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Trevor is the first GTA character that makes sense


Some very minor spoilers ahead, but nothing major to the plot of GTA 5!

What sane person could ever identify with Trevor Phillips? He's a balding, creepy-eyed goon, liable to ruin a stranger's life if he doesn't outright kill them on the spot. Trevor's a modern-day Caligula, prone to violent outbursts in one moment and deviant sex acts in the next, oftentimes combining them into an extravaganza of obscene debauchery. He flies in the face of every Grand Theft Auto antihero that's come before him, what with his complete inability to control his hedonistic urges in the presence of criminal kingpins. And yet, in creating Trevor, Rockstar has finally crafted a character who's in line with the spirit of the GTA franchise.

Think about the way you play GTA--particularly the first time you ever laid hands on it. Did you purchase a car, drive on the right side of the road, and yield to pedestrians? No. You carjacked some poor schlub, then started doing 90mph on the sidewalk, mowing over civilians like weeds in a yard. People have a pattern to how they've christened every entry in the GTA series: find a save point, then wreak utter havoc. First, you shoot random civilians to gain some Wanted level. Then, perhaps after activating some GTA cheats, you murder the first-response cops that show up. You want to see how many Wanted stars you can rack up before you're finally shot down in a blaze of anarchic glory.

That's part of the freedom of GTA's sandbox: the power to be as notorious a criminal as you want. Problem is, no one would ever actually act like that--least of all GTA's protagonists. Niko Bellic's immigration was meant to wipe his moral slate clean. Tommy Vercetti wouldn't piss away his budding drug empire in a down-and-dirty firefight. Carl Johnson just wants to keep his friends and family in one piece. Claude Speed might be a psychopathic mute--but he's barely a character at all. So when story-progressing missions force us to perform horrible acts of violence, it doesn't feel plausible. There's a palpable disconnect between the words and actions of these street-smart up-and-comers. None of these characters could realistically have an honor-among-thieves conscious in a cutscene, then gun down hundreds of living people in the subsequent mission.

But as Trevor, it makes sense. He's a wildcard; a bipolar maniac that will act on any erratic emotion. After falling off the radar following GTA 5's opening vignette, we get the pleasure of reacquainting ourselves with Trevor when he's balls deep in another man's meth-addicted girlfriend. And what does Trevor do when said man gets upset at this affair? He stomps the guy's head into a pink paste with the heel of his boot. It's believable that Trevor would start a shootout on a whim--hence the various Rampage missions scattered throughout Los Santos. There's no behavioral dissonance when he runs over a bystander and doesn't care. He's the kind of lunatic who would crash his car at high speeds just for fun, laughing as he flies through the windshield and skids across the pavement. Everything you do while playing a GTA game lines up perfectly with Trevor's personality.

Compare him to Michael and Franklin. Sure, Michael is in definite need of some anger management--but in his heart, he's a level-headed family man who's addicted to the thrill of thievery. So why would he slaughter local policemen when they pull up to the scene of a heist? Franklin wants a better life for himself, even if it's funded by crime--but he's constantly criticizing Lamar's affinity for glorified gang violence. Michael and Franklin steal cars and shoot cops as the regrettable means to a morally defensible end. Trevor does these things because he feels like it.

It took 16 years and 12 primary entries in the series, but Rockstar has at last created a character that aligns with the player's modus operandi. It's not that Rockstar thinks its audience is full of gnarly, deranged psychopaths--for satire on the gaming community, look no further than Michael's son Jimmy. Trevor's existence isn't a commentary on any group of people--he's just the first logical fit to the way people have been playing GTA games for the past decade. He lives like his actions have no consequences, because this is a game, and they actually don't.

Once you come to terms with that, you'll find that it's a lot easier to like Trevor. Yes, he's constantly abusing the only people that care about him--but he's the product of a rough childhood that left him with severe abandonment issues and an inclination to distrust anyone he meets. Trevor's always boasting that he's the only honest person in a place like Vinewood, and in some ways, he's right--he'll never hide behind a façade or be afraid to speak his mind. Trevor doesn't like bullies and phonies--and when he's not overcome by rage or high on methamphetamines, he really doesn't seem to like himself all that much either. He has the brain of a child and the neural synapses of a drug fiend, so forgive him for some destructive temper tantrums, indecent exposure, or unsolicited proclamations of true love every once in a while. Trevor just can't seem to help himself.

