Character Analysis: Heather Mason
It’s very enjoyable to experience the journey of a teenage heroine that actually has something to offer in terms of investment and personality. Heather isn’t a microphone for screaming, a pithy empowerment message or blank slate. Heather Morris (the original voice actress, I know Amanda Winn-Lee was the HD voice but Morris is the voice I automatically think of) really deserves being complimented for possibly having the best voice acting of any Silent Hill protagonist, even including voice actors such as Guy Cihi, Monica Horgan and Donna Burke.
The nuances of a horror protagonist especially create the difference between a vehicle for following the Jungian symbology and transformation of a character overcoming bodily horror and gruesome discovery, or the character the audience finds it difficult to empathise with or vicariously enjoys suffering as a victim. The cadence of Heather’s delivery allows for a few more notes than slang, fright, or following the beats of plot throughout Silent Hill 3’s story. Team Silent created enduring horror protagonists by relying upon a perfection of human expression: either the dissociated expressions of those fraying at the edges of their humanity, or in this case the warmest and most ‘human’ figure being abrasive as a coping mechanism and due to not being eroded by torment.
Irritation is often present in Heather’s character, but as an example, this commonplace emotion is a sign of a somewhat new and amusingly fresh address to Silent Hill as a monster in comparison to the preceding games and attitudes before. Heather conveys not just aggression; but legitimate anger and sorrow. To give a potent example, Heather’s reaction to her father’s death is one of the only examples I can think of in gaming that records how people in genuine shock sound: odd, clearly not composed, something that makes us uncomfortable. Discomfort and the uncanny are not inhuman within the series, but perhaps most offputtingly it is part of our humanity, no matter how monstrous it may be.
To have any wit at all differentiates Heather in this way, but as a player, the synergistic bond between wanting to conquer the game, and to escape tie themselves expertly with Silent Hill 3’s unique story at the time. Heather is not a monster, but is possessed of the collective unconscious, and the looming infection of the Otherworld. The horror of the past, wedded to the flesh and macabre magics pursue her in a more cyclical battle to endure. Not because she happened to find the town, because she was called by her sins, but as part of the wonderful waking in the diner scene. Heather’s story is that of someone human, young, tired. The awareness of consciousness fades, and where she is often in a vulnerable situation there is no response but to use the force of her mind and natural personality.
The weaponry and resources utilised within the game are not wholly allegorical, but it is a fact in this type of abstract story that only the mind, only the ‘soul’ will save an individual or affect the choices they make within such fleshy corruption and gory chimeras blending the elements of domination, sensuality and reproduction. Heather’s scorn and humour is not irreverent, quite the opposite in fact due to her being a realistic and not annoying young adult protagonist. There simply is not other choice for her character. Harry has no choice but to endure Silent Hill. James has no choice but to wilfully torment himself with Maria’s memory and make a decision as to his torment. Faced with the bestial predation of the cult, Heather is too headstrong, indomitable, and clear headed to do anything but face these ordeals when they come, and walk through the empty grey buildings or beige and veined corridors of the Otherworld until her enemies find themselves beaten back and unable to harm her.
Heather’s femininity is important as a contrast because the intention of her character is a very different struggle to her predecessors. This is not the same story as Silent Hill 2, because emasculating moments or the pervasive presence of inappropriate or dominant loss is not a fixation and presence within her mind. Where other developers would perhaps go for an element popular in good and bad horror, with sexual predation or titillation being a threat to the female protagonist; Heather’s undoubtedly more biological and bloody Otherworld is representative of fears of forced impregnation and destruction without a sexual element. Rather than the sexually frustrated male or the female as a titillation, for Heather (and perhaps refreshingly for the audience) the only male relationship for Heather with real weight is her bond with Harry Mason. A heart-warming depiction of adoptive fatherhood, Harry is interesting in being the opposite to the villains. He had no biological tie to Heather, no possessive quality; yet all of the affection and willingness to sacrifice himself for her, and never use her for his ends at all. And he is loved in turn for it.
Indeed, her main antagonist is a younger female character, part of a binary alongside the more core binary between Heather and Alessa. The ending reflects the struggle present in Silent Hill, with an original motivation and arc to avoid seeming stale. Removing the foetal demon and asserting her agency, defeating her foes, and in the end reclaiming the name her adoptive father chose is both transformative and much more straightforwardly positive than the journey of James, whom it must be remembered was less innocent, more disturbed, monstrous. In contrast: Heather is dragged into people absorbed in the negative aspects of religion as physically and spiritually corrupted, fixated on their own fantasy and dreaming of being rewarded. Much as Heather is intended to be used and Alessa was treated so evilly, the final monster and nascent God is perhaps partially as stitched together and horrid as it is due to being something created like a fleshy machine to aggrandise the thoughts and wishes of people lacking in moral, physical and mental worthiness whatsoever.
