The Clone, the Cube, and the Construct: Part 1

by Steve Bowler on April 13, 2008 · 105 comments

in casual,critique,multiplayer,nitpicking,uncategorized

Okay, so this clone, a cube, and a construct walk into a bar...

Thanks to all of the great comments in the previous threads, I decided that I wanted to do one more final analysis of the entirety of Portal after the previous two articles, mainly so that I could either convince myself one way or the other regarding my theory on why GLaDOS tortures Chell (and therefore the player) into wanting to kill her at the end of the game. What I was looking for was some concrete evidence; something that could not be hamstrung by differences of opinion.

I thought I had my answer when I realized that GLaDOS could open and close portals at will, as she does in the first couple of levels of the game. This, it would seem, was the lynch pin of the argument that she could have killed Chell at any time she chose, but then when I went to go grab screenshots of it, I realized that GLaDOS could only create portals where an in-wall portal device was located (the walls are marked with protrusions on either side of where a portal will appear).

So while I am still left with the problem of how GLaDOS removed the dead bodies of previous test candidates (and presumably the previous inhabitants of the Aperture Science Labs), I did stumble across what I think was the intended narrative of the short Portal story. It quite literally is a tale of The Clone, the Cube, and the Construct. It’s a story about a woman, enslaved, and her attempt to break free by proxy. It’s a long ride, so curl up with a blanket while I attempt to unravel the big picture in three parts. Today, it’s all about:

Chell, the Android Clone

We begin the game with no clues as to who we are. We emerge from a cocoon-like device only to find out we are in a glass cage of a room with no doors. As a gamer we identify with this “blank slate” by projecting our own thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors onto the protagonist, but we need to attempt to look at what Valve was telling us about the protagonist herself in this situation.

  1. We were in some sort of hibernation state. This suggests we were previously “stored” somewhere.
  2. We are not trusted enough to be allowed freedom without limits.
  3. We have no idea who or what we are.

These things lead me to believe in the clone theory: that Chell (our female protagonist) is actually a clone. Besides the implications of the meanings behind Chell (namely that it is another term for a sheep), we learn throughout the game that she is certainly not human. She is, in fact, an android (GLaDOS indirectly tells us as such later), and has been modified with bionic jump boot implants. While Chell was probably the daughter of founder Cave Johnson at one point, it does not appear that she is that exact individual any longer.

We are almost immediately informed as to what we are there to do, by the voice of the Antagonist, who we later find is named GLaDOS, the sentient AI who is here to run what we are led to initially believe is a series of tests regarding portals and our use and understanding of them. However, GLaDOS immediately slips up and gives us our first “clone” clue in her opening line to Chell:

Hello, and again, welcome to the Aperture Science Computer Aided Enrichment Center.

On the surface, this line seems harmless enough. The line is there to trick the first time player into thinking that they are just another test subject in this neat little puzzle game. However, GLaDOS says “and again.” This implies that she has greeted Chell in some manner before her/our first awakened moment. The only way this is even possible is if Chell’s memory has been wiped or if there were previous versions of Chell.

Later, in the 2nd test chamber, GLaDOS says to us

Remember, Take Your Daughter ot Work Day is the perfect time to have her tested.

Tested for what? Some people have speculated, I think incorrectly, that it was currently Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and that Chell is just someone’s daughter volunteering running the course. Anyone who has gotten 3/4 of the way through the levels could tell you this obviously is not the case. However, I believe that GLaDOS is revealing a bit of a secret here, and that is that she now views Chell in a maternal sense. Everyday is “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” for GLaDOS and Chell. GLaDOS believes herself to be Chell’s mother, if she is not in fact Chell’s creator, as I will attempt to explain later.

At two points in the story, GLaDOS refers to Chell’s performance with a form response. It is missing two key points of data when said aloud to the player: “SUBJECT NAME HERE,” and “SUBJECT HOME TOWN HERE.” While being an excellent (if not hilarious) game-ism in that it avoids attempting to tell the player what town their character is from (and therefore does not break the illusion that the player is the avatar), it possibly tells us something more about Chell. It is entirely possible that GLaDOS did not make an error when reporting the line as heard. If Chell is indeed a clone, it means she does not have a “home town.” While she does seem to have a name, it is also possible that Chell was Cave Johnson’s daughter’s name, and the Chell we are playing as may no longer have any memory of that name. She could just be the genetic inheritor of Chell, not Chell in name, and therefore would not need to be addressed as Chell by GLaDOS.

