View Full Version : GLaDOS: what's her angle? [Portal spoilers]

Flame of Anor
2009-07-14, 12:41 PM
Let's get some good theorizing now on what her motivations are, what the backstory is, and what the heck happened at the end.

My (incomplete) theory: the whole thing, including Chell's "destruction" of her, was part of GLaDOS's experiment. GLaDOS backed herself up on the memory cores in the basement with the cake and the WCC that we see for a moment. Chell was the first subject to pass the test; the others couldn't figure out the puzzles (and starved to death?) or were incinerated at the end or killed by turrets.

Unexplained parts:
*what was the test for--was GLaDOS maybe training Chell for something outside?
*why did the violent portal incident occur at the end?
*where did the Rat Man (the one who wrote on the walls) come from?
*how does GLaDOS do maintenance?
*why did GLaDOS kill the original laboratory staff?
*how long ago was that?
*if she actually did kill them, why did she have a morality core?
*did she actually have a morality core, or was it all a trick?
*if she actually didn't, where is everyone?
*what kind of cake has "sediment-shaped sediment" as an ingredient, anyway?

Miss Nobody
2009-07-14, 12:57 PM
The Portal Wild Mass Guessing page (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WMG/Portal) on TVTropes contains a whole lot of theories.

2009-07-14, 06:39 PM
This (http://www.game-ism.com/2008/04/04/still-alive-shes-free/) is one of the better theories. The updates at the end of the article are equaly important.

2009-07-14, 10:07 PM
Not really. The imprisonment motif I can understand, but speculating that Chell is getting repeatedly cloned is exactly that -- speculation.

Portal is one of those games that just paints the setting in wide impressionistic strokes and tries to keep it down to a lyrical beauty. It's about minimalism. Extra what-if's and details are secondhand to GlaDOS's pathos.

The story is straightforward:
GLaDOS is her own prisoner, bound to execute the same experimental protocols over-and-over again even though they've long ago lost any meaning. She's a broken machine bound to the force of her programming (i.e. destiny).

The experiments are originally intended to be a social experiment, of sorts, to see what the full potential of this technology could be. GLaDOS simply broke in the head one day. Morality core or not, it simply wasn't enough (and it's implied that it was a hasty stopgap measure).

Because GLaDOS was never really human, her understanding of social graces are confined entirely to those skill sets that she needs to function as an all-powerful lab technician. And it's the only role that she understands. She doesn't value human life the way she values her purpose; even losing sight of the fact that the gun is useless without anybody around to actually use the "finished product." Even going to lengths to slaughter her keepers to prevent them from disrupting her work.

Offering cake is just a broken and pathetic attempt at communication. She doesn't understand humans very much beyond the notion of a simple pain/pleasure impulse. Being destroyed by Chell is simply a bewildering act of betrayal. It's incomprehensible because GLaDOS did everything right; according to proper protocols.

GLaDOS breaks down in a clingy fit in the final "boss fight" as she hysterically gives rationalizations that Chell needs her. The cruel reality is simply that GLaDOS actually needs Chell, not the other way around, because Chell gives GLaDOS all the meaning and purpose in her life.

Tangentially, the Companion Cube references the fact that humans can become attached to inanimate objects. This is ironic because the love is unreciprocated and the product of delusion; much like GLaDOS's broken relationship to the protagonist. GLaDOS's purpose and social interaction lacks any wider context and the AI is completely absorbed with herself.

2009-07-14, 10:51 PM
Lurker, that is an immensely better written description of what I was going to say, plus a few extra bits...

I don't really buy all the epileptic trees about secret plots og GLaDOS and cloning and all that...

Flame of Anor
2009-07-15, 04:53 AM
After reading the sites (thanks a lot, by the way) I am completely convinced of the theory that GLaDOS is intentionally made to look like a woman in suspension bondage, and that this is meant to imply that she feels imprisoned and wants Chell to free her by destroying...whatever is in that room.

Whereas game-ism thinks that the freedom is death, I don't think that follows. I think that the freedom is from some limitation imposed by the machine we see (I'm guessing it's her original body that she has expanded out of)--the freedom to do science how she likes, perhaps? I think she really is being "so sincere right now" in the final song.

I also agree with the idea that GLaDOS loves Chell in a weird computer way. There seems to be some disagreement between the "maternal" and "lesbian" factions, but I really don't think those apply. GLaDOS couldn't possibly come close to sex or maternity--with a person, anyway. (And I just don't buy the "Chell is an android...that bleeds...that uses a toilet...that breathes..." theory.) So a general type of love--or a brand new type--is what applies here. And the "only thing you've broken so far is my heart", I agree, applies to Chell not realizing that GLaDOS loves her.

Also, I think it is plausible to think that Chell is the daughter of an employee...ooh! Possibly-new theory! I suggest that all the daughters were in a separate room, having a party with cake, when the neurotoxin hit; GLaDOS put them in stasis and is using them as test subjects. GLaDOS patterned her human interactions on experience of them, and the turret AI's are modified copies of, or based on, their mindprints.

As for the wilder theories (the EII is actually a portal to Android Hell, all the subjects are clones of GLaDOS, etc.) I simply quote Sherlock Holmes when I say, "It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts."