wHY i love… vic­to­ria chase

She’s the cruel ice queen of Life Is Strange, so why do I feel a need to wor­ship at her feet?

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Kim­ber­ley Ballard Pub­lisher Square Enix / De­vel­oper DontNod / for­mat Xbox One / re­lease date Jan­uary 2015

“Vic­to­ria rep­re­sents the pres­sure heaped upon women of need­ing to be beau­ti­ful and the best”

Pop­u­lar girls are a de­fined preda­tory group. In the wild, li­onesses hunt for the pack, black widow spi­ders eat their mates, and fe­male pray­ing man­tises tear the heads off males. The pop­u­lar girl is some­thing even fiercer: She lives to make your life a misery, and she’ll lick her lips watch­ing you fall to pieces.

Vic­to­ria Chase is a high-school an­tag­o­nist in LifeIsS­trange, and one of the nas­ti­est peo­ple you meet in the game. With her Jean Se­berg pixie cut, prim flo­ral blouses, and love for pho­tog­ra­phy, Vic­to­ria isn’t your usual queen bee. She ac­tu­ally looks kind of sweet. But the game rec­og­nizes that not all bul­lies are bruis­ers in leather or wannabe beauty queens with painted nails as sharp as knives.

Born into ex­treme wealth, Vic­to­ria dreams of be­ing a dar­ling of the art world. Her par­ents are fa­mous pho­tog­ra­phers who own a gallery in Seat­tle called the Chase Space (nar­cis­sism, much?), and she en­joys a cov­eted place at Black­well Academy. At school, Vic­to­ria is an ace stu­dent, with a GPA of 3.9, and one of the most pop­u­lar girls: Artis­tic, beau­ti­ful, and part of the il­lus­tri­ous Vor­tex Club. The game’s pro­tag­o­nist Max de­scribes Vic­to­ria in her diary as, “Rich, stylish [and] en­ti­tled. I could feel IN­STANT JUDGE­MENT when she looked at my raggedy ass clothes.”

As soon as we meet Vic­to­ria, we know she’s a lava-tongued ice queen. In Mr Jef­fer­son’s pho­tog­ra­phy class, she leans over to Max and says, “You’re to­tally stuck in the retro zone. Sad face.” Like a spite­ful cat bat­ting a mouse, Vic­to­ria em­bar­rasses and un­der­mines Max at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

What’s fan­tas­tic about Vic­to­ria is that she gives LifeIsS­trange the cin­e­matic sheen of a high-school teen movie. In the likes of Heathers, Mean

Girls, and Jaw­breaker, pop­u­lar girls are like roy­alty, glid­ing down the cor­ri­dors and grac­ing other stu­dents with their barbed beauty. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Vic­to­ria shares her sur­name with Cordelia Chase from BuffyTheVam­pire

Slayer. Cordelia is cruel and cut­ting with those she deems un­wor­thy, only suck­ing up to peo­ple who can boost her so­cial sta­tus. Though where Cordelia is ini­tially de­picted as an air­head, Vic­to­ria is in­tel­li­gent and tal­ented, with a chic in­di­vid­ual style.

But she’s also un­de­ni­ably cruel. Af­ter shy stu­dent Kate is drugged at a Vor­tex Club party, Vic­to­ria makes a video of her and shares it on the in­ter­net, which in­ad­ver­tently pushes Kate into at­tempt­ing sui­cide. This feels es­pe­cially rel­e­vant in to­day’s cli­mate, where slut sham­ing is of­ten a cause of de­pres­sion and self-harm in young women, and where the fe­male body is ex­ploited in re­venge porn.

Queen V

Ac­tions like this soon be­come a win­dow into the in­se­cu­rity that lurks be­yond Vic­to­ria’s chilly fa­cade. Her fo­cus on Max re­veals jeal­ousy, and even more fright­en­ing, in­ter­nal­ized misog­yny to­wards other tal­ented women. This is re­in­foced when Vic­to­ria tries to de­rail Max’s sub­mis­sion to the Ev­ery­day He­roes com­pe­ti­tion. “I’ll give you a one-word pre­view of Max’s photo—selfie,” she purrs as she tries to se­duce Jef­fer­son. “You’ve seen my en­try. You know it’s bet­ter than that.”

So why would you love Vic­to­ria Chase? She’s ev­ery­thing you hated grow­ing up. She’s the girl who made your life a misery when you were at school. Per­haps it’s not love, but it does res­onate. Vic­to­ria taps into the heart of be­ing a teenage girl, of see­ing the pop­u­lar girl in class and want­ing to be her, of think­ing about her in bed at night, and wish­ing she could just die. It’s an ag­o­niz­ing, de­li­cious thrill.

And even though it’s easy to dis­like Vic­to­ria, you can re­late to her. She rep­re­sents all of the pres­sures heaped upon young women: Of suc­cess­ful par­ents who can’t han­dle the fail­ure of their chil­dren; of need­ing val­i­da­tion at ev­ery turn; and be­ing beaten down by so­cial me­dia telling us that we have to be eter­nally beau­ti­ful and the best. “You’re so in­se­cure you can’t even be happy with your own tal­ent,” Max spits at Vic­to­ria in one of her time­lines. “You have to try and bring ev­ery­body down to your ugly and mean level.”

Vic­to­ria is never re­deemed. Although she de­picts hints of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and shame, she never tears off the cloak to re­veal a good per­son un­derneath. And this is for the best. We can’t pre­tend that hor­ri­ble peo­ple are all wait­ing for ret­ri­bu­tion, or that one act will wipe the slate clean. But Vic­to­ria shows that there is a fright­ened girl be­neath the spiked ar­mor, and though we’ll hate her for­ever, maybe the pop­u­lar girl does have a soul.

right Dontnod worked on sev­eral out­fit de­signs for Vic­to­ria’s char­ac­ter in the game.

ABOVE The pop­u­lar girls are al­ways the cru­ellest, and Vic­to­ria is no ex­cep­tion.

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