Last Wednesday I introduced the Donovan Test, and it’s already making quite a splash. That Donovan himself praised it has me totally awestruck. I knew I was on to something big, but I wasn’t expecting it to get this big this quick. To all of you who shared this, especially Donovan, thank you so very, very much. I want this to seriously go places. Of course as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Today is the first step, as I intend to do a sort of “alpha run” with the Donovan Test. The question is, where do we start? There’s certainly a vast number of male protagonists in the media, especially if I narrow it down to just video games. However, I think I’ll start with the first example, the face that launched a million “manly” games: The Doom Guy.
The Doomguy, also known as the Marine, possibly known as “Buddy Dacote”(1) or “Flynn Taggart”(2), is the protagonist of both Doom and its sequel, Doom II. Doom canon also confirms that he is the protagonist of TNT Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment, two bonus chapters following the events of Doom II compiled in Final Doom. He is also the protagonist of Doom 64, the final game in the original Doom canon. From the canon, this is the Doomguy’s story: At some point, he was a foot soldier for the United Nations. When ordered to fire upon civilians, he refused, and instead assaulted his commanding officer. For this act of insubordination, he was transferred to Mars in order to help oversee the Union Aerospace Corporation’s development of interplanetary travel. However, an experiment on Phobos goes horribly wrong, and the Doomguy and a detachment of other marines are sent to investigate. While he secures the perimeter, the main force enters and explores Phobos. After losing contact with the other marines, the Doomguy goes to investigate himself. This leads to the events of Doom. In the first chapter of Doom, “Knee-deep in the Dead” the Doomguy fights his way through the undead and demonic hordes swarming Phobos to reach the “Phobos Anomaly,” the mysterious teleporter which the UAC was working on. After killing the fearsome Barons of Hell, he enters the teleporter, only to be ambushed by a massive horde of demons. He wakes up on the moon of Deimos, now teleported to the shores of Hell itself. Thus, in the second chapter, appropriately titled “The Shores of Hell”, the Doomguy kills his way across the base, into the newly constructed Tower of Babel, and kills the fearsome Cyberdemon. He then literally rappels down into Hell to kick off the third chapter, “Inferno”, where he storms Hell, kills the Spider Mastermind who engineered the demonic invasion, and finds a teleporter that takes him back to Earth. However, he discovers that the demons made it to Earth before him, and killed his beloved pet rabbit, Daisy. Thus, in the final chapter of Doom, “Thy Flesh Consumed”, he wreaks havoc upon the invaders, reclaims his residence, and avenges his pet’s brutal murder.
This leads us into Doom II. The Doomguy meets up with other military survivors of the demonic invasion, and works to help with the evacuation of Earth. They storm a spaceport to deactivate the spaceport holding them in place, an operation that only the Doomguy survives. Knowing that humanity is safe, the last man on Earth accepts his inevitable death at the hands of the invaders swarming the planet. However, he is told that the demons are swarming from another gateway in his hometown. His fighting spirit restored, he returns home to find another portal to Hell. Realizing that it can be only closed from within, he eagerly leaps in, invading Hell yet a second time, eventually killing the true mastermind behind the invasion, the fearsome Icon of Sin(3) and in turn supposedly devastating Hell beyond repair. He once again returns to Earth, this time to help the planet recover from the invasion.
In TNT Evilution, the Doomguy helps the UAC develop a means to close any possible connections between Earth and Hell on the Jovian moon of Io. However, the revived Icon of Sin sends a demonic battleship to attack Io, forcing Doomguy to once again return to Hell and remind him who’s boss. In The Plutonia Experiment, The Icon of Sin launches another invasion to desperately prevent mankind from closing the connection to Hell for good. The Doomguy is called from his vacation to finally kill his old enemy once and for all. In Doom 64, the forces of Hell yet again storm Phobos and Deimos, this time led by the much-less-intimidating “Mother Demon”, a survivor of the Doomguy’s first rampage through Hell.
Plagued by nightmares of his past escapades, the Doomguy is commissioned to return to Mars and finish the job. He does so, returning to Hell for a final time and killing the Mother Demon. However, he eventually decides that enough is enough, and elects to stay in Hell for all eternity just to make sure that Earth will stay safe. So with all of that out of the way, let’s apply the Donovan Test and ask ourselves: Is the Doomguy a good male character? Let’s run through the twelve questions.
Is the character sufficiently physically strong?
Let me put it this way: he can carry a pistol, a shotgun, a second shotgun, a minigun, a rocket launcher, a plasma rifle, the BFG 9000, 400 bullets, 100 shotgun shells, 100 rockets, and 600 energy shells all at once while wearing full tactical armor. He can fire the minigun while keeping the recoil under control. Not only that, but he can shoot the BFG 9000 which has a goddamn steadicam arm built in to it to handle recoil with near pinpoint accuracy. He can kill any monster in the games short of the Icon of Sin with his bare hands.
He can also survive up to two point-blank shots from a 12-gauge shotgun, along with a direct rocket blast to the face. And no matter how encumbered he is, he still runs at a steady 57 miles per hour(4) without getting gassed once(5). So yes, he is damn strong enough.
