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Myth: Dr. Clark’s gendering in Metal Gear Solid was a translation error

Dr. Clark back when she was just a physician who loved cinema and not a totalitarian oligarch using war victims as guinea pigs.

Fact: The original Japanese script for Metal Gear Solid had Naomi refer to Dr. Clark using a masculine pronoun.

By Ravi Singh, Posted on May 08, 2014

When Dr. Clark was revealed to be none other than Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’s Para-Medic, fans with a good memory screamed “RETCON!” Rightfully so, as the former FOXHOUND medical chief killed by Gray Fox was referred to as a male in Metal Gear Solid:

Naomi: It happened right after you retired. My predecessor, Dr. Clark, was in charge.

Campbell: Dr. Clark…

Naomi: Yes. He started the gene therapy project.

Snake: And where is he now?

Naomi: He was killed in an explosion in his lab two years ago.

However there has been an explanation given by fans that Dr. Clark’s identity is not a retcon because Dr. Clark was supposedly referred to with gender-neutral pronouns in the original Japanese script. It’s not like a translation error hasn’t happened before with this title. Indeed, with regards to the excerpt mentioned above, the pronouns used in the corresponding Japanese lines from the script do not specify Dr. Clark’s gender.

The explanation is a myth though and in truth there is no error in translation as the Japanese script for Metal Gear Solid does in fact have Naomi refer to Dr. Clark as a male… just a bit later in the story than when the excerpt above takes place. I had Junker HQ‘s Marc Laidlaw look at the lines from the Japanese script where Dr. Clark is mentioned. You may remember this piece of a conversation:

Snake: Naomi…you didn’t kill that doctor too, did you? The one that used Gray Fox for his genome experiments…

Naomi: Dr. Clark? …No…that was my brother. Afterwards I covered it up and helped him hide out…”

The corresponding Japanese lines:

Snake: まさか、君の前任者を殺したのも?グレイ・フォックスをゲノム兵の実験体にしたという・・・。

Naomi: クラーク博士のこと?いいえ、彼を殺したのは兄よ。私は事件を隠蔽し、兄をかくまった・・・。

Marc explained that Naomi’s line in the Japanese script directly translates into, “Dr. Clark? …No…that was my brother who killed him. Afterwards I covered it up and helped him hide out…” Specifically its the Japanese word 彼 (kare), a masculine pronoun, that is used to refer to Dr. Clark.

The myth could have perpetuated for a number of reasons. Fans may have simply analyzed the part of the script where Dr. Clark is first referred to as a male in the English script and did not bother to look at the rest of the Japanese script. There also could have been confusion over this 1up interview with Ryan Payton made shortly after the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots:

“Writer Shuyo Murata didn’t have to fudge as many facts as I did, because the Japanese language is inherently vague. For example, at the end of MGS2, Snake and Raiden talk of rescuing Olga’s baby but don’t specify the baby’s gender on the Japanese side. Perhaps the translator of MGS2 just assumed Olga’s child would be a boy, so in the English version they refer to it as a “him.” Well, as you know, we introduce Sunny in MGS4 as the daughter of Olga.

I ran into another problem of gender with Para-Medic, who was referred to as a male “Dr. Clark” in MGS1…. But those technicalities aside, I’m proud of how consistent the MGS world now stands.”

- Ryan Payton, interview with 1up on 09/11/2008

It’s true, Sunny’s gender as Olga’s child in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was kept gender-neutral in the Japanese script. It was in the English translation where the child is referred to as a male. Regarding Dr. Clark though, Payton is not claiming another problem of translation, bur rather, “another problem of gender.” Para-Medic being the same individual as this Dr. Clark is a retcon, no matter what language you speak.

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