It has now been a year since the highly anticipated release of Grand Theft Auto V and such was its success that rumours surrounding the particulars of the sixth instalment have been in circulation ever since. With Rockstar producers remaining open to the idea of featuring a female protagonist in the future some fans seem convinced that it is now only a matter of time before these deliberations become reality.
Representation of women has always been a thorn in Rockstar’s side when it comes to the GTA franchise and honestly I find that rather unfair. Primarily the games are designed to explore and often parody the meaning of masculinity but this hasn’t stopped them from redressing the balance over the years with some genuinely interesting female characters. Here’s a countdown of five of the best.
5. Toshiko Kasen – Liberty City Stories
A gang leader’s wife who refuses to pledge allegiance to the man who has chained her to a life of domesticity and isolation. Although her end is tragic it comes at her own hands, showing her unwavering pursuit of freedom no matter the cost.
4. Reni Wassulmaier – Vice City Stories
Feisty, flamboyant and fabulous, (think Boy George crossed with Marlene Dietrich) Reni is GTA’s first transgender character. Her part may be small but her presence is anything but. The German born avante garde film director gleefully flies in the face of convention and is proof that not all GTA women need be interchangeable wives, girlfriends or prostitutes.
3. Kendl Johnson – San Andreas
Carl Johnson’s ascension from hood rat to kingpin in one of Rockstar’s most epic ventures to date wouldn’t be complete without the support of his family who play an important role in keeping his feet on the ground – none more so than his headstrong entrepreneurial sister, Kendl. More than a match for the brutish behaviour of her brothers, she is smart, savvy and a key component in CJ’s rise to the top.
2. Kate McCreary and Mallorie Bardas – GTA IV
It’s joint second place for the girlfriends of GTA IV who rather than serving as obligatory love interests for Niko and Roman actually bring out the best in them and challenge their views not only of women but the lives they want to make for themselves in the big city. Kate in particular (the only datable woman in GTA history to actively practice celibacy) is key to Niko’s final decision and as such dictates the outcome of his modern urban odyssey.
1. Catalina – GTA III/San Andreas
Despite the lack of a female protagonist in the GTA franchise the third instalment gave players its first female antagonist in the shape of Columbian firebrand, Catalina. Like the best male villains she is cunning, ruthless and more than a little psychotic. During her origin story in San Andreas however, Catalina’s more vulnerable side emerges and a revealing conversation with CJ sees her actively challenge the reductive stereotype of bad women as ‘crazy bitches’. Probably the best example of a woman going toe to toe with the boys of GTA, Catalina plays by her own rules and is delightfully unapologetic about it.
So could Rockstar come up with a believable and exciting female lead in the future? Demonstrably so. Whether or not the creators feel ready to break the tradition that has served them so well over the course of nearly two decades is another matter.
Image rights; Rockstar Games, 2K Games