5 Reasons GLaDOS is Actually a Hero
This article will contain spoilers for the Portal series. If you haven't played those games by now, well...what's wrong with you?
In our continuing effort to give all video game characters the benefit of the doubt and to consider the positive aspects of gaming villains, today we look at the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS) behind the Aperture Science Enrichment Center in Portal. Some may view her as a psychotic murderous robot, but those people are just bad test subjects. Here are 5 Reasons that GLaDOS is actually a hero.
1. It’s Just the Scientific Method
Science is important. It has brought us important breakthroughs and life-saving advances over the centuries. One of the keys to successful scientific testing is achieving repeatable results. There could always be a number of reasons why you obtained your results in a single test. To be absolutely sure that your hypothesis is correct, you must test again and again. In Portal, of course, it appears the hypotheses being tested is: is the Handheld Portal Device totally awesome?
GLaDOS is simply making sure that the Portal Gun receives a thorough scientific test and that the results are repeatable. Otherwise they’ll never be able to properly release the Portal Gun to the world so that it can...do whatever it is that’s it’s supposed to do, for the good of science. It’s possible that maybe some people are burned to death in a fire at the end of the test, sure, but obviously it’s also important to test the flammability of the Handheld Portal Device itself. How else are you going to do that?
2. She Provides Cake
Much has been made of the supposed fact that “the cake is a lie.” However, for anybody who has witnessed the real end of the first Portal game, we know that’s not true. There is actually cake.
Would an evil computer provide cake? Cake is awesome. Well, not all cake is awesome, some cake is terrible -- but that cake at the end of Portal looks good. It looks like it has cherries on it. How did an artificial intelligence make cake? That must qualify as a heroic act.
3. She Sacrifices Herself
To whatever degree GLaDOS may actually be evil, this fact is remedied by the fact that GLaDOS actually sacrifices herself in the original game. Don't believe it? Just think about it for a moment. All of the mechanics that are taught to you through out the game, the ones that eventually lead to GLaDos’s death, are taught to you by her. GLaDOS built all the test chambers that gave you your skills, then forced you to progress through them. We know this. Did the super intelligent AI not know what she was doing? Of course she did.
Maybe some part of GLaDOS understands that there is something wrong with her programming and she’s simply looking for the right test subject to help her. Or possibly she’s just bored. It looks like she killed everybody else a long time ago. Maybe she just wants you to put her out of her misery. Either way she wants out and she needs you to do it. Self-sacrifice is a deeply heroic thing. It’s like when Darth Vader redeemed himself by taking all of the Emperor’s force lightning in order to save Luke, but died in the process. It’s totally like that.
4. She Gave Her (Human) Life to Aperture Science
And that wasn’t even the first time GLaDOS sacrificed herself. She’s actually done it twice. In Portal 2 we learn that GLaDOS is actually based on the mind of Caroline, the personal assistant to Aperture Science founder and all around awesome guy Cave Johnson. Upon Cave’s death Caroline becomes his successor and eventually she sacrifices herself in order to make Cave’s dream of artificial intelligence a reality. Either that or she’s dragged kicking and screaming into a lab somewhere where she’s tied to a table and has her brain cut out of her skull and crammed into a machine. It might have happened like that, it’s not totally clear.
Either way Caroline dies for the good of the company and for the good of science. That’s a deeply noble thing to do isn’t it? From there she runs all of Aperture Science making sure they can create great things for the betterment of mankind.
5. She Ends on a Song
Finally, How can GLaDOS be truly evil when both games end with a jaunty tune? Music comes from a place of deep emotion, which GLaDOS must feel if she’s capable of singing. In the first game she sings about how happy she is that she is "Still Alive." It's a song about life, and that's a pure and beautiful thing. She's singing about the simple joy of being alive.
In Portal 2 she sings about wanting to get Chell out of the Enrichment Center. She gave Chell her freedom for helping her get rid of Wheatley and she does stick to her word (honesty is another heroic trait, by the way). But there is real joy in GlaDOS’s voice when she sings about getting rid of Chell. What sort of evil character would be capable of that much pure happiness?
In the end, GLaDOS has many honorable qualities that she does not get nearly enough credit for. She makes the science happen people. Give her the respect she deserves. Otherwise you’ll get the deadly neurotoxin.