So the next time you hire a hooker in a GTA game, then murder her post-coitus to get your money back, ask yourself: Does this make any sense? Would my character actually do this? As Trevor, the answer is yes. Anyone else is just the puppet of your morbid curiosity. A world full of Trevors would be an awful place to exist, full of barbarism and random acts of sodomy. But as one of the stars of a Grand Theft Auto game, Trevor's the perfect fit.

35 comments

  • rodrigo-cid-campeador - February 9, 2014 2:40 p.m.

    I agree with most of this post, but when it comes to Tommy Vercetti...dude, he had more or less the profile of a psycho, he showed basically no emotion during the whole game. The difference between him and Trevor is that Tommy was more machiavelic in nature: he didnt necesarily enjoyed murdering, but felt no problem towards it whatsoever, it was just a means towards an end, no matter how trivial it was. So watching him shooting prostitutes to get his money back or killing people with his car just so he doesnt need to wait for the red light wouldnt be something too weird after all. If you wanna complain about a character in particular, I have two words for you: Vic Vance. I mean, a nice family guy who got into the army to help his brother with his sickness and who dislikes both drugs and gang members suddenly turning into a drug factory owner who can mow over people just for the kicks? THAT doesnt make any sense.
  • thelegendaryX - April 15, 2014 7:49 p.m.

    But, it doesn't have to "make sense".
  • thelegendaryX - December 24, 2013 5:38 p.m.

    (No. I can do better.) Trevor's both the worst protagonist and the worst idea in general in the GTA series. And I don't just say that because I view him as a pathetic, amoral loser with no self-control (so he cannot possibly qualify as a badass, in my book), nor is it just because he's fugly! I can't stand him because I hate the idea that the protagonist's personally in cutscenes must match the typical GTA gamer's sporadically violent behavior (mowing down pedestrians on the sidewalk, shooting them down just for kicks, etc.) for the game to "make sense". There is a bit of that mindset going on with the other characters too, but the argument is primarily made to explain Trevor. Not only is this an entirely made up out of the blue ideal in this genre and in the GTA series, but it seems as though Rockstar couldn't just make Trevor's personality adhere to this in-sandbox behavior on the part of the player; they also had to make it so the player's in-sandbox behavior adhered to the protagonists' personalities. Two examples of that being the fact that what radio stations you can listen to depend in part on whether you're playing as Trevor, and the fact that (according to gameinformer), they chose not to put dating in GTA 5 specifically because of "the nature of the characters". F*** "the nature of the characters"! I am the character when we're in the open world in between missions! If I wanna listen to the rap station while playing as Trevor, I should be able to! If I wanna date, I should be able to do that also. Nothing is worth taking away the player's freedom while just roaming about. Nothing. If a particular character seems to demand that the player isn't allowed to do x, that character needs to be changed or removed. Rockstar owes a lot to the concept of freedom in the open world (namely the success of the entire GTA series). For them to turn their back on it now is truly despicable. /rant.
  • thelegendaryX - April 4, 2014 3:39 p.m.

    Re-reading this post, I realize this implies you're not able to listen to rap AT ALL while playing as Trevor. That's not how I meant it, I was just using that part where he changes the station as an example and got carried away, lol. But I do blame the stupid story and characters' personalities for me not being able to choose my own frickin' default radio station in general!
  • thelegendaryX - December 22, 2013 6:34 p.m.

    Ummm, no. Trevor's a loser, like the other two but worse. And I never wanted to play a loser in my GTA games, sorry. Plus, he's an immersion breaker. One time, I got so tired of him changing the f***in' radio station on me that I put him in the hospital. Tommy and C.J. were (and apparently will always be) the best GTA protagonists ever.
  • CGF4LIFE - April 4, 2014 3:21 p.m.

    Your argument is invalid. You say he's a loser but don't say why. I understand you don't like him changing the radio but the only reason anyone plays as Trevor is so you can go on random rampages without feeling guilty.
  • thelegendaryX - April 4, 2014 3:35 p.m.