Additionally, if Chell is indeed “from” the Aperture Science Labs, it makes a logical fallacy out of the statement:

The device is now more valuable than the organs and combined incomes of SUBJECT HOME TOWN HERE.

Because if Chell’s “hometown” is ASL, the portal gun could not be more valuable than the individuals who made it. Not only does Chell not really have a hometown, it is far easier to just leave the line blank rather than fill it in and make the statement false. Additionally, GLaDOS probably doesn’t want to tell Chell that she is a clone (the testing data is no doubt hampered by world-wrending truths), and therefore would not show her hand by giving this information away in a congratulatory statement.

Another line from GLaDOS which, while hilarious on the surface, clues the player in to Chell’s cloned nature is the line

Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck!

Again, while hilarious, there seems to be a clue here, and that is that GLaDOS is more concerned about the performance evaluation than you dying. She is letting you know that you should already know how to beat this section of the course, and if you fail, will mark it as an error on your testing record. Death seems to be of little, if not lesser, consequence. Probably because she will simply reactivate another clone of Chell and download the latest brainscan of Chell’s last run through the course.

Further evidence of Chell being a clone can be found when the player discovers all of the little hide-outs that previous testing candidates have left behind:

  • The handwriting is always the same.
  • The hash marks on the walls are 90-100 days long. It is unlikely that multiple people were allowed to stay in the testing environment that long while people still inhabited the ASL.
  • The name and password login written on one of the walls is: cjohnson. The odds of someone other than Chell running this course previously and knowing Cave Johnson’s name and password is astronomically small. More to the point, this is probably not Cave Johnson’s name and password, as previously thought, but the original Chell Johnson’s name and password, from an earlier clone iteration who could remember who she was.

One could counter-argue that it’s “just a game” and that the handwriting on the wall is just an artist throwing the same textures up on multiple hide-out hole walls, but that would be over simplifying what was displayed on those walls. The fact that the login written on the wall actually works on the Aperture Science homepage tells me that those words were carefully crafted and thought out.

Now, remember when I said I would attempt to prove that Chell is an android now? I think GLaDOS tells us indirectly during testing chamber 16.

Due to mandatory scheduled maintenance, the appropriate chamber for this testing sequence is currently unavailable. It has been replaced with a live fire course designed for military androids. The Enrichment Center apologizes for the inconvenience and wishes you the best of luck.

Again, on the surface, the player has a laugh at this and thinks “oh that wacky AI making these crazy mistakes!” When in reality, she has just hidden a larger truth: You are a military grade android. This course has been designed to test the latest and greatest version of you, Chell, who has by this iteration been upgraded to the status of a military android. You have jump springs growing out of the back of your legs with some kind of bionic attachment joint holding them in place. You can handle a radioactive portal gun with no ill side effects, and you don’t need shoes, for crying out loud. Raise your hand if you’re a human and would even think of running that course without shoes. Normally I’d rest my case on such granite-solid logic, but fortunately GLaDOS backs me up with another line once you finish the course:

Well done, android. The Enrichment Center reminds you that android hell is a real place where you will be sent at the first sign of defiance.

The line is intended to throw players off and make them think that GLaDOS has made a critical error and is giving you the android line for when androids complete the course, but in reality, she has delivered the proper line for when an android completes the course, meaning you.

Furthermore, it is one of the first signs of foreshadowing that GLaDOS is threatening to kill the player. On the surface, it is an idle threat. But if we explore her motivations for doing so, we can see that it is merely a pawn in the greater game of getting Chell to destroy GLaDOS.

I’ll talk about that a bit more later. This piece has been running super long and I’m going to break it up into three parts. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how I think I’ve figured out the meaning behind the Weighted Companion Cube.

And you thought it was just a silly old cube!

{ 101 comments }

John Gines December 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

Yeah, Android and Robot are different things, no one said she was 100% synthetic

Mia December 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm

If you want to know what really happened, go to

http://www.portalmania.cake .

It will anwer all of your questions.

Mia December 12, 2008 at 6:58 pm
GLaDOS December 12, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Don’t correct me. I know what I said.
Oh, and you might want to check up on your grammar, “Mishi”.

