Don’t dance for me, Kinzie Kensington. Get up off the floor.

Saint’s Row IV is a drunk bet of a game, a game with a design document that must have had “WHY THE FUCK NOT?” written on the top of it in crayon. I love it. It’s an exercise in wish fulfilment. You are a superhero. You are President of the United States of America. You are fighting to avenge the deaths of every single member of the human race bar a handful of space-borne survivors.

One of those survivors is Kinzie Kensington; she’s your hacker assistant, the voice in your ear. She is loyal and furious and a genius and not socially adept and, as a player, I like her. I like listening to her. There’s a romance option in the game, a mockery of Mass Effect and Dragon Age’s relationship webs, where you ask if she wants to fuck (quoting verbatim, there) and she punches you hard in the jaw before leaping on you for a bout of implied, but terrifyingly rough, sex.

She’s a complicated woman, is our Kinzie.

Pictured: Kinzie in SR 3

Pictured: Kinzie in SR 3

UNDO HER

And yet; the game starts to undo her. In the level The Girl Who Hates the 50’s, she’s trapped in a white-picket fence, sepia-toned computer-generated version of reality that – coincidentally – you were trapped in, too, several days before, as though they were re-using art assets wholesale. She’s being oppressed by Cyrus Temple, the bad guy from Saint’s Row III, who has no real reason to be there.

She wears an old-fashioned outfit with a rabbit on the skirt and she hates it so much that she attacks you when you mention it again.

It’s not like we’ve had a long-running storyline setting her up as someone who hates the 50’s. That’s just a thing. A thing that’s true now. She appears as a dull housewife doing the gardening and apologises and says that she can’t talk now, but her husband will be home later, and she’s upset about the skirt? It all feels so tacked together, so shallow, and it’s a shallow, tacked-together game at the best of times but the rough, have-a-go charm of the whole thing helps it hang together. Not so, here.

But, whatever. I can live with that. You pull her out of the simulation and into another simulation and there, where you have slightly more control, you help her unlock superpowers akin to your own with a loyalty mission.

BONDAGE NUN

kinzie-nun

Superpowers come with an appropriately daft costume change; Johnny Gat’s looks like purple spec ops gear. Pierce dresses up in a wide-brimmed straw hat and a silk east-Asian getup. Matt Miller, English nerd and cyberwarrior, cosplays as his favourite fictional character. Kinzie dresses as a bondage nun.

And Kinzie’s into kink, for sure. We’ve heard her mention her safeword and seen her sex toys and BDSM kit in previous games. But she punches another version of Cyrus Temple to death and gains superpowers and the costume in a revenge-fuelled moment of apotheosis, just like everyone else does, and she rolls off his limp corpse and the game doesn’t bother animating her face; she looks exhausted, glassy-eyed, spent, trussed up in her new clothes.

It came as a disappointment. I don’t know who made the costume choice, why they made it, and why she wasn’t – say – dressed like a sci-fi warrior, because that would have made sense for her character. But, hey, par for the course. I can forgive that.

SEXES IT UP

And the game carries on, and it ends soon after, and there’s a patently ridiculous ending sequence where everyone takes turns dancing in a club to This Is How We Do It in a manner similar to the ending in Hitch, or, to be honest, similar to something that I’m not culturally keyed into. I found this video of people doing it for the longest time in what appears to be some sort of film. Maybe it’s from that. There was a Vodafone ad where they mocked up one from the Royal Wedding? Anyway. You know what I mean.

And eventually Kinzie rocks up, and she looks a little uncertain about dancing which is fine and you expect her to either totally kill it or just be completely useless and then she just sexes up the place, right into the camera, and it’s not the self-assured sexuality that Shaundi or Asha delivered moments earlier, it’s that same glassy-eyed stareShe grinds her latex bodysuit (complete with cleavage hole) along the dancefloor with the blank look of a Tuesday-afternoon stripper. At one point I believe – I believe – she twerks.

At the end, she shakes her head and wanders away as though she doesn’t know what came over her. Me neither, Kinzie.

She dances at the camera, for the viewer’s benefit, and she is suddenly and redundantly and thoughtlessly fetishised. Volition spent so long building her up to tear her down and make me realise, perhaps, how low I am in their estimations.

So get up, Kinzie. Don’t dance for me, please.

