Leading the Pack: Max & Chloe From ‘Life Is Strange’

Life Is Strange

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

Welcome back to “Leading the Pack,” FemHype crew! Today, I want to look at not one, but two fabulous video game ladies: Max Caulfield and Chloe Price from Life Is Strange. I want to examine these two together because they’re great counterparts of each other as well as fantastic characters in their own right. For example, while Max is shy and Chloe is outspoken, both help the other to come out of their shell, and they deal with some of their own insecurities through the continual care and support they show each other.

Chloe and Max grew up together in Arcadia Bay, a fictional city in Oregon, before Max left and the two lost contact. However, at the beginning of the game, Max has returned to attend Blackwell Academy’s prestigious photography course. Max loves photography—from artistic metaphorical shots to the simple selfie (although, as we learn, the selfie has a long history beginning with the Daguerreian process). Max herself decries the idea that these selfies are something to be made fun of. As she says, she’s in great company, and they seem to help her self-confidence, which she sometimes struggles with.

Chloe also struggles with self-image, and many fans celebrate her character as a realistic and positive portrayal of borderline personality disorder, along with other mental illnesses such as depression. Despite these struggles, she remains an extremely supportive and loyal person. One of the first things we learn about her is that she is the only one who made an effort to look for the missing Rachel Amber, and she continually supports Max in believing in herself and her dreams of becoming a professional, award-winning photographer.

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Hella Talk: An Interview With Ashly Burch on Chloe Price, Queerness, & ‘Life Is Strange’

Ashly Burch

[Trigger warning: brief mention of bullying, suicide, & sexual assault.]

Life Is Strange means a lot to me with the topics it has covered and the characters it has brought forth. After the release of “Polarized,” the final episode of the season, I was lucky enough to get into contact with the wonderful Ashly Burch who plays everyone’s hella favorite punk: Chloe Price. I got to ask Ashly numerous questions about Life Is Strange, Chloe Price, queerness, and the darker themes of the game, as well as some lighter topics at the end to break things up a bit more.

Ashly can be found on Twitter at @ashly_burch and on PatreonWithout further ado, here is my interview with Ashly Burch!

Sloane: How did you first find out about Life Is Strange and what about it pushed you to audition?

Ashly: Haha, this isn’t as exciting a story as one would probably hope—I received an audition notice from my agency! But I could tell it was going to be a special game even just from the audition sides.

Sloane: If I remember reading correctly, you ended up auditioning for both Chloe Price and Max Caulfield. I’m really curious—after hearing you so much as Chloe, what did you know about the two before the audition?

Ashly: It’s been a long time, so it’s hard for me to remember what was provided on the audition sides—I remember I saw concept art for both characters, and I really loved Chloe’s look. Typically, audition sides will have some background on the character, a brief synopsis of their personality, sometimes an image of what they look like, and then of course the dialogue the devs would like you to perform. I remember reading Chloe’s background and personality and immediately knowing what voice I wanted to give her.

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Queering of Age: Max Caulfield’s Transition & Mine

Life Is Strange

The idea of “coming of age” is one I always find interesting because of how often it springs up in fiction, and how it’s not nearly the same in the real world. In real cultures, you have celebrations like bar/bat mitzvahs and quinceañeras, as well as countless other cultures across the world that have parties or celebrations for a young man or woman at a certain age when they’re deemed to be an adult. This is far different from an RPG where a player is thrust upon the world when handed their first sword, or when a Padawan becomes a Jedi in Star Wars.

Now, let me make this clear: I’m white and have lived in a relatively non-religious family. For the first 22 years of my life, I lived as a fairly bland white guy. My experiences with the whole idea of coming of age thing are probably going to be vastly different than those who may come from other cultures than me. 

In relation to me living the first 22 (closer to 22 and a half, really) years of my life as a bland white guy, I’m trans. Coming of age has meant absolutely nothing to me, and then within the past year—when I’ve started to make real, substantial changes to my life in terms of transitioning—the phrase, and the idea of “coming of age,” has started to mean everything to me. Now more than ever, I feel like I’ve attained this coming of age ideal that I never had before, that’s never really meant anything to me besides narrative devices used in video games, movies, and television shows.

It’s why I grew attached to characters I hadn’t before. Before, I used characters as vehicles to shield myself, whereas now I identified stronger with these characters. People like Usagi Tsukino and Rise Kujikawa were characters I saw myself in, rather than vessels to inhabit and turn my personality towards as a defense mechanism. And this year came probably one of the biggest inspirations to me: DONTNOD’s Max Caulfield from Life Is Strange.

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The Feels That Every ‘Life Is Strange’ Fan Will Recognize

As you can probably guess, there will be spoilers ahead. If you have not played episodes 1 through 3 of Life Is Strange and don’t want to be spoiled, then start playing and keep this in mind!

lifeisstrangegame.tumblr.comlifeisstrangegame.tumblr.com

Life Is Strange Episode 4 “Dark Room” will be released on Tuesday, July 28th, but Arcadia Bay fans are still having withdrawal symptoms. Some fans have even begun “self-medicating.” Are you experiencing these symptoms?

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Sparkly Vampires & Time Travel: ‘Life Is Strange’ Is the Queer ‘Twilight’

So, Max. How long have you been 17? -A while.
-So, Max. How long have you been 18?
-A while.

Everything on the table: this was initially going to be a piece on queer identity within Life Is Strange and the way it framed that beautiful transformation when it happens in late adolescence. I’ve spoken about my personal experiences growing up queer in terms of gaming before, both in my struggles with an eating disorder and my first crush, and while Ashley B handled the queer reading of the indomitable Chloe Price with aplomb, I felt like it was time I approached this game from a different angle.

All of this will, admittedly, collate into something a bit more silly in terms of subject matter, but I feel very strongly that queer stories are absolutely integral to the growing pains of games culture. If you haven’t guessed already (spoilers: it’s in the title!), I’ll be discussing the very clear parallels between the Twilight films and Dontnod’s Life Is Strange.

Yes, you actually just read that. I’m not merely referring to the fact that both works of fiction are set in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, or that they deal with the supernatural framed within a high school setting. I could have just as easily tossed Teen Wolf into the mix if that were the case (a show many Twihards have since migrated to, and deservedly so).

I’d like to focus my attention more on the prominent character parallels, issues of supernatural power imbalance and loss of agency, appropriation of Native American culture, and, of course, some good ol’ fashioned queer teenage angst. Still confused? Don’t worry. I’d suggest approaching this piece the same way I did when I finally sat down to type it out. That is, with a sense of humor and just a little bit of a side-eye. If that sounds, like, totally ~amazeballs~ to you, let’s get to the fun part.

Continue reading “Sparkly Vampires & Time Travel: ‘Life Is Strange’ Is the Queer ‘Twilight’”

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