Heather’s story is of the person, of the human travelling and retaining itself despite the will of other individuals who discard the essence of the human being until it is merely flesh to be sculpted, and power to assimilate. The abuse of her own body is the arch enemy Heather fights, the bosses of the game these representation of the corruption and mutation of others overseen by Claudia Wolf. It is more repugnant and causes her justifiable anger that Heather is not facing the sins of her own mind, but having a bleak and corrosive kind of black magic intended to ruin her body, and in striving against it with a level head she comes into inevitable conflict. It’s rather telling that Claudia goes so far to eat the foetal Demon God or whatever it is and finally die when meeting the karma of it being her body and not a sacrifice to discard, this last unholy fusion being what Heather defeats to bring about a balanced world devoid of monsters at least partially spawned by the mind; if not wholly created by the mind if we consider Vincent’s fascinatingly cryptic observation:
“Monsters…? They looked like monsters to you?”
Heather is a character who throughout the game delves less into her psyche, and more into the psyche of another. In a sense, rather than a process of individuation popularised by Silent Hill 2, the disconnect is so large that Heather is a reincarnation, even a different fundamental being to Alessa. She is a destroyer, a peppy figure bringing the fire of motivation to the older supporting cast, to destroy the corruptive force seeking to pollute the natural process of motherhood (by forcing it, and upon immature girls no less). Rather than being tied to the often covered and easy route of motherhood or romance, Heather’s healthy relationship and the core love she feels as positive contrast to the evil characters is the love for her father. In a world of very, very lacking and repugnant male characters, Harry’s sacrifices not only make him seem like a very caring and righteous character in this game, it adds weight and reward to the players who finished the game and experienced his story.
While Silent Hill 2 is the most popular (yet purposefully deviated story) Silent Hill story at present, in contrast to James Sunderland, Heather is a protagonist more central to the wider arc of this series, and one on a purely experiential level more rewarding and relatable to play. The appeal of James is that he is disconnected even from us, his past obscured, his Thanatos drive for death and torment something we (hopefully) aren’t as consumed by; and overcoming it or choosing to end ‘In Water’ affects his fate. Heather is a young woman more archetypal of a human being, of a developing person, and also an individual facing horror. In the modern world, we would face a hellscape in the clothes we were wearing. A bit of humour, and reluctance passing from horror to horror is natural. Most of us to not fixate on cultlike behaviour, the warping of religion for gain, much as sex and violence taken to extremes are things like physical harm what we circumnavigate in a quest for life to pass by hostility and seek out friendly and caring faces.
In a series popular for creating interesting characters rather than archetypes, Heather is more of a warrior than most of her protagonist peers, fighting from a position of vulnerability. Her use of anger, sarcasm, and unwillingness to shed her sanity and typical reactions are part of her fight against the malignancy of the Otherworld and the cult who set it upon her. Her journey as a heroine carries originality and relevance due to being a one-of-a-kind character. Heather is not Joan of Arc, not a modern gaming heroine, or a YA protagonist. Her easily identifiable visuals show a girl in a 2003 outfit, using a katana or a gun while slowly accepting the way the weird world is. Cheryl’s culminated character journey is one of removing the corruption and confusion that comes from others invading development, to utilise her personality and skills to hunt monsters and be the inspiration and friend to older men like her father and Douglas.
Changing her name, putting her demons to rest as the monsters they are to be slain makes her ending finish the initial Silent Hill trilogy, and seem the most straightforward and optimistic ending. Fitting for themes such as karma and horror stories, at its most aggressive a malignant evil is destroyed in its totality. Cheryl proves to the town, to the cult and the scurrying forces that wished to use her that she commands and overcomes it rather than being used. Laying her father to rest, keeping the name he gave her and the best of her experiences creates a spiritual metamorphosis and a fine ending to the heroine’s story, and a poignant message in an aesthetically masterful series that just as much as there are grotesque transformations of corruption; alternatively purification and altruism combined with perseverance transform people if only by refusing to surrender their affection and humanity to despair.
Silent Hill. Team Silent. 1999.
Silent Hill 2. Team Silent. 2001.
Silent Hill 3. Team Silent. 2003.
If anyone is interested in a good video series on the topic of Silent Hill, I recommend the following analysis series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_-6rGWiRj4&list=PLzNDmge69_mcyv7JhNs8YqSmPUdIpKd_g