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#My(Darling)Clementine: Keeping girlhood innocence from being ‘lost and gone forever’ in Telltale’s The Walking Dead games

by Ethan Tussey

by Jessica Aldred for IN MEDIA RES

I’ve been thinking a lot about “my” Clementine lately. Which is what Telltale Games wants, having sanctioned the #MyClementine hashtag to encourage players to share via social media who “their” version of the scrappy 11-year-old has become through the moral choices and gameplay actions players have made on her behalf. The trailer released prior to the Season 2 finale, however, seems to have a clear opinion about who “my” Clementine should be, bracketing its depiction of Clementine as battleworn, ruthless survivor with reminders of the naïve little girl she once was, fetishizing this prelapsarian innocence as a quality to be preserved at all cost, even if returning to it proves impossible.

Clementine's voiceover stitches together flashbacks of her rescue and self-defense training by Lee, the adoptive father figure/playable character in Season 1, whose paternal approval tacitly legitimates the violence Clementine commits as our playable character in Season 2. The recap suggests Clementine faces an impossible decision, when a sudden dissolve to video of sweet little Clem at home with her babysitter before the apocalypse pointedly reminds players of their obligation to preserving Clem’s innocence. We cut back to bloodied, gun-clutching present day Clementine, before the question “Who Will You Become?” flashes up, followed by the #MyClementine hashtag. For all the promise of crafting our own, unique version of Clementine via the game’s affordances (which I've tried to use to make "my" Clementine one that subverts the conventions of childhood femininity to cold heartedly kick all kinds of human and zombie ass), the game's paratextual materials privilege the Clementine that remains connected to that innocence.

One could argue, as the game’s creators have, that this desire to preserve Clementine’s innocence has everything to do with her age, and little to do with her gender. While executive producer Kevin Doyle insists that “we certainly haven't set up the game to make it about race or gender or sex,” one must only think of Carl, Clementine’s male analogue in AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, and how the series repeatedly validates Carl’s premature launch into protective, and often ultra-violent, masculinity. Have we ever flashed back to the sight of little Carl, playing with LEGO in a blanket fort, and been nostalgic for boyhood innocence lost? Why must we wish Clementine back to her treehouse, when she’s proven so capable and kickass now that she’s out of it?

#My(Darling)Clementine: Keeping girlhood innocence from being ‘lost and gone forever’ in Telltale’s The Walking Dead games

by Ethan Tussey

by Jessica Aldred for IN MEDIA RES

I’ve been thinking a lot about “my” Clementine lately. Which is what Telltale Games wants, having sanctioned the #MyClementine hashtag to encourage players to share via social media who “their” version of the scrappy 11-year-old has become through the moral choices and gameplay actions players have made on her behalf. The trailer released prior to the Season 2 finale, however, seems to have a clear opinion about who “my” Clementine should be, bracketing its depiction of Clementine as battleworn, ruthless survivor with reminders of the naïve little girl she once was, fetishizing this prelapsarian innocence as a quality to be preserved at all cost, even if returning to it proves impossible.

Clementine's voiceover stitches together flashbacks of her rescue and self-defense training by Lee, the adoptive father figure/playable character in Season 1, whose paternal approval tacitly legitimates the violence Clementine commits as our playable character in Season 2. The recap suggests Clementine faces an impossible decision, when a sudden dissolve to video of sweet little Clem at home with her babysitter before the apocalypse pointedly reminds players of their obligation to preserving Clem’s innocence. We cut back to bloodied, gun-clutching present day Clementine, before the question “Who Will You Become?” flashes up, followed by the #MyClementine hashtag. For all the promise of crafting our own, unique version of Clementine via the game’s affordances (which I've tried to use to make "my" Clementine one that subverts the conventions of childhood femininity to cold heartedly kick all kinds of human and zombie ass), the game's paratextual materials privilege the Clementine that remains connected to that innocence.

One could argue, as the game’s creators have, that this desire to preserve Clementine’s innocence has everything to do with her age, and little to do with her gender. While executive producer Kevin Doyle insists that “we certainly haven't set up the game to make it about race or gender or sex,” one must only think of Carl, Clementine’s male analogue in AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, and how the series repeatedly validates Carl’s premature launch into protective, and often ultra-violent, masculinity. Have we ever flashed back to the sight of little Carl, playing with LEGO in a blanket fort, and been nostalgic for boyhood innocence lost? Why must we wish Clementine back to her treehouse, when she’s proven so capable and kickass now that she’s out of it?

Gaming and Girlhood

The trailer for The Walking Dead Game Season 2 Episode 5

from The Walking Dead Game Season 2 Episode 5 Trailer (2014)
Creator: CommunityGame
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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