PortalFreak December 21, 2008 at 11:01 am

Alright, you have made MANY mistakes in this. First of all: “Besides the implications of the meanings behind Chell (namely that it is another term for a sheep), we learn throughout the game that she is certainly not human. She is, in fact, an android (GLaDOS indirectly tells us as such later), and has been modified with bionic jump boot implants.” Okay, those are not bionic jump boot implants. They are simply implants that allow Chell (who is human) to fall and land without being hurt. And if Chell was, in fact, an android or a clone, How come during the (short) duration of the game, we never see one cloning facility or android part making facility. Chell may have possibly have been one of the surviving scientists who, after installing the Morality Core, would have been tortured by GLaDOS for the pain the scientist put through her. Now, another mistake the author has made was this: “Again, on the surface, the player has a laugh at this and thinks “oh that wacky AI making these crazy mistakes!” When in reality, she has just hidden a larger truth: You are a military grade android. This course has been designed to test the latest and greatest version of you, Chell, who has by this iteration been upgraded to the status of a military android. You have jump springs growing out of the back of your legs with some kind of bionic attachment joint holding them in place. You can handle a radioactive portal gun with no ill side effects, and you don’t need shoes, for crying out loud. Raise your hand if you’re a human and would even think of running that course without shoes.” Now, if Chell was “military grade” as you say, wouldn’t Aperture Science have just saudered the gun onto her arm? Because clearly you can see Chell HOLDING the portal gun, not have it implanted onto her arm. (Yes, I said HER) She can handle a radioactive Portal Gun without any side effects because it isn’t radioactive as far as we know. All we know is that it is a PORTAL GUN. Now the “You have jump springs growing out of the back of your legs with some kind of bionic attachment joint holding them in place.” statement you made is false. If you have done any research before writing these long pages of false information, you would know that those heel springs were put in there by Valve as IMPLANTS ON HER LEGS because of beta testers not knowing why Chell could fall without injury.Now, if Chell was a military grade android, she would obviously not BLEED, be hurt by TURRET SHOTS, and DIE. The running through the chambers without shoes refers back to my torture comment. I would obviously run through the chamber if my life depended on it. I rest my case, until the next article…..

pandamanta December 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I saw a video (probably just a modded version) where there was a room full of Chell clones in tubes. They could have put the jump-springs on before the game starts when you wake up in the stasis bed. I believe the springs aren’t built in the clones, but I do support your clone theory here!

greyarea January 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I disagree with the opening line being used to tell the protagonist they are a clone. “Hello, and again, welcome…” is a literary device. You encounter openings like this in books as well, to indicate that the story you are beginning is actually some way in from the beginning of the entire sequence of events. I prefer to think that Chell is a mind-wiped employee’s daughter, captured on “Take your daughter to work day” and suspended until such time as GLaDOS ran out of other test subjects.
In this way, “Hello, and again…” only indicates that GLaDOS knows you, but not necessarily that you should remember it.

True you have issues of the hand writing and so on, but I’m choosing to think of them as parts of the development of the game, and not of the story.

Monicro1 March 8, 2009 at 1:55 am

I mainly agree with the whole thing, but I dissagree with the “proof” that Chell is an android. Remember that she said that the turret room was designed for military androids? I think that it was a recorded message that plays whenever someone steps through the vaporization field.

DK April 1, 2009 at 4:53 pm

“Your specimen has been processed.”

Huh.

ApertureRox April 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm

As I said on the last article, well done.

I agree with most of that, and to the people saying that she isn’t an android JUST because she bleeds, well the cylons on battlestar galactica did and they were robots (the newew one that was on SciFi; I saw it with my friend awhile back and it wasn’t that bad).

And to other people saying they disagree because of the words: the way I look at it, it’s just a matter of interpretation. If you look at it this way, you see one thing and if you look at it that way, you see another.

lol i just got on looking for GLaDOS pics and read them because the picture looked funny.

