master Chief and Mario have in common is their relatively new place under the distorting rays of pop culture. As video games have become more entrenched in pop culture, we’ve seen characters twisted and contorted to fit into more mainstream shapes. While this isn’t a bad thing by default, it can be shocking to see beloved characters change in this way.

In the case of Master Chief, we got to know him through the narrow lens of the Halo games, as the defender of humanity. It’s nice to see him on stage twerking with Stallion or copying memes, but it does force me to see him in a broader context than sci-fi super soldier. He is less and less Halo’s Master Chief, 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 that; he’s been jumping on Goombas since I was born. And despite appearing in a wider range of games and genres, alongside a wider cast of characters than Master Chief, they’ve always been in the context of Nintendo games – a company that strictly controls tone and standards. Each new step for Mario felt consistent with the previous one. Pratt’s voice feels like a leap in comparison, and now I have to re-contextualize a character who has felt largely unchanged my entire life. If Mario isn’t himself, who is he?

However, Jack Black as Bowser is perfect. No notes.

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