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?
“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.
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.