In the last several years, there have been more zombie-slayer games than we know what to do with. Especially since a lot of them seem to have the same idea behind them: the world is ending, you have no idea how or why this is happening, but you just need to survive. You use your limited skills and probably a big gun to force your way through hordes of the undead until you can find some sort of sanctuary.
And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. If this wasn’t a winning formula, it wouldn’t have dominated the international market for video games, movies, TV shows, etc. for as long as it has.
But I do so love when they put a fun twist on a good formula.
So instead of the protagonist haplessly fumbling through a situation he never imagined he’d have to face, we have a main character who is 100% trained and prepared should this occasion arise. And instead of a middle-aged white guy with a scraggly beard and a chip on his shoulder, we have a clean-cut, blonde, bubbly cheerleader.
Name: Juliet Starling
“What do you think about this for a catchphrase: I’m going to kill you. A lot.”
– Juliet Starling
Occupation: Senior High School Student, Zombie Slayer
By day, Juliet Starling is a bubbly and sweet high school cheerleader. By night, she’s a bubbly and sweet high school expert zombie slayer.
She’s cheerful and rather innocent despite her profession, She seems to see a zombie apocalypse as more of an inconvenience than a spiral into a hellish new world order.
Juliet cares very deeply for her family and friends, noting how close-knit her zombie-slashing family is and becoming instantly more at-ease when either her sisters or her father joins her during the zombie invasion.
Juliet’s also a huge romantic, she’s very much in love with her boyfriend, Nick Carlyle, and chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice (on Nick’s behalf) when he gets bitten by the horde.
Ironically, this doesn’t mean Juliet is too sentimental when it comes to her job. She has to slash through her entire student body as she works her way through the game, people she’s gone to school with every day, but she knows that it’s her job to take down any zombie she sees, so she doesn’t hesitate to carry out her mission.
Despite her amicable and friendly nature, Juliet isn’t one to let herself get pushed around. She takes her job as a zombie hunter very seriously and seems to love the job a lot. Her only caveat is having to keep her family’s secret from her friends and boyfriend.
Abilities: Tumbling, self-defense, expert chainsaw wielding, basic knowledge of magic, multiple languages
Hobbies: Cheerleading, karaoke, bisecting the undead.
Game: Lollipop Chainsaw
Why she rocks:
Juliet is an example of how to nearly seamlessly mesh together the unlikely, bad-ass warrior character with the sort of goofy, bubbly cheerleader-type character. Yes, Juliet cares about her looks and her cheer squad and her boyfriend and she can sometimes be overdramatic about it, but that doesn’t mean she’s inept at what she’s doing.
Throughout most of the game, Juliet uses her blood-streaked chainsaw to slice through hordes and hordes of zombies, all by herself. She’s ruthless and aggressive with it, but in doing so, she doesn’t sacrifice any of her femininity.
Her chainsaw is bedazzled. When she slices through flesh, pink hearts float around in the saw’s wake. She wears her blonde hair in pigtails with scrunchies and she “wears her vagina with pride” (something her mother taught her and her sisters to do from a young age.)
Yes, Juliet wears a rather skimpy cheerleading uniform and it’s not easy to ignore how curvy her body is, with various expertly placed camera angles and shots attesting to that fact. But unlike many female video game warriors, her body isn’t the only thing that lets on that she’s a girl.
She’s unquestionably feminine, even when she’s streaked in blood and gore and screaming obscenities at a zombie scumbag.
And while some people may argue that hammering it into the audience “girl, girl, girl” doesn’t win any points for feminism because she seems ditzy and and sexualized, but I’d like to point out that you’d be hard-pressed to find a game where a big, buff, army man character isn’t quick to punch a wall when things get a tiny bit inconvenient or mentions how “men shouldn’t be afraid to die.”
That being said, Juliet isn’t the perfect female protagonist. She’s constantly talking about how she thinks she’s fat and even comments that she wishes she could get decapitated too because then none of the food would go to her thighs. On her character card, it even says that her secret kink is being told she’s not fat. Self-body-shaming is an outdated and problematic cliche for female characters who want to drill it into viewers that they’re female, because apparently hating your own body is something explicitly female.
