Head Shots

Why Shadow of War's Shelob is a woman - a theory

Monolith
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War - Half the limbs, double the marketing power Monolith
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War - Half the limbs, double the marketing power

Talking to Eurogamer, Monolith's creative vice president Michael de Plater has tried to explain why Shelob has foregone her giant spider form in order to appear as a dressed-up Liv Tyler lookalike. The cause for this may be a lot simpler than Monolith would have you believe.

Monolith Productions have served up an interesting explanation as to why Shelob will make an appearance in Shadow of War like a Liv Tyler lookalike dressed ready for a fancy diner party.

MonolithMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War

"So you've got Shelob representing darkness and then you've got Galadriel representing light, so you've got a duality between these two powerful women basically opposing each other in the same way that there's a lot of duality in our game", Monoliths creative vice president Michael de Plater has told Eurogamer.

"So we thought those two in opposition are really interesting, and the way Galadriel basically manipulated and sent people off on these different quests [testing the Fellowship with the mirror in Lothlórien] but ultimately left to themselves that quest [to destroy the ring] would have failed. Then you think of Shelob as almost the dark mirror to her, who actually had this minion that... if you think about it in a way, ultimately succeeded." 

It is admirable that a Monolith representative can unleash such amounts of PR sprinkled fan-fiction with what I presume was a straight face, but there are several problems with this.

MonolithMiddle-Earth: SHadow of WarMiddle-Earth: SHadow of War

First off, it's total BS. I would expect these amounts of mental gymnastics to justify a purely marketing induced design choice from, well - a marketing rep, but not from a member of Monolith, and the title of creative vice president does sound a little strange. Maybe I'm just incapable of drawing a parallel between a studio of engineers and artists with a national government.

Shelob's magical transformation has nothing to do with the lore and everything to do with marketing. Slapping a female face onto any piece of promotional material resonates with certain demographics, whether we would like to admit it or not, and WB's marketing people are well aware of that. Be it for titillation or goth-appeal, the new she-spider is here to stay.

It might just be my overactive imagination, but it also seems that lady Shelob is channelling Liv Tyler's Arwen from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Visually at least. Pale skin, long dark hair, a slow and deliberate manner to her movements, along with a certain haziness in the scenes where she is present - but those similarities are probably just superficial. Alternatively, WB may be trying to establish a visual link between Shadow of War and the movie trilogy in order to drawn in more potential customers.

WBMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War - Orc-sized loot boxesMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War - Orc-sized loot boxes

Luckily, I don't think anyone is really buying Monolith's explanation for their liberal interpretation of the lore, but it is unpleasant that WB and the studio would make such an attempt at justifying it. Add the shady way in which the game was announced or rather leaked; the recent claims of loot boxes being optional; and attempts to influence reviews a few years ago when Shadow of Mordor was released; on top of this silly attempt at spidery rationalisation, and you get the picture of a company treating its customers with a restrained measure of contempt.

I was looking forward to Shadow of War. Now, I'm just looking forward to the next pre-release blunder coming off of WB and Monolith. It might not hurt sales, but recent events sure have hurt my opinion of both companies.