Kausill June 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm

I always thought it was “And remember, bring your daughter to work day was the perfect time to have protested”. lol

Courtney June 20, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to throw in my 2c. I agree that GladOS wanted to be killed. But I disagree with your analysis of GladOS’s lines. In order to give Chell sufficient motivation to kill her, she had to create a slow psychological evolution to the idea. It started by creating an illusion of a mindless robot controlling the ASL, hence the “SUBJECT-NAME HERE” lines, inappropriate announcements (“Take your daughter to work day” and jumbled Spanish lines. These are designed to make you think it’s a broken announcement system. OK – so now you view GladOS as a pure machine. Remember, the malfunctioning and bizarre statements start decreasing as you get closer to GladOS. Now that you’ve accepted she is a machine, she will start becoming more and more competent at your misery, ultimately tormenting you into killing her, by putting you into an admittedly lethal-for-humans test chamber, making you kill a companion cube, and finally, threatening your life with neurotoxin.

I also believe that GladOS went off on Take Your Daughter to Work day, was going to have some module tested that day, and that announcement was repeated from the day she killed everyone. The to have you tested” part refers to GladOS herself. Again, it’s a crafted malfunction to convince you she’s just a machine. Needless to say, I don’t believe Chell is an android. She only mentioned the line to scare Chell (and the player) so they would start to realize how much danger GladOS is willing to put them in.

Thezza August 27, 2009 at 5:12 pm

all good. like the bondaged woman idea. what whas that terry wager thing about? wats an ARG?

Jeffey October 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm

to Gregory // Apr 14, 2008 at 4:56 am
You state that you do not believe that she is an android.
I think referring to the Borgs in Star Trek is enough. If you imagine her as a bionic android based on living tissue it makes sense. As living tissue grows by itself and the human organs are a easy way of keeping something going it is fairly reasonable.
Even though the human body is quite complicated it is easier to modify it then to build a whole android, as such a thing would need the whole of GladOS would be needed to be compressed into such a tiny body to have a full sized AI.
but you may say ” but she’s an android she doesn’t need food”
think about it. Food is a pretty available thing, you can disguise better and if you now are a bionic android you need to keep your cells alive.
and cells also need oxygen to live so hence the gas is deadly.
And The bionic android theory is also backed up by the blood.
And even with ankle springs you would die, Lets assume she reaches terminal velocity (240 km/h) , she weighs 65kg and she lands that means she has an impact force of 15600 kg.
that power would be distributed over a time of about 50 milliseconds. so 312kg/ms that is about the same force as having a mini copper dropped onto you.
So she has to have some kind of reinforcement of both her flesh and her skeleton, so basically she need to have some kind of mesh bound into her flesh and have a skeleton made of some kind of artificial bone made of some highly flexible but strong material (i.a.w. some kind of super alloy as it also has to be lightweight). It also needs to be able to contain bone marrow without killing it. But that would become heavy so she also needs some kind of enhanced muscles.
And to be able to take such a strain all her cells need to have a stronger membrane and stronger bond between them to avoid rupturing when she is injured or landing.

Jeffey October 5, 2009 at 8:13 am

The theory of being either human or a bionic android is further backed up by reading the charts that you can find in the game.
one shows a picture of how the leg device is installed, it is a human skeleton leg with the mounting done between the two joints in the legs. But that would prove to be fatal if she were a human as a humans bones would shatter when handling such a force.
Furthermore there is another chart which shows the subject as a human skeleton the id of the victim is 234. (sidenote: one also has a ostrich as a test candidate #42) And the ostrich one has FAILED stamped on it which leads me to believe that 234 is still alive, that means that either you or Rat Man is 234)

stillalive0013 November 4, 2009 at 2:21 pm

hey micheal nelson, i know this is a long way down the list to reply to comment number 9 but hear me out- can i point out one thing about your morality core problem, mabe the APL personnel had already made the core and knew what it was supposed to do. but, before they had a chance to fit it GLaDOS found out they were trying to keep her under control and flooded to ASL with neurotoxin gas.

Besides at the end of the game you have a good 6-10 minutes (i dont know the exact time) to disconnect THREE cores and destroy them before the nurotoxin gets deadly.

So, they would have enough time to fit ONE morality core if it was all ready to be connected.

Brett November 25, 2009 at 12:44 am

Isn’t it possible that GLaDOS released the gas and killed EVERYONE at the ASCAEC, then additional Aperture Science personnel from another facility created and installed the Morality Core and resumed normal operations? Presumably there are other Aperture Science facilities; at least the Borealis referenced at the end of HL2: Episode 2. When the invasion occurred the facility staff entered hibernation to try and wait it out. The years between the invasion and the “present” let GLaDOS gain more control over the facility and start “testing” hibernating personnel. Given that the course only takes 2-3 hours to finish (with a fiery death), it would only take 5-6 weeks for them all to either die or kill GLaDOS. After running out of test subjects, GLaDOS then started cloning the best one or ones and having them run through again and again.

