Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shells, But No Bananas: The Women of Mario Kart

Not long after I began this blog, I (drunkenly) decided the cyberworld needed to hear my thoughts on the women of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, it being fairly new at the time and it also being the first in the shell-chucking racing series to feature more female characters than just Princess Peach. For years, she’d been the standalone woman in any Mario game, a fact that adult me now looks on as Nintendo telling the youth of the world that the epitome of femininity must have blonde hair, wear a pink dress and be dumb as shit. I can’t say that I’m especially proud of the old post — though it did mark my coinage of the term “cocksuckasaur” to describe Birdo, which I think was one of my better moments — but I’ve nonetheless decided that I should revisit the idea, especially since I haven’t yet tired of Mario Kart Wii.

So here you have it: Updated for a stunning new age of Wiimote twirling, the women of Mario Kart, rated by Drew.

Last place: Baby Daisy

In the “My Beloved Cocksuckasaur” post, I began my evaluation for Princess Daisy with two choice words: “Fuck you.” I’m now focusing these words on this moppet of a princess, who didn’t exist in the Mario universe prior to Mario Kart Wii. (It’s fine. Babies don’t know what that phrase means. Also, for the record, I lack patience for the many other “baby” versions of Mario characters, but they at least had the good fortune to appear in actual games before they joined the rest go-karting and playing tennis.) As near as I can figure, Baby Daisy was invented so Baby Peach could have a friend, because although it’s a good idea to let babies drive racecars around tracks that run through lava, dairy farms, space and whatnot, it’s not a good idea to let them do it alone. Somehow, racing in greater numbers must protect their little fontanels from damage. Further strikes against the toddler Daisy: She’s this close from being a palette swap of Baby Peach (laziness on Nintendo’s part) and she’s occupying valuable real estate that could have been occupied by one of the beloved Mario characters I remember from childhood (wisdom on Nintendo’s part, I guess, since most of the people buying Mario Kart Wii weren’t alive to appreciate unknowns like Pauline and Wart).

Sixth place: Baby Peach

Again, I don’t dig the babies, though I understand that quite a few relative Nintendo newbies do, especially when those newbies happen to be female. Whatever. Blame my infantophobia on my relative discomfort around larval humans or on the fact that I think babies shouldn’t drive racecars. Baby Peach beats out Baby Daisy just for the fact that she came first. Also, she’s not any form of Daisy. And I have never cared for Daisy.

Fifth place: Princess Daisy

Oh, Daisy. You’ve been around longer than most and you no longer irritatingly shout, “Hi, I’m Daisy!” when you take the wheel, but I still don’t like you, mostly because I find you contrived: You exist only to offset Peach’s passive femininity with yippie, overenthusiastic femininity, which doesn’t really balance out the equation. You’re that girl at the bar shouting “Woo!” without any real provocation. You’re the pep squad. You’re the Midge to Barbie, the Meg Griffin to any female Family Guy character that Meg Griffin happens to be standing beside. A final note why Daisy gets to be the worst non-infant Mario Kart racer: She looked cooler when she was tan and vaguely non-Caucasian-looking, before they made her look downright Irish.

Fourth: Toadette

Initially, I hated Toadette, who was invented as Toad’s racing partner for Double Dash!! in the same way Baby Daisy magically appeared in time for Mario Kart Wii. Yes, she still smacks of some crime-against-nature cross-breeding of Smurfette, Strawberry Shortcake and Toad, but in Mario Kart Wii, I’ve found myself oddly transfixed by watching her weird mushroom braids bounce as she drives over bumps, much in the way I “lose time” while watching lava lamps. And on the subject of those braids: Do they grow out of her head or what? If she takes off the mushroom hat, do they go too? Does all lady mushroom hair grow in a string-of-pearls formation?

Third: Princess Peach

I have to give her credit for being the longest-lived female video game character this side of Ms. Pac-Man. However, if playing these games for most of my life has taught me anything, it’s that this woman started out with the IQ of mayonnaise and, 23 years of existence later, has only a slightly altered hairdo and a butt-showcasing motorcycle suit to show for it.

Second: Birdo

Upon seeing this monstrosity for the first time, most people ask, “What is it?” The boring answer is “She’s a Birdo.” Birdo — the only character on the list who wasn’t technically invented as a Mario character and who also the only one known as “Catherine” in Japan — lacks a widely agreed-upon gender. Depending on how you look at it, Birdo could be female, Birdo could be male but dressing like a female or, if you really want to over think matters — and if you are reading this, you totally do — you could think of Birdo as a transgendered character who was male but is now female. In the instruction booklet for Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo is identified as a boy who likes dressing like a girl and enjoys being called “Birdetta.” About ten years later, she started appearing in games regularly as a friend for Yoshi, who himself has weird gender issues. (He, like Birdo, makes eggs.) Nintendo referred to her as a “she,” seemingly having retconned her “Birdetta” days, but I noticed that as of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Nintendo has taken to using “it” to refer to this egg spitting, be-bowed… character. That I enjoy. Plus she speaks in quacks. Birdo the Gender Mystery.