Is the character morally strong?
Despite being a fairly flat character, the Doomguy does showcase moral strength. Before the events of Doom, he not only refused to fire upon innocents, but actually assaulted his commanding officer for daring to give the order. That shows intense personal conviction. But there’s also a more important aspect. The Doomguy kills hordes upon hordes of demons, including zombified humans. He clearly takes a sadistic glee in doing so, given how he grins like a madman upon discovering a new weapon. He loves killing these monsters. And yet, in spite of this, the worst he gets outside of battle are a few nightmares, and those only seem to come after killing the Icon of Sin three times. That homicidal urge never seems to put other humans in any danger. In fact, despite having already killed hordes of monsters, he never once deviates from his goal of saving humanity from Hell from Doom II onwards. By the end of Doom 64 he’s making the ultimate sacrifice just to keep humanity safe. That he never once lets his bloodlust overtake his mission to protect his people shows incredible moral strength.
Does the character have a strong presence?
This is a lot harder to see, but yes, he is recognized. At first, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. No matter how many demons he kills, the same stupid foot soldiers will charge at Doomguy despite knowing that they have no chance in defeating him. At no point does he ever muster a reaction from the enemies in the game, other than being the next target for their hellish bloodlust. They don’t show any signs of fearing or loathing him for his deeds, instead they simply blindly attack. While we could dismiss this as his enemies being emotionless, the fact that they cry out in pain when shot shows this not to be the case. However, he is making an impact. Prior to “Thy Flesh Consumed”, the Doomguy’s first sight on returning home is to see a city in flames and his beloved Daisy’s head impaled on a pike. This was a personal act of revenge. The forces of Hell, infuriated that the Doomguy ruined their invasion of Mars, made sure to specifically kill someone Doomguy cherished more than anyone else on Earth.
Not only that, but when the Icon of Sin launches his invasion of Earth in full, the main portal of invasion is located in none other than Doomguy’s hometown. Since we’re never given any strategic reasoning for the location, we can only assume that it’s another act of revenge by the forces of Hell. So even if the individual demons don’t scream out “It’s him!”, the Doomguy is still clearly making an impact. Meanwhile, on the other side, both stories in Final Doom and the plot of Doom 64 have the military specifically seeking out Doomguy to handle the demon problem. So he certainly is being recognized for his achievements in demon-killing. Thus, even if Doomguy lacks a personal sort of magnetism, his deeds have earned him the attention of both friend and foe.
Is the character given a chance to show his courage?
Much like Doomguy’s impact on the world around him, his need to show courage requires some more in-depth look at the details. At first glance, Doomguy doesn’t seem to have any emotional obstacles to overcome. He doesn’t seem to mind the fact that demons are real or that everyone but him is dead, so how can we say he has a chance to show courage? After all, courage is not the abscence of fear but rather the overcoming of internal obstacles. So what evidence do we have that Doomguy overcomes fear? Well, the best we’ve got in that field is his face. See, even the most savage animal knows pain. They almost all instinctually fear pain. As Doomguy takes damage, he grunts in pain. As he takes more and more damage, the HUD shows his face getting more and more bloody. Eventually, he starts to express a sort of weary exhaustion. Covered in his own blood, he can only hang his head in fatigue. The sheer toll of his physical injuries are visible. He’s clearly recognizing the toll that the war of his is taking on his body.
Does the character show genuine courage?
Consider what we’ve just concluded from answering the prior question. Doomguy knows pain and exhaustion. However, despite the fatigue and injuries, at no point does Doomguy stop or slow down. He doesn’t care that he’s on the verge of death. He doesn’t care how many times he gets shot or stabbed or burned. He is still going to keep going, keep pushing on, and keep killing demons. So yes, he shows genuine courage. Doomguy knows he’s mortal and has his limits, but that won’t stop him from fighting until his last breath. That’s the kind of courage that goes all the way back to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Even in the face of death he just reloads his gun and keeps on going.
Does the character have drive?
To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin: “OH HELL YEAH!” Doomguy has a firm commitment to whatever he undertakes. First, he doesn’t hesitate to charge headlong into Phobos to carry out the mission he was assigned. When he finds himself in Hell, he doesn’t ever waver from his goal of escaping. When he finds Daisy’s head, he begins his personal war against the forces of Hell and doesn’t intend to stop until he dies. When he kills the Icon of Sin for the first time, he immediately beings working on a way to keep Earth safe from the legions of Hell. When a way is found to keep the Earth safe, he jumps at the call to slay the Icon yet again and keep mankind safe. When the Mother Demon rallies her forces, he once again answers the call of duty with enthusiasm. Even when he kills what should be every demon in hell, he decides that he should stick around, just to be sure. That takes some serious motivation, to condemn yourself to eternal damnation. The Doomguy is all drive.
Does the character show mastery of skill?
