279: Wussy RPG Girls

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Wussy RPG Girls

The heroines of many JRPGs are anything but heroic, instead shrinking into the background as the boys step into the fray - a tradition that traces its roots back to ancient Japanese theater.

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A very well written article. I totally agree with what was written about Lightning from FF13. She was such a bad character who stood out in a game full of bad characters. But they did have the helpless Princess character in that game. His name was Hope and I wanted him to die from the beginning.

Wow. An interesting article PROVING that massive effect cultural difference can have on game design.

I've never understood my JRPGs are supposedly popular with females...I know more men who like them.

And let's not use this site as a barometer. I don't need to be quoted by every woman who reads this telling me "I'm a girl and I HATE JRPGs!"

I think that JRPGs can use more characters like Sazh from FF13. When he was announced, everyone was expecting a really bad stereotype, but he ended up being the most endearing character in the game.

Well, this kinda explains why Lightning is single. I mean, what would she do if a guy would try to break up with her?

honestly, i always thought the japanese double-standard w/ women was absolutely retarded. but as a culture, if i remember correctly, they're revered, and held in high regards, but at the same time, seen as the glass princess. fucking double standard >_> interesting culture, but some of it just baffles me. (good and bad baffling, but then again, all cultures are like that to me XD)

Where would you put Aeris and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII on the scale?

EDIT: Nope, I was wrong

But the uselessness of women in story-based JRPGs is what generally moves to having an all-male team as much as possible, even though I usually go for a 50/50 mix. Story usually affects who I use in games when you can pick your team, even if it otherwise has no impact. For example, in Lost Oddysey, I found myself using Tolten a lot, because, as he was the only person who wasn't on the brink of perfection, I connected with him the most. But he had unequivocally the worst stats available for a front-liner. His only redeeming feature was his powerful weaponry, which the Immortals can use through abilities.

After the embarrassing last 3 articles about the deeper mechanics of/ in games, finally some one who got their marbles together or `her balls` in that specific case.

great article!

Wait, wait, wait - Eileen Stahl? 'Raptor Red' from Something Awful? If so, that's awesome. One of the funniest writers Something Awful had (next to Zack Parsons and Bobservo) that didn't have to mention 'piles and piles of dogs!' to get laughs.

This was an interesting article either way. I always like reading about gender politics in the creative mediums (assuming your imagination is tweaked enough to refer to the stereotypical JRPG as creative), it always helps me so I know what to avoid when writing female characters of my own.

A lot of the female characters that I create tend to go more the 'Lightning' route described here. Thoughtlessly cruel and often violent, the sort of women that'd watch a child get kicked to death and the only emotion it'd arouse would be hunger.

I should stop basing female characters on my ex-girlfriends, basically.

Part of the reason I don't play JRPG's anymore is because of all the irritating characters,'Princess Types' included that hang around in them. The last one I played was Final Fantasy 9, the characters in that game annoyed me so much that I couldn't get more than half way.

It isn't just the female characters that annoy me either. The boringly stoic male leads (hmmph... whatever) and bizarrely fetishistic animal characters (who here actually liked Cait Sith? Anyone?) and the constant badgering from the token 9 year old child that runs around acting like they know it all (I really wanted to watch EIko from Final Fantasy 9 get fed into a mincer and then set on fire. That probably isn't healthy).

Which is another thing I don't get. Why does every JRPG have to use teenagers and children as either their main characters or as party members? Children are useless in a fight, and I should know.

For me - JRPG's have been kind of stagnating in medieval Japanese culture for a long time and it's starting to look rather sad on their part. I'd welcome any recommendations for JRPG's that break the mould, but I've been let down before. I'd need to see a total overhaul before I'd even consider playing another JRPG game.

I'm not saying the author of this article is wrong exactly, but I don't think she speaks for as much of her gender as she thinks she does. I mean, Bella from Twilight is widely regarded as a very poor role model but that hasn't hurt her popularity with women around the world.

No offense to her no doubt very strong, independent, empowered, decisive female attitude, but some women *like* being the simpering damsel in distress who is saved and swept away by the hero. I'm sorry if that makes people uncomfortable, but truth is the mother of hatred. Romance (in the Shakespearian sense) always simplifies and exaggerates these things into archetypes. Where is the cultural gender police every time a man is portrayed as a dimwitted buffoon or sex-crazed maniac?

The idea that women need to be portrayed in such-and-such manner so as to be a proper role model implies that women are natural fuck-ups and require such things to tell them how to properly behave. How is that any different from the old kabuki theater princesses?

Japan still has a highly patriarchal society.

This is news to who now?

