Birdo, as seen in Mario Party 9.
|First game||Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988) (Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic)|
|Voiced by (English)||Jessica Chisum (2000)
Jen Taylor (2001)
Kazumi Totaka (2003–present)
Jeannie Elias (The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Jun Donna, Rika, and Akemi (BS Super Mario USA)|
Birdo, known in Japan as Catherine (キャサリン Kyasarin?), is a fictional character in the Mario franchise, who first appeared in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which was localized for English audiences as Super Mario Bros. 2 as an enemy to Mario. Since her appearance, Birdo has been a recurring character in the spin-off titles of the main series, often depicted as an antagonist, but later depicted as an ally to the good. Birdo has also made several cameos, particularly in the Mario Kart series and the Japan-only Wii video game Captain Rainbow.
The original manual for Super Mario Bros. 2 asserts that Birdo is a Vadim (boy) who believes that he is a girl, and would rather be referred to as "Birdetta". Later releases of Super Mario Bros. 2 lacked any mention of her gender in either the game or the manual. Nintendo eventually established Birdo as female, first in Mario Tennis which depicted Birdo and Yoshi as boyfriend and girlfriend. However, several games portray her as male, such as Captain Rainbow, or refer to the gender confusion without assigning one, such as in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It has been suggested that Birdo is a post-op transsexual by transsexual video game developer Jennifer Reitz, while Wired editor Chris Kohler felt that it was a way of retconning her transgender status.
Birdo has mixed reception for her role in the Mario series. Birdo has made several appearances in other media, including the Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, as well as promotional material such as figurines.
Concept and creation
Birdo is a pink, anthropomorphic creature who wears a red bow on her head, and has a round mouth that can fire eggs as projectiles. Birdo also wears a large diamond ring on her finger. In the early version of Birdo, the character had an orange tone. Birdo's name was mistakenly switched with another Super Mario Bros. 2 enemy, Ostro, both in the manual and in the end credits. The mistake persisted in the version of Super Mario Bros. 2 included in the Super Mario All-Stars compilation, but was corrected in the Game Boy Advance re-release titled Super Mario Advance.
Since the character's North American introduction, Birdo's gender has been an issue of discussion and speculation. The Japanese manual states the character's name is "Catherine", but it would rather be known as "Cassie." However, in the first edition manual for the North American release of Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo is referred to as a male who believes he is female and would rather be called "Birdetta". In later printings, the second sentence was omitted, and no mention of Birdo being male was included in most later games featuring the character. In the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Birdo, called Catherine, is described similarly to the original manual, though wanting to be called "Cathy". In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it is said that Birdo is of "indeterminate gender". Birdo appears in the Wii Japan-only video game Captain Rainbow, which delves into Birdo's gender. Birdo is often lauded as the first transgender video game character. The character was given a female voice actor in Super Mario Advance, a remake of Super Mario Bros. 2. The Spanish language website for Mario Smash Football, while describing Birdo, suggests that the character's gender is indeterminate. The European website for Mario Strikers Charged Football refers to Birdo as a male character.
In Mario Tennis and Super Mario Advance (a remake of Super Mario Bros. 2), the character was given a high pitched female voice provided by Jen Taylor. However, in Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, Birdo uses a muttering noise which has been used in subsequent games.
In video games
Birdo first appeared in the Family Computer Disk System video game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic and its Western Nintendo Entertainment System conversion Super Mario Bros. 2 as a boss. The Super Mario Advance remake of Super Mario Bros. 2 features a large robotic version of Birdo called "Robirdo". Birdo/Catherine was prominently featured in the cut-scenes for the Japan-only, Satellaview pseudo-sequel of Super Mario USA (Japanese title for the western version of Super Mario Bros. 2), known as BS Super Mario USA. In this version, three "Super Catherines" were voice-acted by Jun Donna (Pink, described as "slightly mischievous"), Rika (Red, "whose finances are always in the red"), and Akemi (Green, described as "cultured and affluent"). The voices were that of gay men or transgender women.[not in citation given] A Japanese advertisement for Super Mario USA also showed a costumed actor as Catherine lounging on a bed, with a low male voice.
Since the character's appearance in Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo has made several cameo appearances, including an early one teaching players the rules of the video game Wario's Woods. Throughout Wario's Woods, Birdo's main role consisted of being the helper to Toad as Birdo provided encouragement to him as Toad attempted to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Wario's clutches. Aside from her brief appearance in Wario's Woods, she has not entered any other Mario mainstream game since Super Mario Bros. 2.
Birdo has made frequent appearances in later Mario spin-off games, including Mario Tennis and Mario Golf, first appearing in the Mario sports games with the Nintendo 64 Mario Tennis. Though, Birdo was to be included in the Virtual Boy video game Mario's Tennis. Birdo also made her first appearance in the Mario Kart series in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. In both of the above-mentioned titles, Yoshi acts as her partner. Birdo is an unlockable character in Mario Kart Wii. Birdo has also made appearances in the Mario Party series, first appearing in Mario Party 7. Birdo also makes appearances in multiple Mario role-playing games, including Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars as a minor boss in Valentina's castle and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga as a decoy for Princess Peach, and later Popple's rookie partner. Recently, Birdo appeared in the Wii video game Captain Rainbow, which makes reference to the gender non-conformity. Birdo appeared in both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl in the form of collectible items (known as trophies). Birdo has also appeared in Mario Superstar Baseball for Nintendo GameCube and Mario Super Sluggers and Mario Strikers Charged for Wii.
