“Kept You Waiting, Huh?” is a Corporate Meme
Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on December 5, 2014
In a rare moment when my phone is not on vibrate and rings, many of you reading would easily recognize it for what it is. Most people do not give it a second’s notice and might, at most, observe that I am not using any of the ringtones Apple provides, let along the default. Metal Gear fans however instantly recognize the “codec” sound, specifically from Metal Gear Solid and reused in its sequel Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The response is usually excitement from the energetic fan who “gets it.”
Things like this are great Metal Gear references especially when used appropriately in context. I slapped a Militaires Sans Frontières sticker on the back of my car. My Steam avatar is the smiling classic FOXHOUND logo straight from the Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake loading screen. Say what you want about the Disney film Wreck It Ralph, but that scene with the exclamation mark did put a smile on my face. Yet nowadays when I hear “Kept you waiting, huh?” my reaction ranges from a sigh to a fully apathetic no shits given. Why do I take issue with such a simple phrase?
“Kept you waiting, huh?” was first uttered by Solid Snake, voiced by David Hayter, in 2001′s Sons of Liberty. The line was an awkwardly subtle breaking of the fourth wall, either because the cutscene that played before we even got to hear Snake’s voice was somewhat lengthy, or because at the time it was around three years since players tackled Metal Gear Solid. Indeed, the Sons of Liberty script that was made available in The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 notes regarding this line that “the comment is directed to the player.” Since then, it has essentially become the “I have a bad feeling about this” of the Metal Gear series.
That itself is not a problem. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater the line is used again–for certain players. Snake Eater begins with a prompt to the player regarding their experience with the Metal Gear series. Selecting “I like MGS2″ causes Snake to wear the Raikov mask in the beginning and adds an extra bit of dialogue where Zero (at the time referred to as Major Tom) tells Snake to remove his disguise. After a cutscene where Naked Snake’s face is finally revealed, Snake calls Zero:
As the Raikov mask was a reference to Sons of Liberty (the controversy surrounding Raiden, to be specific), so too is this usage of “Kept you waiting, huh?” Just like in Sons of Liberty it works as a fourth wall breaking element considering that the line is spoken exclusively when the player picks the option that explicitly states that they have played (and enjoyed) Sons of Liberty. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots also reuses the line during the beginning of its infamously obnoxious repeating installation screens–fitting, as the installation which is represented by Snake’s smoking habit literally kept us waiting.
That will be the last moment of that line’s usage making any sense. During Meryl and Johnny’s wedding in Guns of the Patriots, Otacon responds to an inquiry on Solid Snake’s absence with, “Who knows? That guy always keeps you waiting.” Really, now? When was the phrase attached to Solid Snake as a character? The only time I can think of when it comes to being “kept waiting” by Solid Snake is during Sons of Liberty, both when Raiden uses a sniper rifle to protect Emma and when Raiden is running around naked in Arsenal Gear. Honestly with the way the phrase is being used now, if these scenes were done today I do believe they would have had Snake blurt out “KEPT YOU WAITING, HUH?” instead of “I’ve reached my sniping position on Strut E,” and “It’s amazing you can walk around like that.”
I say that even though it should be noted that in Sons of Liberty, Snake does ask the naked and cold Raiden if he has “Been waiting long?” Thing is, despite “Been waiting long?” basically having the same meaning as “Kept you waiting, huh?” it is not the exploitable phrase the latter has become. After all, only “Kept you waiting, huh?” was silk screened onto official Metal Gear Solid T-shirts.
What? Why?! Has the line really become that iconic? I remember a time when the iconic Metal Gear line was yelling “SNAAAAAAKE!” at the top of your lungs. Why is “Kept You Waiting, Huh?” important enough to have its own official T-shirt as part of the Metal Gear Solid clothing line by Uniqlo? What the hell does the phrase even mean anymore? Does the line sound “cool” to some people? Does it work as a statement that everyone who has to come in contact with you is aware of? Is it the best way for a fan to let other fans know that they are a fan? At least the “BIG BOSS” shirt that was infamously worn by Kojima in a selfie that got popular on the gay website Guys with iPhones looks aesthetically pleasing with multiple double meanings as the commenters on that site kindly point out.
“Kept you waiting, huh?” however did not quite jump the memetic shark until Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
SNAKE: I’m in front of the prison camp.