The Japanese are one of the last cultures (but not the only one) to still consider women second class citizens. Women are to be placed on a pedestal and protected while the males go around doing the important things. It's why young girls are still sexually exploited, women are told by their face that they're too ugly to work somewhere and why there are next to no women in Japanese politics or corporate leadership.

Of course, the West wasn't too different than this even a few generations ago, but considerable progress has been made, while the Japanese seem stuck with a very 19th century mindset at best.

I found Lightning's constant punching of people weird and slightly off putting. If it had happened one, at some moment of tension, it would have added something but she was just too angry. An angry male character is tiring, and a female is apparently just as.

I am also surprised Aeris didn't appear in this article. The quintessential sacrificial lamb... although she may be almost Messianic, so perhaps she is an entirely different kettle of fish.

The weird thing is, as bad as Japanese female tropes are, they still seem to at least get a chance to shine. Are they still doing better than in North American games?

A most excellent article looking at Princess Characters (who were still all to prevalent in North American Fiction a decade or two ago).

As much as I like Lightning (I have a thing for ass kicking ladies >.>) she does fall pretty far on the reverse of the Princess Scale. I'd be curious to see how FFXII's Ashe rates in your books, I've always considered her to be one of the finest JRPG heroines.

The Suikoden Series is also packed with great female characters who don't fall into the whole "meek and mild" princess cliche but also aren't constant ball busters. Hell Suikoden 5 takes place in an honest to goodness Matriarchy where you play as the (in that nation) cliche'd useless Prince, not good for much other than marrying off for alliances.

theexhippy:
Where would you put Aeris and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII on the scale?

I think it's a great article and it hits all the right notes but I do have to wonder why Aerith, probably the most infamous of the JRPG delicate flower types, didn't find her way into the thesis. She's probably the best example of tragic love goddess, going so far as to die for the world Jesus style, and in so doing saving the manly Hero.

Tifa however would actually fall into the realm of what the article describes as a desirable feminine character at the article's end. She can be easily characterized as female without making her essentially a man with boobs but she never seems inferior or weak compared to her male compatriots. Tifa was an incredibly capable likable female character who never got marginalized by her sex. It's probably why she remains one of the most well remembered FF7 characters.

I'm drawing a lot of correlations and mental links between JRPG's wussy princess types and the Twilight franchise.

Now I've always wondered if the female audiences who are into these sorts of fictional narratives would still like them if the narrative treated the female romantic interest on a more equitable footing alongside the chunks of man-cake that are constantly pulling them out of harm's way. Could it have something to do with women feeling more comfortable with liking a particular male character when the object of his affections is obviously inferior to the female audience? Haven't romance novels been peddling this sort of trash for years and years and years? And possibly even more years?

I like the article, it was informative and I agree with most of the stuff I already knew, but I have to have a geeky moment here and call out your use of Rosa as an example.

Sure, she got kidnapped, once, but that only happen after the bad guy flattened all the guys in your party with a single wave of the hand. One can hardly blame her for going along with him after that. Other than that, she had exactly zero moments of weakness or self-doubt throughout the entire game, and in fact near the end the guys all have a stupid macho sexist moment and try to convince the girls to stay behind, she and Rydia sneak along and demand to be included. Sure she only did it to be with her love and all that mushy crap, but it still basically amounted to her taking a direct stand against being "wussy" as you so eloquently put it.

Certainly there wasn't a lot of character development in that game, and I don't doubt for a second that if Rosa had more character development she would have turned into a standard Wussy RPG Girl, but it seems pretty obvious to me that throughout the game self-doubt was plaguing the guys, not the gals, and all the ridiculous self-sacrificing was done by old men and little children. The women just did what needed to be done.

This is a satire right?

Let me be brutally honest here, there have been strong women in JRPGs for as long as I've been playing them. The issue that seems to be at the root of this article is that not *all* female characters or heroines are presented as being "strong" or "adventurers". Sure there are plenty of "traditionally" (and by this I don't just mean in the Japanese sense) feminine characters in games, but then again there is nothing wrong with that because there are plenty of women with very similar traits. Like it or not women do *tend* not to be as aggressive or combative as men, and to gravitate towards certain kinds of professions. Nobody holds guns to the head of young girls and says "play with dolls", "enjoy Barbie Horse Adventuers", and similar things despite what feminists might imply. Sure there are plenty of exceptions, tomboys and the like who are interested in all the same thing guys are, but there is some truth to the simple fact that where boys are interested in action, combat, and adventure, you have girls enjoying their "Disney Princess" products.

