On Rachel Amber
It took me so long to figure out how to put it into words, but after a lot of thinking, I finally understand what I love most about Rachel Amber. Despite being the one character who is liberally labelled “fake,” by many of the characters in-game, she is the realest character of them all.
In the minds of many of the students at Blackwell (and maybe even some of the teachers) she is perfect. They are able to have idealized perceptions of who Rachel Amber is because she is a genuinely good and accessible person. She is easy to feel comfortable around and easy to trust. She is intelligent and wise. She is well-loved for everything mentioned above, but she’s also chastised for it.
She’s well-loved, but it must be because she can easily manipulate them. She’s friendly and charismatic, but sometimes she’s not and it’s obviously because she’s fake. She beautiful, but she definitely uses that to take advantage of people. She’s exceedingly smart and gets good grades for it, but it wouldn’t have happened without her ability to charm teachers. Many flip flop when it comes to their opinion of her because, at some point, she didn’t fit their image of her and they can’t handle that.
Being labelled “perfect” and being put on a pedestal is NOT easy, especially for someone who feels anything but perfect. Rachel is easily one of the most misunderstood characters in-game. One line that really struck a chord with me was when she was talking to Chloe about David. She said, “You’re not a problem, Chloe. You’re a person.” I’d be amazed if she wasn’t also talking about herself in some way because I think she sees a lot of herself within Chloe. People perceive Chloe a certain way, despite not really knowing her at all. Like Chloe, when Rachel doesn’t appeal to people’s idea of her, she’s a problem.
Rachel is someone who is under tremendous pressure and is dealing with a difficult and complicated issue regarding her father. Her anger and grief is so intense that it manifests into physical outbursts. Like Chloe said, she gets smashy when she’s angry. That is such an important part of her character because it shatters all perception of the “perfect” Rachel Amber and allows us to see how fundamentally flawed she is. We can see that she’s a person.
When the viewfinder eats her quarter, she hits it in frustration because that’s just another thing gone wrong. When her worst fears are realized with her father, she lashes out because she’s devastated that the one person she trusted above all else would hurt her like this. When Chloe admits that what’s going on between them is special, she runs because it’s scary forming something so deep when it can end as quickly as it started. Someone who acts the way she acts is far from perfect, and that’s what makes her character so meaningful and so real.
Rachel is scared, angry, and heartbroken, just like any other teenager would be during one of the hardest parts of their lives. She doesn’t have things figured out, and she feels lost. She feels alone. She feels trapped. That’s why her feelings for Chloe are so intense so quickly. Like William said in Chloe’s dream, Rachel needs someone like her, someone who will accept her for who she really is.
Rachel is the type of person to pull someone from school out of the blue, take them somewhere, and just listen, understand, empathize with anything spoken about. There is much discussion on whether or not Rachel has some sort of supernatural power like Max does, but honestly, her realest and most potent ability is the power of empathy. She has a deep understanding of people and how they work, but that does not make her a master manipulator. In fact, she is far from one. Rachel uses her understanding for good, to be there for people when they need her the most. But she’s hurting too, and what she needs the most is for someone to understand her.
Honestly, this could tank like the ending of the first Life is Strange, but I deeply hope that Rachel will get the story she deserves. And tbh, I doubt I could play the first LiS again knowing what happens to her. She’s freed from Arcadia Bay, but in the cruelest way possible. She deserves a lot more than that, and for the final two episodes, I really, truly hope she gets the love and care she needs.