Of all the stories to come out of this year’s Twitchcon streamers convention, the most surreal news is that Megan Thee Stallion twerked on stage with Master Chief.
If you want to see the Halo Infinite star take some much-needed downtime from battling The Banished, you can watch it below. I’m both here for that, but like a lot of twerking videos, it got me thinking about postmodernism.
Meg the stallion doing flips on Master Chief has got to be in the top 5 moments in Twitchcon history pic.twitter.com/1v8lLFYTmfOctober 9, 2022
Seeing the funky fresh moves of a Chief cosplayer so easily embraced by such a big voice in pop culture feels surreal, and it’s not the first time I’ve had this reaction to video game news this week.
As surreal as it may seem, dancing Master Chief cosplayers are nothing new. There’s a fundamental joy in seeing an emotionally stunted supersoldier rock a move like he was in a Final Fantasy 14 nightclub. Seeing the stoic Spartan saving humanity loosen up and have fun for a change is both endearing and absurd. Somehow, watching John-117’s massive frame get into its groove fills a void in my soul I didn’t know I had.
There has always been great joy in fans taking characters in strange and unexpected directions. After all, when Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons shared a release day, fans started imagining mashups of the two games, something even the developers embraced:
However, going from meme fandom to participating in a full-on show with a world-renowned artist is definitely a step up. For the most part, fans reacted positively, in stark contrast to the response to Chris Pratt’s performance in the first Super Mario Bros. trailer. Although he does have an accent in the trailer, it has to be said that Pratt’s attempt at the distinct tones of a Brooklyn accent leaves an odd aftertaste.
What Master Chief and Mario have in common is their relatively new place under the warped spotlight of pop culture. As video games have become more integrated into pop culture, we’ve watched characters twist and contort to fit more mainstream molds. While this isn’t a bad thing by default, seeing beloved characters change in this way can be jarring.
In the case of Master Chief, we’ve come to know him through the narrow prism of the Halo games, as a defender of humanity. It’s fun to see him goof around on stage with Stallion or recreate memes, but it forces me to see him in a bigger context than the sci-fi super soldier. He’s less and less Halo’s Master Chief and more and more Master Chief, as seen in the Halo games.
My reaction to Mario is even stronger. Mario’s long history is at the heart of this. has been jumping on Goombas since before I was born. And, despite appearing in a wider range of games and genres, along with a wider cast of characters, than Master Chief, they’ve always been within the context of Nintendo games – a company that tightly controls tone and standards. Each new step for Mario felt consistent with the last. Pratt’s voice feels like a leap in comparison, and now I have to re-contextualize a character that has felt largely unchanged throughout my life. If Mario is not himself, then who is?
However, Jack Black as Bowser is perfect. No notes.