Over the years I remember seeing studies talking about how without any real goading from adults, kids gravitate towards specific things instinctively based on gender. It does cross over so you see exceptions, but the definate tendencies are real.

As such, why wouldn't there be a proliferation of women in RPGs that follow these tendencies, tend to be fairly non-aggressive, and gravitate towards more nuturing roles? Why wouldn't you have a princess that acts like a sheltered princess?

I think the roles are pretty proportionate overall, and a lot of it had to also do with the world being developed at various times. Some games even include rosters like "Final Fantasy VII" that featured more than one take on the female RPG character. You did indeed have Aeris who played the "Damsel In Distress" role, but in comparison you also had Tifa who was the opposite, and then Yuffie who was somewhere in between.

I mean sure, you can point fingers at specific RPGs for having passive female characters, and if that was all there was I could see the point, but even going back to like the SNES days you still had games like "Chrono Trigger", "Secret Of Mana", and others which were mixing it up.

As far as Japanese culture goes, well that's a mixed bag to be entirely honest. On one hand it can be argued that a lot of the female super heroes they have produced were intended to be funny (the fact that it's a girl is intended to increase the ridiculousness). On the other hand even going back as far as like the late 1980s you had things like the original "Bubblegum Crisis" that were treating the subject of female heroes seriously. Not to mention the entire "Sailor Moon" thing which arguably turned into it's own genere, and was in part successful because it managed to do a good job of blending a lot of elements, including a fairly feminine portrayal of the girls involved with their super-heroism. In a counterpoint to people who would make "Cagney and Lacey" type jokes like "okay, now it's time for the Knight Sabers to put on their Hard Suits and pretend they're men".

I'm hardly a Weeaboo, but to me this seems like a feminist rant, jousting with an issue that isn't there, and hasn't been for decades.

Oh sure, Japan has a lot of problems with sexism in it's society, but when it comes to their fandom community (video games, comics, etc...) it's been pretty progressive for a while now, it just doesn't present things one way continually. You still have the damsels and distress, fairly "passive" female leads, and the like, but you've also got plenty of female action heroes.

Oh, and let's be honest... guys have taken a beating in Japanese culture as well. There are more than a few series where the guys are pretty much dishrags. I won't get into "harem anime" (though it presents more than a few examples), but look at things like say "Neon Genesis Evangelion", or even "Gantz" before the last few episodes, just to name a couple. In "Valyria Chronicles" Welkin starts out as pretty much a complete dweeb, and for a good portion of the game your pretty much going to be using a tomboy named "Alicia" as Audie Murphy if you want high rankings.

Good arty, but I think you missed a chance to provide a bit of counterpoint on one of the games you brought up on page one. Legend of the Dragoon had a fairly wussy female "heroine" who was not even really with the part very long, but Rose and Miranda at least provided an interesting counterpoint to the "Princess".

Rose: Basically the first generations princess, although quite the badass like the rest of the dragoons. Becomes the black monster, deals with her own demons as she helps the protagonist through the game.

Miranda: Basically a harsh taskmistress and very candid/rude, but forced to be fill the role of the party's healer.

You were dead on about Shana, but I think that game at least tried to mess with the trope a bit.

theexhippy:
Where would you put Aeris and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII on the scale?

Tifa: whiny angst who happens to enjoy a good brawl every once in a while. Note: does almost as much crying as Cloud does.

Aeris: healer princess. gets "sacrificed". no one really cared or remembered after disc 1 until the end of disc 3.

Whichi:

theexhippy:
Where would you put Aeris and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII on the scale?

Tifa: whiny angst who happens to enjoy a good brawl every once in a while. Note: does almost as much crying as Cloud does.

Aeris: healer princess. gets "sacrificed". no one really cared or remembered after disc 1 until the end of disc 3.

Fair enough but couldn't Aeris also be seen as the healer/Obi-Wan Kenobi character? After all her chopped by the big bad side kick of the ultimate evil only made her more powerful. I know "Old Ben" could be a bit of an stickler but I wouldn't have said "Princess"... :)

I loved the infusion of history and culture by comparing the "Princess Type" to kabuki. Hearing of the female exploited as the sacrificial lamb to be pitied reminded me of reading The Highwayman back in high school.

And certainly there are exceptions to the rule, but it seems that most female JRPG characters (or at least most of the ones who are emphasized in their stories) share these traits.

Um to be fair, most JRPG male leads can pass for women anyways :P

::trollface:: XD

To be fair to Atoli, she was supposed to represent deceit, and they had already a manipulative archetype with Sakubo(the Machinator).

I personally thought the whole trying to appear to be what everyone else wanted her to be was a rather novel take on the concept.