At first glance, Doomguy doesn’t seem very skilled. He just shoots stuff, then he shoots more stuff. However, let’s look at some of the other things he does. First off, he can operate a chainsaw, handgun, shotgun, double-barreled shotgun, handheld chaingun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle, and BFG 9000 with no problems. That’s a total of eight weapons he knows so well that he can use them instantly upon picking them up. On top of that, he can throw a good enough punch that when there’s enough force behind it he’s gibbing whatever he hits. When he finds a medpack, he can perform perfect first aid, easily pulling himself away from the brink of death with whatever supplies provided to him. Doomguy is, in virtually all aspects, the perfect soldier.
Does the character show mastery of self?
There is an item in all of the games known as the “berserk pack”. It resembles a medpack, but is filled with stimulants and steroids instead of healing supplies. Upon obtaining this item, Doomguy’s strength will increase tenfold, as will the damage done by his punches which will instantly gib any humanoid enemy.
Even if they’re magical space steroids, they clearly have some mental effect, as Doomguy’s vision goes red for a short period of time upon juicing up. We can infer that this is the infamous “roid rage” that plagues so many bodybuilders, wrestlers, and athletes. However, at no point in the game does the player lose control. Thus, we can infer that Doomguy has such mental discipline that not even roid rage can make him lose his faculties. This leads us to conclude that Doomguy has incredible mastery over himself. Does the character show mastery of others? This is the only question so far where I can say that the answer is no, Doomguy does not show any mastery over anyone else. Again, much like the perfect soldier, he’s very docile and simple. He has a firm commitment to his duty as a soldier and defending mankind. He doesn’t exert any meaningful authority or leadership, as evidenced by the fact that everyone under his command tends to wind up very dead. He’s certainly admirable by his deeds, but he doesn’t show any sort of real sort of personality.
Is the character honorable to himself?
This is a bit tricky. Certainly Doomguy pushes himself to his limits, continuing to keep on killing even when he’s injured. Is this a commitment to his willpower, or a self-destructive impulsive? One could interpret this both ways. It’s a frustrating grey area. Certainly after helping humanity escape in the first act of Doom II his acceptance of death points to the latter, but the moment he is given an opportunity to continue the war, he leaps at the chance. Is his single-minded commitment honorable or not? Ultimately, it becomes a matter of culture and values. I’ll have to leave that one to you, dear readers.
Is the character honorable to others?
One of the biggest misconceptions about honor is that it requires you to show mercy to your enemies. There is no such requirement. Instead, the general consensus is that it is honorable to do unto your enemies as they would do unto you. The forces of Hell are single-minded in their goal of killing Doomguy along with the rest of humanity. Thus, he has zero moral obligation to do anything other than exterminating them first. The moment a monster sees Doomguy, they will attack him and continue to attack until they lose sight of him. Doomguy functions the same for all intents and purposes. More importantly, Doomguy refuses to let Hell dishonor him. When he is insulted in the form of Daisy’s murder, he answers it with even more violence. When his hometown is occupied by the demons, he marches there and kills every single invader, then single-handedly invades hell himself and effectively conquers it. He establishes himself as the most dangerous entity in all of existence. He upholds his honor through proving his status.
Can the character show humility?
If I had single-handedly saved the human race from the forces of Hell, upon returning to Earth I’d probably demand that every major faith grant me living sainthood before then declaring myself the official God-King of Everything Forever and commissioning statues of my likeness made out of solid gold on every continent and my portrait in everyone’s house.
What does Doomguy do? Humbly accepts being promoted to a Sergeant. That’s it. That’s the extent of his reward. Until the demon problem is solved, he simply continues to work on it. Then, when all the gates are sealed, he peacefully retires. And when he solves the problem once and for all, he decides that it would be better for him to commit to patrolling Hell rather than take the rest he deserves. It’s through his commitment and dedication that he shows true humility.
The Doomguy is a remarkably simple character. All the information I got on him came from small blurbs of text and inference from playing the games. Yet at the same time, are the heroes of history that much more complex? Are the figures of myth and legend any more complicated? Indeed, while it may sound ridiculous, I believe that Doomguy is a modern day version of Hercules. Much like the ancient mythological hero, Doomguy is not intended to be a realistic standard for men to reach, but rather an ideal to aspire to. His strength, skill, and resolve are all superhuman. Doomguy is a totally unrealistic depiction of manhood. He “passes” the Donovan Test so well that he pretty much would fail it if we were grading on realism. But realism is not necessary to tell a good story. Instead, the story of Doom is a modern-day heroic myth, right down to the core. It’s an epic of one man rising above and beyond the call of duty, facing impossible odds, and still coming out on top. Doomguy is an icon, an inspiration for men everywhere. In that sense, I think he truly passes the Donovan Test.
(1)Hall, Tom. The Doom Bible. http://5years.doomworld.com/doombible/section06.shtml (2) Hugh, Dafydd Ab, and Brad Linaweaver. Knee-deep in the Dead: A Novel. Pocket Star, 1995. Print
(3) Technically, the Icon of Sin is just a disguise used by John Romero (I am not making this shit up), but all the canon sources imply that Doomguy never found this out.