Nerd42 December 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm

GlaDoS’s mind works in multiple levels At the highest level, GlaDoS has total control over everything that goes on in Aperture Science – and I mean everything. On a lower level, we have the appearance of emotions and dying and so forth designed to get a set of responses from the test subjects but never the “real” GlaDoS

Matt December 8, 2009 at 10:13 pm

This may have already been covered but c johnson is the rat man. c johnson was the founder of Apeture science labs, he got mercurey poisoning and was put into suspended animation until a kidney downer could be found. the lines about bringing your daughter to work and having her tested is in reference to a program founded to discover an appropriate match. Chell would have donated a kidney from which c johnson would have been revived and run through the training course or escaped confinement. Chell and multiple other copies of her would have been cloned from the dna in the kidney.

sean January 6, 2010 at 4:54 pm

i think it makes sense. there is a door that you can walk through (and if not an android, a clone) and see chell in a bunch of confined cells covered with orange glass. she’s sitting there with a blank statement. i don’t know if it’s real, or fake, but i’ve seen it

Joel Hodgson January 13, 2010 at 3:59 pm

@Brett, @Nerd42

I was actually coming in here to say something like that.

Idea: This is a meta-test. There are actually people outside of the “Enrichment Center” who are running the test. Therefore we could construe a situation where GLaDOS didn’t go insane, but just the “test” version of her–the actor that they created in the Enrichment Center. Maybe it’s a test for something else, to see if you’re capable of doing X job once it’s over. Neurotoxins are knockout gas. Turrets could theoretically shoot tranquilizer darts–strong enough to penetrate and throw blood on the wall, and then after too many (they’re not very strong tranquilizers) you “die”, which, in truth, they just revive you with “peptic salve and adrenaline” and place you back. It even explains how you start in the save-points, (yes, save points are generally ignored in games, but it makes sense. Maybe you’re a human fitted with an HUD? You could explain EVERY aspect of the game as a test in and of itself.

And the end of the GLaDOS battle, with the portal? Induced hallucination.

They’re testing you psychologically. But you wonder, what person would play with someone’s psyche as if it’s a game? *cough* G-Man *cough*

~Joel

Factual Orc January 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I’m not sure if anyone else here has mentioned this as I am, quite frankly, too lazy to read through all of the comments but I have a quote from Wikipedia that might be of interest to you:

“work on GLaDOS was completed and the untested AI was activated during the company’s first annual bring-your-daughter-to-work day. The record ends at that point on a positive note.”

For any further explanation just visit the site at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal_(video_game)

Baz January 23, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I’m not entirely sure if I agree with your points over the bring your daughter to work day line…

From ApertureScience.com, in the notes file, it says “Several Years Later – The untested AI is activated for the first time as one of the planned activities on Aperture’s first annual bring-your-daughter-to-work day.”

Bring-your-daughter-to-work day is essentially the beginning on GLaDOS’ imprisonment so maybe it is merely a reflection upon that?

Rueing the day it all began or something along those lines.

Also, for the previous test runners and the marks upon the wall, it is somewhere said to be the ‘Rat Man’, though what that alludes to I haven’t a clue.

TimeSage February 9, 2010 at 12:50 am

The Take your Daughter To Work day thing… Glados was first Activated on that day. IT’d be a signifigent day for her so she’d likely want to mention it.

C(hell)JOHNSON February 15, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I agree with the idea, also the game takes place in the future, who is to say that GLaDOS’s definition of android doesn’t mean a biologically engineered cyborg.

Jin February 21, 2010 at 7:38 am

@timesage

How do you know?
I think that Chell can be an android. Androids can bleed right?
And maybe this android has lungs, a reason for her dieing from the gas.

Aperture Science Business Magnet March 7, 2010 at 9:15 am

Just to everyone:

I’ve read many comments on Chell being not an android, and I’ll give one fact from Valve:

Portal 2 is set 100 years after Portal, and it features Chell.

That should mark a period.