Birdo has appeared several times in promotional items, including figurines, plush toys, and other collectibles such as a chess set. A mother Birdo was featured in the episode "The Bird! The Bird!" of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, kidnapping Toad due to being nearsighted, and believing Toad to be her lost son Cheepy. "Birdo", the first track of Horse the Band's album The Mechanical Hand, heavily references the character.
Birdo has received mostly mixed reception. 1UP.com editor Jeremy Parish described her as a favourite among fans. IGN editor Lucas M. Thomas called her the "transgender question mark", stating that Birdo was nearly as recognized as Yoshi in the Mario sports and racing games. GamePro editor "The Watcher" praised the roster of Mario Superstar Baseball, commenting that while "well-known" characters like Princess Peach and Yoshi make appearances, so do "lesser-known" characters such as Birdo and Dry Bones. Fellow GamePro editor "The D-Pad Destroyer" called Birdo "everyone's favorite".
In the book Life on the screen: identity in the age of the Internet, author Sherry Turkle uses the pattern Birdo uses in boss battles as an example of something that, while complex, sustains the sense of a reassuring, rule-based world. In Prima's Official Strategy Guide for Super Mario Advance, author Bryan Stratton describes Birdo as the hardest-working boss in video games due to her appearing more than a dozen times as a boss in Super Mario Bros. 2. N-Sider editor Anthony JC commented that Birdo was a "pushover" compared to the other bosses in Super Mario Bros. 2. GameDaily editor Chris Buffa listed her as one of the most unappreciated Nintendo characters, commenting that Birdo had appeared across web sites "in less-than-flattering articles". Official Nintendo Magazine listed her as one of the "unsung heroes" amongst the Mario series, stating that while "Birdo does get more exposure than the other characters in this section (he's showed up in a few Mario spin-offs), but she/he's still not as popular as we'd like." In a poll by Official Nintendo Magazine on its users, Birdo tied for eighth-best female character on a Nintendo platform along with Midna and Kazooie. In their article about it, they express confusion at her being voted in. UGO Networks listed Birdo as the 20th "unsexiest sexy video game characters", questioning whether or not the various sexual features, such as her "O face", were supposed to be arousing. Birdo was ranked the ninth ugliest female video game character by ScrewAttack, who described her as resembling a "retarded anteater". ScrewAttack also listed Birdo as one of 15 reasons why they "hate" Super Mario Bros. 2, claiming that they still have no idea exactly what Birdo is. Games.net placed Birdo at #8 of their "Top Ten Disturbingly Sexual Game Characters" list. GameDaily listed Birdo as one of the 10 worst Mario characters, stating that "if Birdo wants to dress like a chick, all power to him. Eggs from the mouth, however... that's nasty."
Wired editor Chris Kohler described her as well as other characters from Captain Rainbow as "forgettable". IGN editor John Tanaka found Birdo to be one of the more enjoyable guest characters in Captain Rainbow, associating his enjoyment with developer Skip's plot, which involves crossdressing and toilet humour. In an article on MTV Multiplayer discussing the best birds in video games, Birdo tied for second place with the chickens from Chicken Run. MTV Multiplayer editor Jason Cipriano questioned why Birdo and fellow Super Mario Bros. 2 enemy Shy Guy have been included in so many spin-off titles in the Mario series, commenting that they both "kinda suck", but enemies such as Wart and Mouser do not.
Birdo has been the subject of discussion relating to her gender identity. Gamasutra editor Simon Carless described Birdo as "infamously gender-confused". It is speculated by Wired editor Chris Kohler that the gender issue was retconned to make her female, while Reitz suggests that she underwent a sex change operation. In the book Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time, the authors describe Birdo as the most notable character in Super Mario Bros. 2 due to being the first transgender character in video games. GamesRadar editor Chris Antista has discussed Birdo in several articles. He listed Birdo #1 in his top seven "That's a Dude?!" game characters. He cited her bow, mascara, her being pink, and her being able to lay eggs as the identifying features of Birdo being female, while using the manual insert as the sole evidence to her being male. In the article "10 things you didn't know about Super Mario Bros 2," Antista listed Birdo's gender confusion, stating that the revelation was similar to when "lead singer of Judas Priest came out to a legion homophobic metalheads dressed to the nines in skin tight leather left wondering if their dicks will fall off." He also picked her as his first gaming crush, commenting that he worried that he would be outed once he read about her gender confusion in the manual.
In his article "Too Gay for the U.S.A.", Andrew Webster of The Escapist used the history of Birdo in the lead-in to his article, commenting on how Nintendo tried to hide Birdo's gender confusion, and how "He's just one of a long line of Japanese videogame characters forced to hide their true sexual identity". GamesRadar UK listed Birdo as one of "gaming's most repelling anti-babes", describing her as a "pink, egg blowing, transvestite dinosaur with a mouth like a burst fire hose," thereby describing her as "terrifying". Morgan Webb of X-Play created a video titled "Birdo WTF", commenting that everyone initially thought of Birdo as a "cute little dinosaur". She also describes her as a very feminine male character if she really is a transgender. Nintendo Power listed Birdo as one of three weirdos, citing her change from being male to being a love interest for Yoshi. They described her gender as one of life's biggest questions, commenting on how she shoots eggs out of her mouth as another oddity. IGN editor Lucas M. Thomas commented in his article about Yoshi that Birdo "almost worthy of a whole other article", stating that she is "the most gender-confused character in the history of Nintendo". He commented on the relationship Yoshi and Birdo formed in Mario Tennis, stating that "Yoshi is supposedly a male, but lays eggs like a female. Birdo is supposedly a female, but was originally called a male, much like Yoshi. And now the two of them are a romantic couple? They were both sexually chaotic as individuals – this new pairing just made your head hurt thinking about it."
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