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Freeze Frame
Destroying Lady Liberty
By Adam Romano     |   Posted on February 05, 2008   |   Episode 71 (Show Archive)  


Unlike a lot of movies with this much hype, Cloverfield ended up being a surprisingly satisfying monster movie!
On a trip to the United States in 1906, H.G. Wells remarked that he found the Statue of Liberty unimpressively small, and that it "gets to three hundred feet by standing on a pedestal of a hundred and fifty [feet]." Wells was correct; the Statue of Liberty is really not as big as most think, especially when juxtaposed with the immense structures of New York City. Yet, science fiction writers since Wells have continually elected to use this structure more than any other to serve as sort of a barometer for social tragedy in their various dystopian visions. Since the eureka moment of Planet of the Apes that had audiences mouths agape in 1968, it has become a cinematic cliche to have the verdigrises woman ravished by flood, fire, or fallout. Even though the landmark has been overused in horror and science fiction stories, reputable artists - people like J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg - still insist on recycling the copper statue into box office gold by featuring her prominently in their ad campaigns for Cloverfield and A.I. respectively.

So the question begged from these images becomes why are storytellers so willing to sacrifice any claim to originality by taking their shot at destroying Lady Liberty? There must be some deeper psychology in using this structure to establish social ruin more frequently than using, say, the Empire State Building. Perhaps it is the structure's allegorical significance or convenient recognizability that causes it to resonate so deeply with audiences. Whatever the case may be, like most trends in storytelling, it has found its way and home in the world of video games. Today on Defunct Games, we will look at how images of a destroyed or corrupted Statue have made cameos in three decades of gaming.

Promotional posters for John Carpenter's film Escape from New York (1981) depict an oversized Statue of Liberty head lying in the streets, dwarfing the people and cars around it. Despite its immensity, the bigger curiosity is how the heck did the head get here. Was it carried? Blown off? Bought by a maniacal antiques collector? (At least Cloverfield explains how the head winds up in lower Manhattan.) Regardless of its lack of exposition, the image must have left a mark on more than a few game programmers.

Cyber-Lip (1990, Neo Geo): The Statue of Liberty has come to embody immigration; it is a beacon for the huddled masses. When masses of defective military androids come to earth, however, they can care less about tradition and quickly displace the torchbearer into the streets. In the words of our chief editor Cyril Lachel, "Cyber Lip ... doesn't offer anything new" and this background image proves it. If anything, the destroyed statue in Stage 1 inspires patriotic gamers to avenge the disgraced lady and dump android limbs into the streets in retribution.

After the War (1989, Amiga): You are Jonathan Rogers, a man desperate to escape the radiation of a post-nuclear Manhattan. In your exodus, you are confronted by thugs not smart enough to follow you to safer ground. The game was designed by a Spanish softhouse called Dimanic and this perhaps contributes to a caricaturized version of New York City replete with graffiti, pawn shops, and smutty billboards. The physics of how the Statue of Liberty's upper torso wound up on the Manhattan isle is unlikely, but sensationalism will always outweigh the science of trajectory mechanics.

Two Crude Dudes (1990, Arcade): This beat-em-up is just absurd. You throw parked cars, break walls with you fists, and even beat up a soda machine. Your protagonist clearly hates inanimate objects. The big inanimate object in the background does not seem so misplaced when you see how over-the-top the game is meant to be. Unlike After the War, the presence of this supine statue makes sense. If one man can move a car, then I guess a few fellows can easily drag a 100 ton statue through a river and into the streets.

Comix Zone (1995, Sega Genesis): Now this screen for the fighting adventure Comix Zone does a lot of things right. Not only is the head reasonably proportional to the game sprites, but it reveals the exposed skeletal frame where the copper plating has crumbled away. She does not seem to made of copper, however. Not only is she colored in ashen tones, but the spires of her crown break away as if they were stone. Well, whose to say that in the distant future we won't be able to change the atomic structure of certain materials?

Double Dragon II (1993, PC-Engine): If you're visiting a gaming site like this one then you've likely played or at least heard of Double Dragon II. Yet, many who know the game would not recognize this image taken from the Japanese PC-Engine version. While most of us played ports of Double Dragon II with scrolling text exposition, the CD rendition seen here allowed for a cinematic opening, and boy is it dark. Not only has your girlfriend been accosted and killed by thugs, but you're greeted with extremely dark landscapes of a derelict city. The most haunting of these images is the decapitated Liberty skewered on the spire of the Empire State Building - two metropolitan icons destroyed for the price of one. If that weren't haunting enough, the artist decided to impale her through the left eye. Never mind how the head got there; it's just creepy. Forget avenging your girlfriend's death. Let's find the miscreants that did this!



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