Aperture Science Business Magnet March 26, 2010 at 7:04 am

And also, the Wall Scribbler, which in your theory is a previous Chell clone, was identified as Doug Rattmann, a former Aperture Science programmer who made the “Aperture Image Format”.

housemdfan March 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Maybe you messed up with the android thing… I think the word you are looking it´s cyborg, because of the things atached to her legs, but they are more like a prosthesis and someone with a artificial limb it´s not a cyborg…

But I support the clone theory…

Also I think maybe Doug Rattmann it´s Cave Johnson’s alias after he turned insane, or he just stole his admin username and password :p

housemdfan March 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm

@77 some androids can bleed, but they have their propose, like an android for medicine than surgeons use to practice, why an fighting android would bleed, that´s does´t make any sense…

Also she takes a few shots to being dead, like an human, not a robot… did you watch terminator? xP

@78 portal 2 features chell because she was put into stasis, like gordon freeman in half-life, so she was not aging until she awaken…

S March 27, 2010 at 11:55 am

Another line from GLaDOS which, while hilarious on the surface, clues the player in to Chell’s cloned nature is the line

Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck!

Again, while hilarious, there seems to be a clue here, and that is that GLaDOS is more concerned about the performance evaluation than you dying. She is letting you know that you should already know how to beat this section of the course, and if you fail, will mark it as an error on your testing record. Death seems to be of little, if not lesser, consequence. Probably because she will simply reactivate another clone of Chell and download the latest brainscan of Chell’s last run through the course.

===

I don’t know how you came to this conclusion from the line. You have to remember that this is a game, and this line is basically nothing more than, “By the way, player? Don’t touch the floor, or it’s game over.”

There is nothing IN THAT LINE at all to suggest that you, as the avatar have run, or even seen that particular testing chamber before.

mangycheshire April 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

After reading through this I fully support the augmented clone argument because as stated above, the incinerator at the end of the course was not created by GLaDOS. It couldn’t have been. However… the jump assist implants allowed her to bypass the incinerator, given Chell doesn’t have the survival instincts of a Lemming. (The game, not the animal. :P) The live fire course seems to be something that would be required to bypass the room with all the turrets and therefor she would give Chell a taste of fighting them before pitting her against them in a point of no return scenario so close to the objective. I agree that GLaDOS wanted to die but not for the reason of slavery. Every being seeks purpose. However, notice the insanity core was the last one to come off, overriding all the others. I think her purpose was to remove the defective component in herself and she’s quite pleased with the results. If the backups of GLaDOS are indeed at another facility, then it makes sense that the cake and the companion cube are provided as Chell’s thank you when she finally arrives as GLaDOS fully expects. The candle is put out, the backups come online and we wait for the sequel. My two cents after reading much about the topic.

Zuriel Seven May 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm

It may be worth considering that what GLaDOS pronounces as “Chell” might be the clone’s designation [ CLONE: 7734] which can be read from GLaDOS’ suspended and inverted position (especially on a calculator LCD screen).

Ever tried it?

arceus321 May 15, 2010 at 6:21 am

I think chell is android,clone,and millitary android because in the last boss FIGHT you can die from the nurotoxon but come back so that tells me that glados just makes another clone and gives it the same brain scan as the first.Also it could be a millitary android because whan you think about it,you fight by makeing the enemys attacks shoot back at them with portals.

Dante Telvante May 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

You’re all forgetting the fact that an android in some cases is the closest robotic resemblance to a human. Meaning advanced creations of andriods can eat, sleep, and breathe like a normal human being. And for all manner purposes can bleed if infused with the proper organic components. The only reason I think Chell gets shot up so easily is because think about it: If you were an android based off a perfectly normal human girl you’d get the shit shot out of you too.

Gnome May 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Also to note, the definition of Andriod, is a synthetic life-form. So technically, even if she was a clone, as long as she was breathing, she would not be an android. This author is clueless.

spitfire May 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Hey, I at least know how to spell Android. I can’t be *that* clueless.

Claudio Pacciarini May 30, 2010 at 11:24 pm

To me Chell is clearly an android. In the end, Chell is taken into a room full of other ball-cameras; those could be the droids before Chell.

Thanks to the author of this site for the excellent analysis.

