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Random Ponder on Women in Final Fantasy

I've seen some angstfic where female characters in FF games are denied the role they crave because of their gender. You know, the "I have to be a nun, because they wouldn't let me a be a crusader" or "I'm a swordswoman and I'm going against the grain, so there!" type angst.

On the one hand, the game mechanics of Final Fantasy games tend to have built-in gender roles and stereotypes. Except for Paine and Girl Power which were cheapened by Tits and Ass and Barbie Dress-up, there's a running trend in which the guys run over and go ka-SLASH for a zillion points of damage with a sword, while most of the gals apart from Tifa go *dainty dink* for 10 points of damage, and may wipe their foreheads in relief as their battle victory move (Aeris, Rinoa, Yuna in FFX). The girls tend to be magic users and healers (not always, but more often) while the guys tend to be fighters.

Plus there's the whole Evil Sorceress thing in one form or another. (Yunalesca, Ultimecia, Jenova.)

And yet.

Have you seen how many female crusaders there are? There's Lucil and Elma, Miyu. Lady Yocun was a Crusader-- I just discovered this, whoops, so much for my high priestess idea -- and so, I assume, was her Guardian who became the Sin that Braska defeated.

There's plenty of female Seeds. There's Elena. I haven't played enough FF to know if this is true for all the games, but it seems to me that while the main female characters tend to fall into traditional healer/sorceress/thief/non-heavy-combat roles (usually, not always), and the fighters and world leaders are usually guys, the military organizations seem pretty gender-neutral.

I'm not sure about this, I'm just thinking how we sometimes assume prejudices and pitfalls of our own cultures which don't necessarily exist in the FF worlds.

Or at least it's a little more complicated.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2006 06:08 am (UTC)
FFIX also has a number of blade-using women in both major and minor roles (Freya is a main party character and fights with a lance, Beatrix and Lani are both sword-wielding villians, and there may be others that I've forgotten). And one of the FFV party characters is a female pirate. Quistis and Selphie are pretty tough fighters as well. As a whole, I'd say the FF games are not nearly as bad with the stereotypes as they could be. It looks like the main character of FF 13 is going to be a kick-ass gun-toting woman, and I'm very interested to see how that will work out.

But I agree, I think we do tend to bring our own cultural assumptions about men and women into the stories we write. It's hard not to, given how deeply they're beaten in to us.
Jun. 9th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm pretty sure Lani used an AXE. XD
Jun. 9th, 2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
Even better! :D
Jun. 8th, 2006 10:20 am (UTC)
Terra Branford and Celes Chere from Final Fantasy VI were both sword and magic users, the latter was even a General from the Empire. We used to have more classes in the earlier FFs, and somehow it got cut down when it went on to VII, it seems.
Jun. 8th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)
Hey, just Random Q. Person who's wandered over from ficwad (in a round-about way) here.

Although I agree with almost everything you said here, I just had to break away from my original plan of taking a quick look around your LJ and then creeping away quietly to defend Rinoa when I saw you put her in with Aeris and Yuna.

Don't get her role in the plot as Little Miss Kidnapped/Endangered A Lot confused with her actual fighting abilities. In her case, if she's that much weaker than the guys it's because of the player choosing to junction her in a way that makes that happen. And I don't mean that in a "all characters become almost exactly the same stat-wise if you mess the system!" way, otherwise I'd be bringing up Yuna being as good as everyone else if you push her through a fighters path on the sphere grid. I mean that she actually should be right up there with the guys; Rinoa's natural strength stat (when you unjunction them, and if you haven't been giving people the strength bonus ability) is far and away the highest of any character's in the game. Zell, the next strongest down, only has a strength stat of 59 at level 100, while Rinoa's is 78.

It's a shame that the plot made her into a victim, since if she's lived up to the kick-ass possibility suggested by her stats I think she'd have been a Final Fantasy love interest that everyone would've been glad to embrace.
Jun. 8th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
Believe me, I adore Rinoa -- and it was embarrassing to me that I enjoyed "rescuing" her on a few occasions, indulging my Utena-like Prince streak -- so it annoyed me having her get damsel'd quite so much. Also there's that finishing move where she seems to go "phew, we made it!" instead of, BWAH, I KICK ASS. I get frustrated by the body language of the female characters. (Lulu's tits-jiggle. EXCUSE ME? She should stand there looking smug and disdainful.)

I realize after pondering this subject more that I have no firm conclusions, other than the fact that I need to play IX and enjoy the strong female characters there. It seems to be nuanced. It seems not to be cut-and-dried. It seems to vary by game. And more recent games are making some conscious attempts to buck stereotypes for both men and women. (Hooray, Isaaru! Except in X-2, where you went weird on us.)

At the risk of repeating myself, all I'm thinking here is:

~ Hey, wait a minute, we can't write fanfic where some female character's excluded from a military organization like the Turks, SeeDs, or Crusaders, because there's plenty of evidence that women rise to power in these organizations.

~ Which means that these Final Fantasy cultures may not be as sexist.

~ Except that there's an awfully high proportion of female characters with a) "dink! I do no physical damage!" b) "I am a damsel in distress and need to be rescued!" and/or c) "I am nervous and unsure of myself!" compared to the male main chcaracters.

