This article, submitted for the TUS anniversary article contest, describes the actions Big Boss, Solid Snake's father, took leading to the establishment of the Next Generations Special Forces unit, FOX-HOUND.
To me, Big Boss is far removed from any fictional character I have experienced; he is the only person whom I think looks good with an eye patch (except maybe Solidus), has the most sought-after DNA in the planet and has a seldom occupied place in the category of likeable old people. However, more importantly, thanks to one thing raised from differing perspectives throughout the games in the canon Metal Gear series, and the primary point I will discuss in this article: should he be justified as an antagonist?
As someone who has been both a Metal Gear fan and an active internet user for a few years, it is depressing to consider the amount of times particular ignorant statements or questions have been uttered by those less experienced of the series. "Lol i wish dey wud mak a game after snake eater cuz dey hav to shoe huw big boss got evil™" is one such example.
He did not turn evil; in fact, he was among the most noble of Metal Gear characters, and even on the level of anti-hero. He merely did what he could justify under the realisation that soldiers are nothing but the tools of politicians, as well as in opposition and hatred of the Patriots.
He detested the Patriots, as he wanted to shift the power of control; though, unlike Solidus, he wants soldiers to have more power also. He disliked the Patriots' treatment of him, and other soldiers, including the lies they tell them. He may also hate them for taking his genes for cloning.
Arguably, his activities are out of proportion from the reasons for them. A similar, although more definite, President Johnson sees example of actions out of proportion from intentions in Metal Gear Solid 2:
Johnson: I wished to be a member of the Patriots. I wanted to wield the power of a king, instead of being an expendable pawn.
Raiden: And that justifies acts of terrorism?
Johnson: Yes. I'd intended to use the new Metal Gear as a bargaining chip.
Johnson was decisive that, by using Metal Gear, he could reach the ranks of the Patriots; however, it might seem that Metal Gear is an extreme for the circumstances. Big Boss arguably does the same, coincidentally also involving Metal Gear.
For this reason, people consider Big Boss evil (but ironically not so much in Johnson) although the public makes these conclusions with ignorance of the actual events of his life, including the Operation: Snake Eater. A similar thing happened concerning The Boss's apparent activities prior to the events of Operation: Snake Eater. To quote Eva:
"The taint of disgrace will follow her to her grave. Future generations will revile her. In America, as a despicable traitor with no sense of honour. And in Russia, as a monster who unleashed a nuclear catastrophe. She will go down in official history as a war criminal. And no one will ever understand her. That was her final mission. And like a true soldier, she saw it through the end."
To find out the origins of his actions, and to see the realisations that led him to this, we must first look at the chronologically first story of the Metal Gear series: Metal Gear Solid 3.
Operation: Snake Eater was an important time in the life of Big Boss, as it was at this time that he first made the discovery that soldiers are nothing but political tools. The Boss informed him of this; however, it did not have as much significance to him as it did when he found out about the true nature of the mission after killing The Boss. He discovered that the United States Government was just using him, The Boss's mentor, to eliminate her, simply to prove America's innocence of destroying Sokolov's research facility.
This infuriated him, so he desired a world where the public would respect soldiers as warriors, not pawns. He shaped this, years later, when he created Outer Heaven. Making use of the Metal Gear design and the Outer Heaven fortress, he destroyed the balance of peace in the world, throwing it into chaos, creating a world where soldiers could truly live. After the events of the original Metal Gear, Snake destroyed Outer Heaven, and Big Boss opted to continue his legacy with the military nation, Zanzibar Land.
By this time, public opinion of him had changed dramatically; Campbell in Metal Gear 2 summed this up:
Snake! Big Boss is not your supervisor anymore.
He's a madman. Understand? No personal emotions.
The whole world depends on you. Don't fail us. Over.
This "madman" portrayal was common for Big Boss.
When he established Zanzibar Land, he gained the support of many FOXHOUND members, and recruited, apparently, one hundred mercenaries from every nation in the world. Members of FOXHOUND, including Grey Fox, found sense of Big Boss's legacy. However, Snake did not. As a result, when they met in Zanzibar Land, Big Boss tried to convince Snake, in one of the best explanations:
Big Boss: He who experiences the joy and tension of battle will place himself battlefields for the rest of his life. Once the battle instinct surfaces it never sleeps again. What solely can fill your desire is not power, money nor sex. There's only one thing... War! And I am providing it. Giving you a means to live.
Snake: A pseudo-virtue man?
Big Boss: You've seen those children? Victims of war, from many nations... And budding soldiers for the next war. Ploy, assist, make victims... Nurse and train... And back to the battlefield again... Conflicts will never die in this world. Our goal... And also a way of living.
Snake: Without war, you'd be out of a job. Is that what you are saying?!
Big Boss: You and me, though rare value in the battlefield...are just useless dummies back home. We belong in the battlefield. We'll stay there until we die miserably.
Snake: I have only one battle. To be free from you, to rid myself of the nightmares... Big Boss, I will defeat you!
Big Boss: Whoever wins, the battle will not end. The loser shall be freed from the battlefield. But the winner stays. He'll be a warrior until his death.
Snake: There are exceptions. I... love life.
Big Boss: Snake... I shall free you from your agony. My gratefulness as your former supervisor...
Snake: I don't need your help!
Big Boss: In such a situation, without a single weapon... against me? You dare say you have a chance?!
Snake: Never give up until the end... In any cornered situation, imagine success. You've said that yourself...
Big Boss: Even I sometimes make mistakes, Snake! This time once and for all. Come on!!
This is rather self-explanatory, but he raised an interesting point here:
"Whoever wins, the battle will not end. The loser shall be freed from the battlefield. But the winner stays. He'll be a warrior until his death."
Big Boss is trying to explain here that soldiers, as a whole, who survive battles, can only truly live as a soldier. However, he desired a world where they are respected, and carried that legacy to his death, and beyond, through his clones.
Big Boss deserves more understanding and value than he does. He truly is the "world's greatest soldier", and it is unfortunate that he died an ignoble death by his son.
-- Article by Marc Glen, 01.11.2005