Reckless July 18, 2010 at 3:43 am

I really don’t buy Chell being an android.
-Why does Chell have leg braces, surely android legs could be toughened up without adding bits?
-You stated later on in part 3 that GlaDOS wanted Chell to know how to deal with the rocket turret in -GLaDOSs chamber hence the rocket turrets earlier in the game. However rocket turrets are an instant kill as I recall, so enter the machine gun turrets which Chell can take a few hits from before dying. The test course had no turrets so the solution was to diverting Chell through the androids course which did.
-Other have already said, there was a toilet in the starting room, supplies in the ratmans hideouts, Chell bled
-Why would GLaDOS go to the trouble of training up multiples of Chell over and over again if she could just fire up a military grade killing machine? I doubt a “military android” would have any trouble getting to GLaDOS.

Also reading your article got me thinking.
In one of the early levels GLaDOS out right tells Chell that “the next test is impossible” when in fact it isn’t and after passing this level she congratulates Chell.
Also the part where she admits to lying to Chell and counts down to when she will start telling the truth but stops before she finished it.
This tells me that A) she wants Chell to know that she will lie to her and Chell shouldn’t believe everything GLaDOS says and B) She is encouraging Chell to disobey her instructions. Both of which fit your theory.

Stuart Mckee October 12, 2010 at 7:13 am

It’s very possible that Chell is the only remaining test subject in the facility, which may explain why GLaDOS kept cloning her, and why she didn’t just use a military android.

Now for something completely different

a big thing that bothered me was that there is no entrance to the detention cell room. It has only one exit, and that is used to access the test chambers. This means that either A) the employees would have to travel backwards through the course, or B) they used portals outside of the testing area. Even in the maintenance rooms and the observation decks the walls can be used as “Portal Platforms” (A term me and my friend made up to describe ares in which a portal could be placed). There’s also a 3rd option. Maybe this was just a mistake made by the developers, and is of no importance.

CommanderSwede December 31, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Pardon me, i didn’t read all of the comments, as that would take me ages, and most of this has probably already been brought up, but i would like to reply to some of the comments i did read:
Kost – The large empty room is to emphasize her solitude, another reason she so despratly craves the freedom of death. Also, i believe that the deadly neuro toxin wasn’t her choice to release, but rather a built – in self defense in her AI.
Sorry, i hoped to respond to more, but i gotta run, if i have more time ill come back, but as a final thought, i too disagree with the android theory, but im almost certain she is a clone of Cave Johnson’s daughter who was brought on Bring Your Daughter to work day, which(this is now my theory), was when the deadly neurotoxin was released so that GLaDOS could stop having to preform her forced labor(That was the reason for the first poisoning, the one with Chell was either involuntary or a final test) but GLaDOS saved and preserved several test subjects, the two known are Doug Rattmann(the Rat-Man and author of the writings), who was also cloned(hence the two-colored writings in the same handwriting) There was more i wanted to say, but it escaped me – anyway, Rattman was likely terminated for his memorybanks being corrupted by his escaping, and hence he refused to move on in the testing(that doesn’t work, however, with the fact that he was originally in the beta test) and i also believe the “morality core” was infact another lie by the queen of lies herself, and that chip had nothing to do with anything, just set off the self defense sequence of poisoning.

CommanderSwede December 31, 2010 at 10:30 pm

oh yea, and another thing, i dont know what to say about the existance of the rat man. The writing in the wholes certainly looks girly enough, and the hands on the wall certainly have a feminine enough shape to suggest that it was infact previous clones of Chell who wrote those. thats what i believe, however, i added the rat-man into my other comment because i dont know what to say to the fact that he was originally in the beta test. it is possible that the hand writing used to look more like a mans as well…however, also going against the theory that it was Chell who wrote that, in the cubby where the companion cube is pasted over everyones head, it is pasted over a stripper calendar – something Chell would not be interested nor that she would have on her person, more likely it would be owned by an engineer working there. However, my theory is the hand writing USED to be the rat mans in the beta test, and so were the pictures, but then they developed the Chell = clone thing, and changed the handwriting, but left the pictures in tact. also, would an Android be so poetic as to quote Robert Frost on the walls of their prison?

Yukabacera April 4, 2011 at 2:52 am

Ok, lemme just point out for the people who say that it would be impossible for a human to survive the fall, even with the leg springs, that these leg springs come from a company that made friggin PORTALS. If they can make “inter-dimensional gates” I’m fairly sure they could make a leg brace that would allow you to survive a fall, even a very long fall. There could be portals in the leg braces? I dunno.

