The villainy of the soulless

"Portal Cake" | Art by Chasing Artwork. Used with permission.
She doesn’t have a soul. I wonder, is that what makes GLaDOS such a great villain?

Killing a test subject is of no consequence to GLaDOS, and she appears to delight in playing mental games. Having a soul is apparently not a prerequisite for wonderful sarcastic wit:

“Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official test record. Followed by death.”

Lots of gamers (including yours truly) will tell you that they love GLaDOS. It is curious, since you don’t often hear people saying that they love a villain.

“I love Professor Umbridge.”

“I love Saruman.”

“I love WaLuigi.” Seriously, who’s great idea was that one?

“Well done. Here come the test results: ‘You are a horrible person.’ That’s what it says. We weren’t even testing for that.” —GLaDOS
Hmm… nope. Uncommon words, those.

These dastardly characters might be amazing (or annoying) villains, but am I personally attached to them? No. I do love to hate their guts, but I’m glad when they get what’s coming to them.

Portal’s GLaDOS is a completely different story. I would mourn the loss of this beloved A.I. because I don’t think she’s truly evil. Sure, she’s soulless, but this begs the question: can you be both soulless and awesome?

Perhaps a deeper question would be CAN something be good or evil without a soul? Do we only see GLaDOS as “evil” and ATLAS and P-body as “good” because that’s how they’re programmed?

The concept of a soul is explored a lot in science fiction where artificial intelligences abound. What about Data? What about Boomer? EDI? Baymax?

We can hold A.I. accountable for their actions. That much is as easy as altering a few lines of code and erasing any undesirable behaviour. But the interesting question with GLaDOS is, do we even want to?

Her lack of soul, strict adherence to logic and charming oversimplification of mortality blend together in an endearing mix that is truly awesome and why, I contest, she is a perfectly horrible and fantastic villain.

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Art Director at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She manages Geekdom House's arts initiatives, including Area of Effect and Incantatem. She spends the rest of her time writing for Christ and Pop Culture and Think Christian, playing D&D, and exploring Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron

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