    Well I posted a huge rant just above the comment you're replying to here, addressing this nonsensical notion of "feeling guilty" so I'll leave that argument alone. I didn't actually think it needed explaining, why Trevor is a loser. Look at the way he acts! He's bonkers, totally out of control and unhappy. I would say that he is every bit as miserable as the others, he just acts out in anger as his way of dealing with it. I don't want that! I want a protagonist who has his shit together! They put three protagonists in this game. THREE! They could've given me ONE cool, calm, and collected character to play as. And don't tell me Franklin is, because he definitely does not have his shit together either. Idk, I know a lot of people don't like me dissing their favorite new game, but I'm saddened by the direction GTA has taken. I know you're not supposed to LOOK UP to any of the protagonists they've had, but I would like some redeeming qualities in the people I play, in this genre of video games. I don't want to play a loser in GTA, I just don't.
  • nekluvshp - November 21, 2013 4:33 p.m.

    I LOOOOOOOVE Trevor! I signed into my Rockstar social club profile for the first time yesterday to find out that 45% of my play time has been as Trevor. lol
  • Arysta - September 30, 2013 3:33 p.m.

    I really liked this article. Far more interesting than run of the mill reviews. Keep stuff like this coming!
  • Jet - September 30, 2013 2:41 a.m.

    I dont like trevir
  • N7Spartan95 - September 29, 2013 6:27 a.m.

    I'm probably one of the only people on the face of the planet that actually obeys traffic laws in GTA V, which is something that blows my friends' minds. Usually I stop at red lights and drive on the right side of the road unless traffic really sucks and I feel like going around, or unless it's the middle of a mission where I have to chase someone or get away from the cops. I just feel like Michael and Franklin aren't the type who'd drive around like maniacs or perform crime or murder on a whim. When they do perform illegal acts, they usually have a reason for doing so, and going around rampaging as them would ruin my perceptions of their characters. As Trevor, however, I cease to give a flying fuck about rules. Though I still treat pedestrians more as obstacles than bowling pins, I can drive recklessly guilt-free and do crimes without feeling that bad about it. Security truck with money just popped up? Rob that bitch. Thief just ran off with some dude's money? Kill him and keep the money for myself. Accidently ran over a pedestrian? Zero fucks given. All this just strikes me as stuff Trevor would do because he's a grade-A psychopath, and much like the Joker, that makes him an enjoyable character. I haven't really gone on any classic GTA killing sprees yet since I've been busy doing the main story, but once I'm done with said story and I do decide to do that, I'll play as Trevor.
  • FlawlessXBL - October 21, 2013 5:39 p.m.

    And i thought i was the only who obeyed traffic laws in the GTA series...
  • CitizenWolfie - September 28, 2013 8:46 a.m.

    I like to think that Trevor is a nod to the very first couple of GTA games. I see Michael as the modern face of GTA (despite his stuck-in-the-past personality) and Franklin as the face of the PS2 generation GTA games. But Trevor reminds me of exactly what I used to do back in GTA1 - wreak havoc on the streets without consequence or conscience. I didn't even realise there were missions in the original GTA until I'd been playing for about a week. Franklin is my favourite character though. I think it's because his reasons for wanting to rise above being a gangbanger are very understandable given his scumbag friends and family.
  • JakePPetersen - September 28, 2013 7:29 a.m.

    Great article. I love Trevor. I've found myself playing as a crazier person when I'm Trevor specifically because of this phenomenon (especially in the Merryweather ship heist, where I chose the most destructive option because that's what I thought Trevor would do in that situation). I love his dialogue and just how insane he is, and I always prefer to play his missions over any one else.
  • rajendra-gondhalekar - September 27, 2013 10:41 p.m.

    Trevor cracks me up. His best line so far was uttered to Franklin's aunt in a throwaway mission, where he hands her $7.
  • CrazyB - September 28, 2013 4:56 a.m.

    I think he said, 'I said buy something NICE, not something expensive!'
  • BubDot - September 27, 2013 8:50 p.m.

    WILD CARD BITCHES!
  • Jacko415 - September 27, 2013 11:02 p.m.

    Winning comment. On a side note: "Dayman... OH AAAH OOOH. Fighter of the Nightman... OH AAAAH OOOH."
  • niederman - September 27, 2013 7:22 p.m.

    was totally thinking this ever since i got to play as trevor everything i do is cannon it feels like this is why i free roam EXCLUSIVELY as trevor it doesnt break immersion in the slightest
  • Chimy - September 27, 2013 2:12 p.m.

    My best friend told me the other day that he "identify so much with trevor... his agressiviness, his determination". I told him that was insane and creepy as fuck

Showing 1-20 of 35 comments

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