Borderlands: Moxxi

I have two things to say about Borderlands related to the character of Moxxi, and they have basically no connection to one another except that they’re about Moxxi, so this is the Moxxi post.

The first is that Mad Moxxi’s Underdome sucks. It’s an arena DLC for the game where you fight off waves of enemies with steadily rising buffs to their HP and damage and so on, with randomized modifiers on the match like a certain type of gun doing more damage or everyone moving faster or enemies having regenerating health. The DLC is dogged by two problems: First, that finding the enemies in the arena can be a huge chore, and second, you don’t get any rewards worth caring about from it. There is no XP gain in the arena, enemies do not drop any loot, and while completing rounds does drop new guns, it’s a rate of 1 new gun per round and they’re not skewed especially strongly towards being any good. They do seem to be a minimum of green quality, i.e. not total trash, but at one gun per round, this isn’t nearly enough to make it worth the time. Coupled with how frustrating it is to actually find enemies and get into the fray, and the whole DLC is basically a bust except for introducing the character of Moxxi – but she gets a separate intro in the General Knoxx DLC anyway.

In a completely different game in the series, the Pre-Sequel, we learn that Moxxi is a mechanical wiz who talks with a redneck accent when “out of character.” As portrayed in the first two games, Moxxi is a show presenter/host who presents herself in a heavily flirtatious way with a healthy dose of apocalypse-glamor. She’s also the mother of Scooter, whose primary schtick is being a mechanical wiz, and you’d think they could’ve just let Scooter have all the mechanical wiz parts of the plot. Sure, that would mean the Pre-Sequel would have a lot of Scooter and not much Moxxi, but so what? Scooter’s a perfectly good character. Sure, I like Moxxi better and I imagine that’s a common opinion (half the point of Moxxi’s character is that she’s charming and charismatic, whereas Scooter is an obliviously crass redneck), but just because I like Moxxi doesn’t mean I like it when she’s wrenched out of character to do Scooter’s job.

They also could’ve used Janey Springs, although Janey’s not a particularly good character. She’s a junk dealer who lives out on the moon frontier with the scavs, and any time she’s sticking to that, she’s good, but unfortunately the game really wants her to be a gay disaster and is absolutely 100% clueless as to how to write that character. Whenever it portrays her interacting with men, it trips over itself to deliver Feminist Messages(tm), but then Moxxi’s exhaustion with Janey’s flirting suggest that either Janey is a sex pest who won’t take no for an answer or else Moxxi is a cruel gossip who doesn’t clearly communicate her lack of interest to Janey but talks bluntly about how much she despises Janey behind her back, and to random adventurers that Moxxi only met five minutes ago, no less.

Although, having written that, I realize that half the problems with Janey’s character are because the story spotlights Moxxi at her expense, and if we’re minimizing Moxxi’s presence in the story (or even cutting her completely), then that problem disappears. Touch up the writing on some of the other quests (the basic premise of her connection with Deadlift is fine, the joke just doesn’t land) and she’d be way better at Moxxi’s job in this story than Moxxi is.

It kind of feels like the Pre-Sequel writers were trying to make Moxxi a more complex character by giving her more than just her show presenter style? But if so, it was a failure. When we see Moxxi “out of character,” she’s still putting on a show. It’s just a show of being a redneck mechanic, like Scooter does. The presentation is much lower effort, because the showrunner Mad Moxxi persona is all about glamor and spotlight, that’s the whole job, whereas the Scooter’s Mom persona is about being grounded and competent, something you’d put on to inspire enough confidence in your mechanical skills to convince people to pay you to fix their truck, and then relying on your ability to actually fix trucks to turn that into repeat business. Or, outside a business environment, just angling your presentation towards how you like to fix trucks because you are proud enough of your truck fixing skills that you would like to lead with that. The mechanic persona directs people’s attention to a specific skill you’d like people to notice you have, whereas the showrunner persona directs people’s attention to the vivacious and fun-loving nature of the persona itself. A mechanic’s presentation is not the key skill to their business, but they do still have to get their game face on before going to work.

If you wanted to present Moxxi out of character just to make the point that her public-facing persona requires effortand can’t be maintained 24/7 (and I’m not even sure that’s the point of this rather than just lazily slapping an excuse for Moxxi to participate in the Pre-Sequel’s plot where she doesn’t othewise have a role, but assuming the point of the scene is actually that Moxxi’s persona can’t be on all the time), you don’t want to have her putting on another, lower-effort but equally focused persona. You want to show her in a hoodie and pajama pants trying to untangle a snarled schedule for next week’s fights or counting up income and expenses to see if putting in some new slot machines is a good idea or just watching Space Netflix to unwind, depending on whether you want to focus on how the Mad Moxxi persona requires behind-the-scenes effort or on how Moxxi is a regular person (I mean, she’d still be a Borderlands character, but Mad Moxxi is an exaggerated character even by the series’ standard) who has regular breaks and weekends and stuff between her performances.

Either one would’ve made Moxxi a much more interesting character with a twenty-second glimpse of her in a different model and voice than we’re used to seeing her with, exactly like we got in the Pre-Sequel as it is, but instead Moxxi seems even more unreal and cartoonish because she has this second, completely unrelated persona and skill set.

1 thought on “Borderlands: Moxxi”

  1. >Sure, that would mean the Pre-Sequel would have a lot of Scooter and not much Moxxi, but so what?

    Moxxi is an easily marketable sexy girl with a side of diversity, and Scooter’s notable presence is being a gag in the TellTales game. Where the gag is that he’s Cringe, White, and Man (and therefore a sex pest). Clearly, they are not the same.


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