Zara Young is the first woman to die in a Jurassic Park movie; she dies towards the end of the fourth film, Jurassic World, when she’s eaten by a mosasaurus leaping from the water, after being dropped by a pterodactyl. She’s the 38th death overall, not counting named characters who die between movies, the uncountable deaths of the SS Venture crew, and the dinosaurs themselves. If you’re wondering who Zara is, she’s Claire’s assistant – and if you’re wondering who Claire is, she’s Bryce Dallas Howard.
It might seem like this has very little to do with Ratchet & Clank, but the two are more closely related than you think. Jurassic Park is not a sexist franchise, with Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, and Tea Leoni each having lead roles in the initial trilogy before Howard steps into a protagonist role in the fourth, fifth, and (presumably) sixth instalment. There have been leading female characters and supporting female characters since the franchise started in 1993, but it took until 2015 for one of them to be killed off, despite 37 men being eaten, crushed, or ripped apart before then.
That’s because despite the relatively even split between men and women in terms of population numbers, men get to be the default – especially in popular media. Despite having a woman in a starring role in each film, the Jurassic franchise is still overloaded with men, both in terms of the other stars, the supporting cast and dinosaur fodder. However, as an action movie with two named protagonists (Ellie and Lex in Park), it does better than most – even if it could do a lot more.
This is where Ratchet & Clank: Riff Apart comes in. It’s set to be the first game in the series to pass the Bechdel Test – just like Jurassic Park not killing a woman until Zara, Ratchet & Clank failing this feels weird at first, until you realise that… of course. Ratchet & Clank isn’t a sexist franchise either, but it is extremely male dominated. It needed someone like Rivet to help it pass the Bechdel Test, and now it’s better to look forward with hope than it is to lament the past.
If you’re unaware, the Bechdel Test has three criteria. There must be two named female characters, they must talk to each other, and the topic of their conversation must not be a man. Jurassic Park barely passes this via Ellie and Lex screaming instructions at each other while fleeing. Ratchet & Clank has never passed this test previously, but with Mrs. Zurkon the game’s main merchant and Rivet as the protagonist, Rift Apart will.
There are some caveats, but wriggling out of this situation pedantically doesn’t really help. The test isn’t really pass/fail; it’s a barometer. Yes, there is a comic in the Ratchet universe which passes the test, and if you idle near Sasha and Helga in the third game they will converse briefly, but… really? If all you have for a series with 16 games is a spin-off comic and some background conversation you won’t hear unless you force a specific circumstance most players won’t see, you’re already onto a loser.
But again, it’s better to look forward with hope. It would be great if Ratchet & Clank (and video games, and media as a whole) was already in a position where the Bechdel Test was a relic of the past, but the important thing is its passing now. And not just vaguely scraping by thanks to a Sasha-Helga situation being brought into a main cutscene – Rift Apart has female lombax in a starring role through Rivet, and she seems set be a key character in the narrative who will likely have approximately 50 percent of the screen time. That the series has failed the Bechdel Test so far isn’t great, but here, it’s going to pass with flying colours.
The Bechdel Test is a barometer, and it’s indicating a new future for not only Ratchet & Clank, but hopefully gaming as a whole. Returnal, led by female protagonist Selene, has just dropped, while the trailers for the Mass Effect remaster heavily promote FemShep (like Rivet, voiced by Jennifer Hale) far more than the original trilogy ever did. Resident Evil Village’s marketing campaign has been built around Lady Dimitrescu, and Aloy is set to return in Horizon Forbidden West later this year.
Rivet is not the end of the journey, and her speaking to Mrs. Zurkon about guns is not the apex of female equality in gaming – especially not when they’re both gender flips of established male characters. But the times, they are a-becoming quite different, and Rivet is a big step towards that. We need more diversity within our female characters, and more female centric stories, but Rivet is proof that we’re getting there.
Next: Returnal’s £70 Price Tag Makes The PS5 A Rich Person’s Console – Especially During Pandemic Times
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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