But this isn’t a complete failure on the part of the writers. Juliet’s insecurity with her body is pretty faithful to high school girls’ attitudes and besides that, it adds another layer to her character. Yeah, she’s a vicious and cold-blooded zombie hunter, but she’s still a teenager, with other things on her mind and an innocence that isn’t extinguished yet.
It’s also important to remember that Lollipop Chainsaw is a largely satirical game that doesn’t really take itself too seriously, so you should do the same and just have fun with it.
Why you should play her game:
The zombie apocalypse era has more or less tapered off a little bit, we’re all pretty zombie-d out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the classics.
Not only is Juliet a super fun and unique character, especially in the apocalyptic zombie genre, where apparently everyone has to be super bummed out all the time, but her design is also super creative and cute and contrasts starkly with the dark, gloom and doom, slasher film hell-scape she has to traverse.
Juliet is also voiced by voice acting titan Tara Strong, which is always a pleasure.
The writing of Lollipop Chainsaw is also hysterical, it takes the brutal realities of the teenage experience and combines them with an actual, world-altering disaster and puts them on the same plane, making them somehow parallel as we view this story through the eyes of this not-so-average teenage girl.
And although unconventional to the nth degree, the romantic story between Juliet and Nick is really cute and sweet. Their world is literally collapsing around them but they stick together (although Nick really doesn’t have a choice) and the story still finds time to show the innocence of young love.
Of course, sappy love garbage like that isn’t for everyone, but you know what is? Slashing through decaying flesh and gore with a bedazzled chainsaw.
Why we’re glad she’s out here reppin’ for the ladies:
It’s rare to see a female lead in these sort of apocalyptic games.
A lot of the time, the only girl you’ll find in this type of game is a lost, abandoned little girl, probably around eight, who got separated from her family and is going to die if the male protagonist leaves her all by herself.
It’s an added level of difficulty for the player. Not only do you have to protect yourself, but you now also have a feeble, defenseless woman to look after. It would be illogical to give her a weapon. Just carry her around a lot of the time and tell her to hide in the bushes if a horde approaches you, otherwise, she’d just get in the way.
If there isn’t a female character that you’ve been entrusted with protecting in the game, it’s probably because she died already and the protagonist spends the rest of the game somber and bitter and unwilling to work with any other woman because she looks vaguely like his long-dead daughter and he doesn’t want to have to relive the pain.
In short, the female character in a zombie or apocalypse game is usually going to be a vehicle for man-pain. This hardened ex-criminal with a dark past that totally redeems his behavior now has a girl that relies on him to survive! Watch as this little girl with big blue eyes and blonde hair works her way under his skin and into his heart!
Juliet is her own hero, her own damsel, and her own pathos. Nick, her boyfriend, becomes her charge to protect throughout the game, but the only real way anything will harm Nick is if harm befalls her. Nick spends the whole game literally attached to her hip, so it’s not like you have to divide your attention between the person you’re supposed to be protecting and the zombie assailants.
She has one mission: protect herself.
By no means is Lollipop Chainsaw the only game with a girl character who ‘don’t need no man’ to rescue her (that’s the whole point of this series, isn’t it?)
But this is the only zombie game I can think of that has a female protagonist that spends the entire game completely confident in her abilities and herself. Even better, two out of the three of the other characters who rush in to help her when she’s in a pinch are also women.
She also doesn’t need a sidekick whose safety drives the emotional context of the game.
Yeah, one of her goals is to get Nick his body back, but the whole point of the game isn’t to get him to safety or find a cure for his affliction. The goal is to stop the guy who unleashed this hell upon the world, slice through the zombies, and to not let the undead ruin her birthday.
Juliet killed her first zombie when she was six months old, with a sharpened rattle.
Another Castle will update weekly, which is just enough time to play all the games your new favorite character is featured in (you’ll be fine if you don’t sleep).