ADDENDUM TO MAKE THINGS CLEAR IN CASE YOU FEEL LIKE COMMENTING TO TELL ME I’M WRONG TO CARE ABOUT THIS BECAUSE, FUCK, IT’S SAINT’S ROW MAN IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE OFFENSIVE:

Here is a list of things I am okay with:

Sex

Women

Sexy Women (big fan)

Sexy Women in sexy outfits

Videogames

Violent videogames

Fucking stupid videogames where you are a superhero President

Sexy women in sexy outfits in fucking stupid violent videogames where you are a superhero President

 

Here is a list of things I am not okay with:

Degrading solid characters for the purpose of my supposed pleasure after I’ve been interacting with them for two fucking 20-hour games


Categorised in: Action, Console, Third Person

7 thoughts on “Don’t dance for me, Kinzie Kensington

  • Jon Jones says:

    This comment doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on just about anything, but when you mentioned “bondage nun” it reminded me of that Hitman: Absolution ad campaign that misfired so hideously. I don’t imagine it was a reference of any kind in SRIV, however, because it doesn’t resemble that abortive attempt at marketing for the game other than the ridiculous costume.

  • curben says:

    I think the whole idea was the lack of control and the subservience without choice. She was a dominatrix as well which is the costume inspiration I believe.

    I’ve known woman that kinzie reminds me of and this all fits actually

  • Jeff Goldstein says:

    Well Kinzie has always been a sexual character. In her warehouse flat in 3 she has a giant purple dildo bat and a Gimp Mask. Her Safeword is Teacup. She’s visited S&M clubs. That’s all stated and joked with in 3. In 4, she is an optional lay for The Boss and when you do she straight up clocks your Boss and Jumps on Him/her. So it fits with her character as an initially shy girl who opens up and turns out to be a sexually liberated person.

  • Gilles says:

    I disagree with you, not because I think it’s impossible for Saints Row to be too offensive, but because I think you misunderstand Kenzie’s character.

    Did you have much knowledge of BDSM as a culture when you wrote this article? Because I practice it, and her behavior makes a lot of sense in that context. Kenzie very obviously doesn’t feel very comfortable with her sexuality around others – except when she’s letting her Domme side out. In fact, I’d argue that’s the REASON she starting Domming in the first place. She doesn’t regulate well and doesn’t tend to do things in half measures, as is often true of obsessive, “flow state” addicted, techie types. Based on what we know about her character, it would make sense for the fine lines between flirty/sultry/sexy/slutty to be very hard for her to manage in a social setting.

    However, although she may not be able to be comfortable with her sexuality in public, she could be in the confines of a BDSM “scene”. In a scene you’re simultaneously giving in to wild hedonistic abandon, AND ALSO adhering to well-defined and precisely communicated precautions, safeguards, rules of conduct, and agree upon activities. That sense of order and protocol would allow her to feel very sexually comfortable and even empowered. (That’s actually one of the exact reasons that studies show that practioners of BDSM, as a group, tend to have a higher average IQ. It attracts personalities like Kinzie, who’s mix of analytical skills and social oddity benefits from laying out clear guidelines and then going buck wild within those guidelines)

    Kinzie’s dance at the end is played to the camera, yes. But so are a bunch of the other dances. That doesn’t *necessarily* mean she’s fetishizing herself for the viewer. An alternate but equally viable interpretation is this: Kinzie walks up, unsure of how to dance in such a public setting. After moments of hesitation, she centers herself, and decides “fuck it I’m letting my Domme side out”, at which point she gives it her all, enters into a state of flow (fun fact: techies and professional dommes are two groups that both experience flow very strongly while they’re working) and totally lets loose in an intensely provocative way. When she comes back down from it, she goes “holy shit I can’t believe that I let that side out publicly I NEVER do that” and quickly retreats to process it.

    Volition didn’t build her up just to tear her down. They built her up and then capped it off in a way that is very, VERY authentic to the subculture that her character belongs to. Kinzie is one of the best, most realistic, most humanizing portrayals of kink I’ve EVER seen in a video game. Volition did their research.

    • grant says:

      This is a good comment; I don’t agree with you, still, but thank you for making it.

      • Mason says:

        Why don’t you agree with grilles? And why would sci if warrior make sense for a character most defined as a hacker into kink? As someone who’s into that a bit myself I found her to be completely believable in both games. As a switch, I think she likes it both ways.

  • Jesse Adams says:

    The thing that bugs me about this scene, as it’s the first time I’ve seen that, due to glitches making it impossible for me to get TO the ending… isn’t that the bar where Veteran Child holds Shaundi hostage? Her personal hell?

    That said, Kinzie. I never read her as being a domme, I figured she was a sub from her introduction in 3, but it’s also never explicitly stated, so, my reading is, here she is, forced to be out and about with the gang, and everyone’s expected to dance, so her subby side responds with a very forced dance, trying to it the mold everyone else expects from her.

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