GLaDOS Followup: She’s Your Venus.

by Steve Bowler on April 9, 2008 · 42 comments

in art,critique

Commenter Harvey James posted an interesting image earlier about his own research he started doing after seeing the GLaDOS Bondage piece from earlier this week, and I wanted to link it here, because as it turns out, Valve did use Botticelli’s Venus as their inspiration (as the director’s commentary stated) for GLaDOS.  It’s just really tough to see.

You have to get up by her “feet” and look down at her “face” to see it.  Harvey convinced someone to unpack her model and looked at it from multiple views in a 3D modelling ap, and then put together this comparison.  This is her default pose, evidently.

She just needs some hair.

This was some awesome detective work on Harvey’s part, and it certainly lays aside any claims of pareidolia people trot out when they like to show off their triple-word-score vocabulary but refuse to use their eyeballs.  And despite some folks’ poor attempts at reasoning to the contrary, this actually validates my original hypothesis that GLaDOS wanted to be free.

You see, the name of that painting up there?  The full name of it is The Birth of Venus.   Birth is certainly freedom from the womb, non?  More amazing symbolism from the Valve folks.

Moreover, it’s possible for an object to be modeled differently from two different positions so that the image has a different visual interpretation depending on how it’s viewed.  The concept has been around as long as people have been making sculptures, but is easiest to describe in this Penny Arcade comic.  I don’t think it’s difficult to see that while the front-on views look the same, the Venus standing on that clamshell certainly isn’t bent at the knees at a 90 degree angle nor is she hunching over so far that she can touch the back of her knees.  Venus’s extended arm isn’t bending the wrong way, either (as GLaDOS’s does in the side view).

So I still think it’s possible that she was trapped in that position, and I’m still thinking she wanted to die (I’ve got another followup critique I’m working on, but I’m trying not to post about Portal like crazy right now if you can believe that) .  I’m not saying I’m right.  Far from it.  I’m not even saying anyone has to see it my way.  I’m saying that what I still see in GLaDOS is a woman uncomfortably hanging from the ceiling who has conducted Chell to end her life.

I’ll post a final critique later, to the delight and disdain of the internets.