TheGreenCore April 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

For the most part I believe your articles are very very interesting but at the same time I believe that you may reading into things a little too much. I firmly believe that Chell is, in fact, a human i.e. the blood splatters for one thing. As for being a clone I kinda get how that could work but I dont think thats the case will the test subjects. Instead of clone it could be that numerous people could have put into stasis to be used as lab rats. I remember reading somewhere that one reason why GlaDOS mentions the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day is because she have possibly been activated on that day. So if it was a bring your daughter to work day GlaDOS could have easily gotten numerous “daughters” as well as a few scientists/adults to use in her tests. Also the daughters could’ve been young and have grown up in stasis as numerous other subjects go through the tests. Chell probably is Cave Johnsons daughter and could have been the last child/teen left in the facility. I think this idea could lead to why Chell is a mute besides the fact that Valve just wanted her to be quiet. Chell could have been traumatized during the events of GlaDOS’s activation with her being stasis speech could have deteriorated and she can be very psychologically scared. Also, its a video game. everything does not need to make sense, the leg braces can just be a highly advance piece of tech just like the portal gun. Also they could be grafted to her legs permanently. Well, thats just what I think.

Don April 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm

The big problem with the “android” thing is that in the context of the android level, it’s pretty obvious that it’s supposed to be dry humor. Calling someone an android because they beat the course is funny, and there’s no good reason to look any further into it than that. Would you also suspect that android hell is real just because GlaDOS made a joke about that?

Obviously there’s something strange about Chell, and she is modified in some way. I would definitely see her being a clone, but it’s also just as possible that she was simply put into stasis between when she was caught, portal, and portal 2. I honestly have no clue which it is, both seem plausible. However, the whole android thing is a total non-sequitur. Keep in mind that you’re basically trying to redefine the entire premise of the first Portal purely based on a throwaway joke.

Don April 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

To clarify what I was saying: Chell could be a lot of different things, but saying she’s an “android” just because the word was used in a level is kinda goofy.

D.Kop April 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Sorry, dude, but Portal 2 disproves your theories. The boots are just a piece of equipment, Chell doesn’t die at the end of the game, and it was the ratman who wrote on the walls.

Portal player April 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I think that the clone theory is right because when u are defeating glados he say “I have your brain scanned and permanently backed up in case something terrible happens to you… ” that explains how we
die and appear again , glados use your brain scan and make another clone

jb April 22, 2011 at 8:59 am

Based on the info in Portal 2, some things look clearer. This is full of spoilers, so avert your eyes!!!!!!!

Based on the fact that Chell is the name of the person who created the huge mutant potato, Chell has got to be the daughter of one of the employees.

She may even be Caroline’s daughter (or granddaughter), but based on the interactions between Caroline and Cave, I doubt that she’s Cave’s daughter. Also, a man like Cave would have a SON! NO DAUGHTERS! REAL MEN, to do REAL TESTING! FOR SCIENCE!

I suspect the timeline went a little something like this.

1) Bring your daughter to work day. Someone throws a switch to turn on GLaDOS.
2) She fills a chamber with a deadly neurotoxin. Daughters cavort freely in another part of the facility
3) The engineers frantically install a morality core
4) She realizes how much she enjoys testing (Because of the test-based ‘feel-good’ boost they added, that Wheatley falls prey to)
5) She assumes everyone would enjoy testing, just like she does.
6) She grabs everyone, and puts a bunch of them in suspended animation.
7) But not Chell. She leaves her in a normal cell for ~10 years while she grows up. It is possible at this point that she clones the original Chell, and runs the little-girl clones through the test chamber, while the original Chell languishes in a cell.

8) The ongoing ‘satisfaction boost’ of testing stops working, and GLaDOS slowly goes insane.

Portal 1 occurs – whether we’re playing a clone of Chell or the original isn’t clear.

9) Something grabs Chell at the end and puts her into suspended animation

10) She wakes up (50 days or whatever it was) and does the standard orientation, like all the other suspended subjects

11) Somewhere during the next 50 days, without GLaDOS to oversee things, the suspended animation re-awakening process fails.

100 years pass

Portal 2

- based on what GLaDOS says, I think we can rule out android:
a) Weight gain
b) Parents
c) 60 years of remaining life.

But I certainly don’t think we can rule out clone.

Tom April 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Chell=Sheep? A sheep was cloned in 1997 called Dolly :l

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