Voice actress and singer Kate Higgins, in a recent interview with Game Informer, spoke about some of her previous roles and quite a bit about Super Mario Odyssey. Higgins voices Pauline, Mayor of New Donk City who moonlights as a pop star, as both the character's commercial and in-game voices. Higgins got the role after a friend at Cup of Tea studio asked if she was interested in singing a song for a Nintendo game. Higgins auditioned, got the role, and the rest is pretty much history.
When GI asked Higgins if she also voiced Pauline during her in-game dialogue, they got a bit of an interesting response that wasn't ever properly followed up on.
The exchange between GI and Higgins is below:
She doesn't do much speaking in the game, but do you play Pauline's in-game voice as well?
Yes I do! Apparently it's a pretty big deal because she's never spoken before. It's really an honor, and exciting to give her a voice.
And the reason why that is interesting is because Pauline is pretty much the archetype of the damsel-in-destress as far as video games go. In the first Mario game (which was actually the original Donkey Kong), it was Pauline and not Peach who you were rescuing. And of course, because Pauline was quickly written out of the Mario narrative before video games started to include things like spoken dialogue, we've never heard Pauline speak.
But if you actually go back and play the first Donkey Kong, you'll notice she doesn't have a single line of text dialogue.
Which means, after 36 years, Pauline finally has a chance to even speak in a video game. It is most limited amount of agency, but finally Pauline is given the ability to express herself for the first time since 1981.
Yeah, that's pretty depressing. And an absurdly longstanding injustice, right? Pauline, more so than even Peach, was literally just a plot point. Just an object to be fought over by men and giant apes. And its only in 2017 that we give her the chance to even say a damn word.
So kudos to Higgins for giving Pauline a voice after almost four decades.
And let's not forget, Odyssey's Pauline is THE Mayor, because that's one hell of a patriarchy-smashing comeback.