It was also quite definitively defined as a character flaw to be overcome.

Oh, and as for Rosa, second most powerful character in the game, first being Rita. She gets an attack that does around 7500 damage. None of the guys get anything remotely close to this.

Very good article - it does a good job of explaining the particular problems of JRPGs when it comes to the depiction of women. Of course, it's not like Western games are shining exemplars of equality either. There are plenty more Bellas than Buffys in games (and media generally) on both sides of the Pacific.

Let's not forget the tendency of the JRPG girls to be the weak defenceless healers of the group, which Rosa is a perfect example of. (And another reason I adore Phantasy Star IV so much for kicking that trope in the balls with Alys and Hahn.)

I do think calling out Celes is worthwhile here. There's a reason she's my favourite character in my favourite game.

Unlike most JRPG girls, she can fight (and bloody well). She's a leader, but of a military sort rather than political. The game doesn't deny she's attractive, but doesn't pay much attention to it (except for the Opera sequence, to which her disbelieving reaction is more a subversion of the trope than anything). And as the game goes on, she becomes more and more central to the game - in a time when the "main character" being female was still somewhat blasphemous. She always seems to me as a rare balance of "feminine" grace and "masculine" action in a genre that has trouble with that.

Now if only she wasn't a blonde...

ahaha man, this is spectacular writing and insightful commentary, especially:

"Happily, ladies with spines are finally starting to outnumber the wusses. Nevertheless, writers should keep in mind that giving Mike Tyson breasts and a sword might not be the best way to go about doing it."

(God...think Fable II Female with Maxed Strength)

Therumancer:
This is a satire right?

snip

Chrono Trigger was mixing it up? Really? Shcala and Marle? Queen Zeal and Ayla? They are all pretty shallow characters that fit either this or other classic female stereotypes.

As for the rest, it is the same anti-feminist drivel we always get in the comments of these kind of articles.
I would like some citations for those studies you mentioned.

The "they like it" argument is begging the question. "Why do girls like to play with dolls? Because they are girls".
Dividing nature and nuture in this case is basicly impossible, but I can garantee that there is no gene making girls play Barbie Horse Adventure more than boys. There are, however, a lot of parents with imprinted gender roles running around buying these kind of things for their little girls, and teaching them how to fit into society...

I think my favorite female character in any JRPG is Selan from Lufia II. It's been a long while since I played it, but I remember her being strong and capable without being written into any stereotypes.

That game was so awesome. I think it was one of the finest SNES games made but hardly anyone played it.

So, we don't have the princess stereotype in Western culture?

What the fuck were all those Disney dolls I had as a girl about?!

I really don't agree with the article. Yes, JRPGs do sometimes have weak heroines, but they also have very strong, positive female leads, such as Tifa from FF7 and Yuna from FFX.

Particularly using Rosa as an example was a bad choice in my book, considering Rydia, from the same game, is extremely strong and positively portrayed over-coming her problems and rejecting unwanted male attention in favour of standing on her own two feet.

I find this article almost disappointingly "token".

I wish the blame on poor videogame heroines would be taken off of sexism and placed where it belongs: with bad writing.

glad someone else notices how ass-backwards 99.999999% of all JRPGs are...

which is why we should look to the Americas and Europe for actual GOOD games with REAL depth.

Oh, some very positive feedback here, on an article about most JRPG's (sometimes even Japanese dev's) backwards view of women.

But when I point this out to someone on this site it's all screaming and periods with you guys.....

just because I don't hold your hand as I tell you. XD

afrosan:
I find this article almost disappointingly "token".

I wish the blame on poor videogame heroines would be taken off of sexism and placed where it belongs: with bad writing.

That always bugs me. If a story has a bad hero it's bad writing, but if it has a bad heroine "OMG SEXISM!!!!!!!!!!111111111111!!!!!!!1111!!!"

"Can you imagine a FFVII where Cloud consteantly suckerpunches Barret?" Yes, and it's totally hilairious.

However I do agree with you that teh ladies are a bit *too* kind sometimes, but that doesn't mean it's bad for a character. There are kind people in the world so having a person who is kind and caring does fit, especially when there are super macho people around, it's nice to have some balance to the spectrum, even if it's a bit mad.

If you want a woman char who's fairly powerful while still being a woman in persona, look at Thingy-Mah-Giggy from FFX (The Caster I cannot remembe- Lulu, she was 'ard as nails) who was essential in the party, was constructive to the other chars but still had emotion. (Also, I seem to be the only person out of everyone I've spoken to who actually liked FFX :p The Cinematics weren't great but the Battle System was ace)

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