And the winner: Princess Rosalina

Yes, as in real life, the new girl gets all the attention. Rosalina — who, by the way, was the subject of an insightful essay on narrativity in Super Mario Galaxy, the game in which she debuted — takes the gold for three reasons. First: She’s not pink, a rare trait among Mario females, as you can see by scanning over the images in this post. She may still wear a dress and also have hair that blocks one eye, seemingly hindering her driving ability, but she at least helps break the law of “pink equals girl.” Second: She’s accompanied by a delightful bouncing star creature that does nothing to increase her racing prowess but delights me regardless. And third: Despite appearances otherwise, she’s apparently secretly fat. For those unfamiliar with Mario Kart racer classes, they come in three types: lightweights (babies, things with big eyes), middleweights (plumbers, princesses, bipedal dinosaurs), and heavyweights (villains and jovial simians). This time around, Rosalina got crammed in with the heavyweights, for reasons that I’d guess are based more on her height than any hidden junk-packed trunk. Aside from the obvious shame about being the only girl in a class populated by a jive-talking ape and a ghost king, Rosalina’s heavyweight classification means that she races faster than the rest of these bitches. And yes, I realize that the existence of a crown atop Rosalina’s existence raises the question of whether Mario knows any women who aren’t either princesses, baby versions of said princesses or dick-sucking dinosaurs. I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t.


  1. What is Birdo from if she's not from Mario?

  2. hi. since i found this blog for your other site a year ago, these kinds of posts make me happy.

    personally, i was surprised that mario kart wii didn't have dixie kong, because she'd been in the mario baseball and mario basketabll. i wouldn't have ever expected that big stupid funky kong would the one to make it in.

    also, dixie is SO much cooler than baby daisy.

  3. also, have you ever noticed that mario ladies are pretty but never sexy? or the sexy ones don't ever become playable>

  4. Rosalina's weight might be attributable to the fact that she's from another planet where the gravity's different. Sort of like how Superman could originally jump really high because of Kryptonian gravity, but the other way around.

  5. Anonymous: It’s complicated, but Birdo came from a game called Doki Doki Panic, which starred an Arab family. When Nintendo decided that the Japanese sequel to Super Mario Bros. was too difficult, they replaced the Arab family with Mario and company, making it so they were now fighting Birdo and the like, not people wearing turbans. There’s more here:

    Thus, Birdo was not initially conceived as a Mario character, but she eventually became one.

    Hominy: Yes, that’s a good point about the non-sexy ladies becoming the stars. Women who wear gloves and ankle-length dresses are way more common than the ones who might come from less-than-strict upbringings. It’s probably not a conscious decision on Nintendo’s part, but it’s nonetheless telling.

    Will: No, hadn’t thought of that. I prefer to think of her having a lead plate somewhere, or possibly a weighty fetus that we don’t know about.

  6. Thanks for answering!

    I have another. What are Yoshi's gender issues?

  7. Wasn't Birdo in Mario 2? That one where you threw mushrooms at people and fell from the sky at the start?

    And is there no place in the Mario world for awkward looking girls? I think all these dressed up, make-up'd, tiara clad video game female characters are still creating what they are trying to possibly prevent: spoiled, high maintenance princess bitches.
    We didn't have too many female characters, and we turned out okay, right?

  8. Jenni: That Arabian family Doki Doki Panic game WAS Super Mario Bros. 2. I left that key part out. And on the subject of whether having most visible female characters be princesses, I'm still not sure on whether thats enforcing stereotypes and badly as some might think. On one hand, these characters are giggling and pink, and that's bad. However, by dressing up a character in a dress and a tiara and all other conceivable trappings of femininity but then letting her do anything the boy characters can do, isn't that progressive in a sense? Like, the girl in heels can drive as fast as the boy in shoes or the dinosaur in... dinosaur feet? It would be a lot better if a girl who wears something radical like pants were included as well.

    Anonymous: Yoshi's weird in that he's a boy who lays eggs. But then again Birdo doesn't have a clearly define gender, and she/it spits eggs. There's also weirdness with both Yoshi and Birdo in the respect that their simultaneously an individual and an entire race that looks just like them — there's Yoshi and the Yoshis and Birdo and the Birdos, but that gets into a whole distinctly non-American senses of individual identity group identity that you could probably write a book on.

  9. I just unlocked Birdo. Probably the scariest character in the game so far.

  10. I don't ever remember a slutty female character, but then again I haven't played these games in years. I'm more interested in why there's so many pretty women and so few attractive men. Unless they've added some?

  11. You've got a point there. That is pretty progressive if you think about it. I just think it'd be kinda entertaining to see some Emo Goth Chick Princess driving a hearse in mario kart. I think I'm just stubborn because they make princesses in video games to intentionally appeal to females as if that's the only way to do it.

    And I never thought it was weird Yoshi was a boy and laid eggs, I accepted it as fact, I don't think I've ever questioned it before (which goes to show you how impressionable kids can be). And I think you blew my mind a little with the group identity thing.

  12. Daniel: The fontanel is the the soft spot on a baby's head where the skull bones haven't quite closed yet. I'd tell you to go find one yourself, but you're not supposed to jab your finger in there.

    Jenni: There is actually a emo goth girl in these games. She's just not prominent enough to warrant a spot in Mario Kart. Yet. Her name is Ashley. She's kind of a rip on Emily the Strange.

    I wrote a post about her and some weird Satanic associations she has some time ago.

  13. Rosalina's weight might be hidden by that empire-cut waistline on her dress. It's supposed to be quite flattering.

  14. Ha. That's the best reasoning I've heard so far.

  15. i love this post. you are hilarious!

  16. Pauline. Pauline isn't a princess, and thanks to Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 on the DS, she's still around.