MILLER: Excellent Snake. Age hasn’t slowed you down one bit.
SNAKE: Kept you waiting, huh?
I know Miller is a chatterbox and maybe you just ignored him because you zoned out but come on now.
Actually, no Snake. Not at all. Kaz literally just mentioned that your age has not slowed you down one bit. Learn how to take a compliment.
A lot of fans actually used this line as an example in arguments regarding Kiefer Sutherland’s performance as Big Boss not being up to par with David Hayter who has voiced the same line in a way that did not come off as weird. While the debate on the voice actors for Big Boss is another beast entirely, I would say that criticizing Sutherland for this line in particular is not fair because he delivered it exactly as it comes off: meaningless and out-of-place.
The line is no longer a wink at the player even if it tries to be, with Snake is looking right at the audience when he says it. The line made complete sense when they used this opening to reveal Ground Zeroes years earlier and if it was left behind there, no harm done. It makes no sense now as a part of the final product. So why was it used? Has the line simply become a marketable meme for Konami?
Sons of Liberty actually talked about memes long before the sensation of “internet memes” became a thing and widely misunderstood. Putting words onto an image does not alone make a “meme”–it becoming “viral” by spreading and becoming a part of culture does. Indeed, a meme does not even have to be an image, per se. The phrase “YAAAAAS!” is a meme for example. It started by an individual within the queer community where it became popular, spread into popular culture thanks to the internet and is now being used by a corporation to sell sugary syrup in what is probably an attempt to “fit in” with the youth. In fact, it would be accurate to say that it has become a corporate meme.
It happens all the time. “Doge” has been officially used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote the website for the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” “Nom” became “eco-nom-nom-nomics” by McDonalds to promote a god damn double cheeseburger. Fucking Grumpy Cat has become a post-cringe Lifetime Original Movie Christmas Special with Audrey Plaza providing voiceovers. Follow most corporate and government entities via social media and you will be bombarded with this shit.
“Kept you waiting, huh?” is descending into the same dark path. Sure, it was technically started by the same corporate entity using it because it originated from a Konami game. Then again, Grumpy Cat started because the actual cat’s owner’s brother posted a picture onto Reddit. What is important here though is that the context of this “meme” is absolutely meaningless for Konami outside of an effort of humor due to familiarity based on a catchphrase.
Back when The Simpsons was not completely shit, there was an episode named “Bart Gets Famous” where a quick utterance of the phrase “I didn’t do it” by Bart after completely destroying a set for a television show on-air caused him to become a huge celebrity. This fame eventually does fade as the audience gets bored of what has become a meaningless one-trick skit. The episode ends with a self-aware quip by Lisa regarding “one-dimensional character[s] with a silly catchphrase.”
The lesson of Bart Get Famous is clearly not one the folks at Konami have learned yet. One of the undoubtedly numerous items that players will be able to obtain and use in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain called the Active Decoy was revealed during a gameplay demonstration at Tokyo Game Show 2014. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker had a similar item although this new one seems to create a three-dimensional inflatable decoy with a repeated sound clip. What is one of these sound clips for Big Boss? You guessed it.
The ultimate display of what the phrase has become though is through Kiefer Sutherland’s appearance at GamesCom 2014. Interrupting Hideo Kojima with that iconic codec sound, Sutherland pitched an exclusive preorder deal for The Phantom Pain and then ends his appearance with:
One person laughs, and it could have just been Hideo Kojima. “In true Snake spirit”? What? And what is the line even referring to? Nobody in the audience was expecting Kiefer Sutherland to show up though I am sure they were surprised. Nobody was waiting for a €5 off preorder special though I am sure they were pleased nonetheless. I guess the only thing anybody was being kept waiting around for was the fucking release date for The Phantom Pain, which was not even announced at the time anyways.
So what is the point? Is it supposed to be funny? It does not even work as pathetic catchphrase-based humor. It is forced. It is dull. It is trite. It is expected–and this is probably the worst offender about this whole thing. As I type this out, the actual release date for The Phantom Pain has still not been announced outside of a broad “2015.” I will say that I am confident that when the date is finally revealed, it will be announced with a “Kept you waiting, huh?”
Yeah it would actually work in this context and all but it has been so overused that my response would be a yawn and maybe a shrug if I feel like exerting any energy at all.There are 33 comments in our discussion thread.