Flight of the Amazon Queen: What Joe Did To Lola Is That He didn't Do Anything To Her (1467 words)
I spotted Beneath a Steel Sky, a classic point’n’click video game from 1994, on Good Old Games the other day. It was for free and next to it, I was surprised to see another old point’n’click –less revered though– The Flight of the Amazon Queen of which I had played the demo on my amiga 500 a long time ago and then bought on Pc but could never get to work and then emulated the Amiga version on PC.
I never finished Flight mainly because of its focus on sex which annoyed me. I played a lot of Leisure Suits Larry because it was focussed on sex but didn’t pretend to be anything else, whereas Flight of the Amazon Queen felt like an Indiana Jones movie which would have resorted to sexual innuendos out of lack of inspiration or confidence in order to appeal to a male audience.
For example, one of the first puzzles of the game asked you to disguise as a woman in order to escape from two henchmen. It was ok, but felt a bit forced. The fact that the person lending you the clothes was a stripper felt more forced, and the fact that your client should be some alpha female superstar super hot super blond super whimsical was even more forced and annoying… and a mad scientist transforming hot women into lizards, and then you have to save a princess for god sake’s.
Flight of the Amazon Queen just felt a lot more lowbrow than Monkey Island, Broken Sword or Beneath a Steel Sky. Runaway didn’t exist at the time.
Still, it’s a point’n’click from the Amiga days so I felt like trying it again and I was surprised to discover something a lot different from what I expected.
Joe King is not a macho, and the game doesn’t objectify women at all. On the contrary the game is about how women’s libido can be ignored and the consequences of this tragedy.
As I haven’t finished the game, I can’t analyse everything, it would be atrociously long anyway, so I’ll focus on a few meaningful elements.
First, Joe King isn’t a playboy one bit. I thought he was, but he’s closer to a child really.
When he meets Bud and Skip in the amazon jungle, Bud tells him that they are in hopes to be captured by the amazons and, he infers, raped. But Joe simply doesn’t understand. It’s a joke of course but you cannot make such a joke if it breaks character. Joe King isn’t aware of the fact that women have a libido. Of course it’s exaggerated but still, he incarnates the man who is not conscious of women’s desire.
I was moved to realise that the shower scene that certainly had had me excited and ashamed when I played the game on my Amiga is actually not gratuitous at all. Lola refers to something hurtful that Joe did to her. In 1994, when I played the demo of the game, it was obvious to me that they had slept together and that he had left her on the next day. I didn’t like that kind of premises because it made me dislike both characters. I didn’t like the fact that the woman let herself be hurt by having sex with a guy too early in the relationship for her not to get hurt and I didn’t like the guy who sleeps with a girl and run away because he only wanted to add her to his list. I was young and naïve and the world was complex and deceitful.
She finds it humiliating that he shouldn't try anything, but she doesn't realise that her behavior is actually insulting too.
Now when I watch this scene, what I see is a guy who didn’t give the woman what she wanted when she actually did everything she could to get it (without going as far as actually kissing him). Lola isn’t hurt because Joe screwed her and ran away, she is hurt because he ran away before making love to her. She is humiliated and she feels like a whore.
An example of shame related to the female gender role and libido nowadays:
"You make me feel like a whore"
It might not be like that anymore, nowadays it’s even more complicated and messed up, but women used to have to be ashamed and hide the libido they weren’t supposed to have and men were supposed to be animals who would jump on any woman they seem to have a chance with. On the one hand you have to hide that you have a libido, and the other hand you have to hide the fact that you’re not just a tripod.
So, women had to wait for guys to make the first step. And guys had to make the first step even when they didn’t want to. And it was all the more difficult for respectful men to make the first step when women were trying hard to pretend they didn’t know what was going on even when they were burning inside.
I used to mistake the situation in Flight of the Amazon Queen with a very stereotypical one: the insensitive macho man who loves to add women to his list of “did” ones and who uses an innocent girl (if it exists) who has feelings for him. But if you take a closer look at Joe King, he is more of a naïve cuty than a serial penetrator.
So, just like Lola (Imogen Poots) in the video… what ? They’ve got the same name !?! Ok… so, like Lola in the video, Lola in Flight feels like a whore and becomes an erotic dancer. By totally ignoring her, Joe gave her the feeling that her desire was completely out of place, that he had nothing to do with it.
When he comes back, she seems to be holding a serious grudge against him. The thing is, when he asks if she can help him, she undresses in front of him and go take a shower when… she was ready to go on stage. “I’ve got a show in ten minutes and I’m not even dressed”
When getting the keys to Lola’s dressing room from the bell boy, Joe learns that Lola is about to perform her show. She has no reason to take a shower and even if she had, it is already obvious (but not so obvious) why she is doing it in front of Joe.
I’ll add that the word “bell” is very often used to refer to the female orgasm. In Stand and Deliver, the pupils make jokes about the ringing bell of the school. So, here the bell boy, is the boy who holds the keys to Lola’s sexual satisfaction, and he surprisingly gives them to Joe without a “puzzle.”
So, the whole scene problematizes interactions between men and women when women’s libido is a secret and men take women seriously. Lola is only waiting for Joe to join her in the shower but as she is behaving business-as-usual, Joe gets her a towel and suddenly her plan to help him escape becomes a revenge: she suggests him to disguise as a woman.
She lends him a dress and all he says is “thanks” when she actually is trying to insult him. She is saying “you’re not a man” but he only expresses gratitude.
So when he leaves the building, Joe has hurt Lola in the same way as before. He made her feel unattractive, a feeling that she is trying to conjure up by arousing groups of men every nights.
This new humiliation is represented metaphorically by the cutscene with the mad scientist who transforms an amazon into a monster. We know Amazons as female warriors who live in tribes autonomously; but in this game they are used as a metaphor for women who take responsibility for their libido.
…and the woman who takes initiative here is Lola. So, the amazon is a metaphor for Lola, on a more collective level. And what happens to her ? She is transformed by a phallic machine into a lizard. Joe made Lola feel like she is a “despicable” animal.
Aheum... the power of the phallic object puts her on her knees, legs spread. Yep, she really wants to have sex.
She is overwhelmed by something that is in her mind. (It's not very logical if you look at her transformation on a non-metaphorical level).
More, when the mad scientist wants to add some hostility into the mix, it transforms the lizard into a glamourous green lady in an evening dress. The aggressiveness is glamour. Women who are humiliated because of their sexual desires use their sex-appeal in order to hurt and submit.
The whole operation transformed a wild woman who would have made love because that's what her body tells her into a bitter (green) individual who is going to use her body as a weapon or a means to an end. Lola transforms into Faye.
And then appears the second female character Faye Russel whom everybody admires and wants.
Faye makes me think of Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom... the hysterical woman that Indy meets because he is scared of Marion (even if Indy 2 is actually a prequel). Joe meets Faye because he is scared of Lola.
So, the Flight of the Amazon Queen represents the encounter between two traumatized individual: on the one hand, a woman who did everything to be deemed irresistible according to the criteria of her culture and on the other hand, a guy who is blind to women’s desire and desire to be perceived sexually.
What happens ? The plane crashes. (their intercourse fails)
I really want to finish this game now.