~ The women tend to be the healers, thieves, or mages, the boys tend to wave swords, spears, or punch things. But this is a trend, not an absolute.

~ Political and party leaders are usually male. (Rufus, Mika, Seymore, the president-in-8-whose-name-escapes-me, General Martine, Cid...)

~ The "evil witch/sorceress/slut wearing buttfloss" (okay, they don't usually have the buttfloss) archetype is alive and well.

Yet on the whole, despite the above items, I fall back on, "Hey cool! Instructor Trepe." And the like. And I'm looking forward to seeng XIII.

You know what will be a real revolution?

When the poor guys wind up being able to do as many different things as the women. We're starting to be allowed to have women who are bad-tempered without being considered bitches, or who happen to wield swords and beat the snot out of things. We're starting to have women who don't particularly need rescuing every disk, and are competent. I'm not advocating male characters who make a career of being wusses in distress -- though it might be kind of cute, in a Vaniel way, sooner or later -- but rather... the small wirey guy who's a cute little thief, or the gentle quiet one who's a healer, or the artist/bard type who wins people to his side and keeps the party's morale up by being an extraordinary decent chap, even if he's not much of a fighter. (Okay, there was Laguna. He was also referred to as a "moron".) Or, heck, a wizard who can't do any physical damage. Or a thinker who's not a 7-year-old whiz kid named Shinra. Or a dandy who's more into clothes than the Gullwings, and has style.

Shake up the gender stereotypes! Be creative.

Also we need more crossdressing scenes, but everyone would complain it's just a repeat of FFVII.

That rocked. :D
Jun. 9th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)
Oh, I do agree with all of that, like I said. I mostly commented because, eh... I've seen so many people, when asked about what their normal party was and why they picked it, say things along the lines of they never used Rinoa because the junction system makes you horde your magic so your stats don't go down, so it's pointless to use the weak magic-using girl is pointless (well, okay, they usually say more along the lines of "because she sucks at fighting") that it's become a bit of a pet peeve, since, yeah, plotwise she's weak but it doesn't translate over to the battle system.

Sometimes I wonder if they'd been planning on making her a stronger character within the plot too, and then somewhere along the line just... didn't. Because her stat growth suggests that they'd meant her to follow in the footsteps of Tifa and Celes, and in turn have Freya follow in hers. And if Square hadn't followed their pattern of quickly forgetting about the revolutionary groups they set up at the beginning of their games as the main plot distracts the characters, I think her role in the game would've been much more interesting if they'd kept building on her part as one of the Forest Owls.

So, I think think she started out from what could have been a good place (aside from her having someone make her a frilly pink bedroom in their hideout). But then begins the long string of her constantly being in danger, or enthralled, or kidnapped. And the way that every plan she comes up with not only goes completely wrong, but also often messes up the things everyone else were doing when she decided to run off and do her own thing. So the potential she had ended up being mostly squandered.

I love her when I'm not spending all my time rescuing her, but, geeze, from the end of disc two to the beginning of disc four the game practically ends up becoming a journey from one rescue to the next, from her dangling off of Garden (which is my personal favorite of the rescue scenes, so I can't complain much about that one), to the coma, to space, to the Sorceress research center that I can't remember the name of, to Adel.

Haa... I think I need to start hanging around FFVIII message boards again, because, looking at how much I just typed, obviously I've been missing talking about things like this.
Jun. 9th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
the small wirey guy who's a cute little thief... or the artist/bard type who wins people to his side and keeps the party's morale up by being an extraordinary decent chap, even if he's not much of a fighter.

Okay, you have *got* to play FFIX. Because you have just described Zidane. At least in the first couple of discs. (And also because it's a fun game!)
Jun. 10th, 2006 12:23 am (UTC)
Very nifty. Okay, yes. I definitely need to play. :D
Jun. 8th, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
Celes and Terra are the main female characters of VI, and both, while powerful mages, are also badass swordswomen.

Beatrix of FF9 (Celes remade) is also a badass mage/swordswoman, and Freya definitely has the power thing going on.

But for nearly all other FF games, your assertion holds true.
Jun. 8th, 2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
I see why my old girlfriend and her wife seem somewhat bemused by my adoration of X and 8. They keep poking me to play VI and IX.
Jun. 9th, 2006 03:54 am (UTC)
I've played every Final Fantasy except 3j and FF11 (the online-only one). VI is DEFINITELY my favourite, and IX is a very close second.
Jun. 9th, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)
The FF7 world seems pretty gender neutral and FFX (which I have recently finished) does too. Especially when you look at the FF7-BC game, and you see half the Turks are women.

And the head of the WEAPONS department is also a woman.

They just do the traditional roles with the main characters because that is how RPGs roll. They're targeting a certain audience. Which will make FFXIII pretty damn interesting, because the main character is not only female, but is actually dressed appropriately for once.

I think the Japanese like to make subtle fun of themselves. Like Yuna is the stereotypical Japanese woman ideal (which from what I've seen, doesn't actually exist anymore) but she turns into Lara Croft in the sequel.

They're making jokes on themselves, in a way.

It'll be interesting to see how RPGs continue into the future.

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
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