279: Wussy RPG Girls

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theexhippy:

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 most certainly thought that, I drew that conclusion years ago. I'm quite happy someone else saw it too. Sadly, the person you are quoting is still a prime example of the ignorance that's been routinely displayed in this debate for years, this article is question is an example of that as well.

I'm sad that people approach female characters, especially JRPG characters in such a dichotomous manner. A female character that commits the sin of displaying femininity must be crucified as a bad character. A female character that defies femininity is automatically a good character. Except for Lightning, who apparently went far too manly. But apparently Alyx Vance, who is little more than a grease monkey/sidekick archetype and has no real reason to be cast as a woman, is the greatest female character ever made. Or so I'm constantly being instructed to accept.

I always felt Aerith was a great character because she defies such stereotypes. She is a feminine character but she is strong in her own right. Everything that happens to her, is something that she chooses herself. From her hiring of Cloud, to her exchanging herself for the safety of Marlene to her ultimate sacrifice. It was all by her own decision and no one else's. Which clearly disqualifies her as "damsel in distress". If you need proof of this, the proof happened in the very first cutscene. Stahl didn't use Aerith as an example for that reason, or at least I assume. Aerith destroys her argument! (Or maybe Rosa was an easier target, which is totally true. But if you're going back to FFIV you're really reaching.)

I think I've made my point. Now I'll reward myself for another well battled debate.

Nice article; well written. You raised some interesting points.

However, it does make me feel slightly old-fashioned. I personally enjoy the romantic idea of the beautiful princess being rescued by a dashing Prince charming. I'm perfectly ok with weak characters, as it seems to humanise them more. Heck, I like to see the male protagonist lose his momentum sometimes too. It's interesting when a character stops being powerful.

Oh, and Lightning as manly? I only remember her punching someone once. She always came across as subtly feminine, behind her cold exterior, to me...

Wutaiflea:
Yuna from FFX.

Yuna... who was that?

Oh... her. I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive me. I never really got to know her, considering she was kidnapped every five nanoseconds.

Even her very existence in the story serves to reinforce the stereotype that the only heroic thing a woman can do is sacrifice herself and be rescued - the entire reason she was in the party was because she was going to kill herself to defeat Sin. Gee, I wonder what that could possibly mean...

Though I think you're giving Tales of Symphonia too little credit. Sure, Colette is about as stereotyped as they come, but I think they handled Sheena well.

Eileen Stahl:

And by "capable," I don't mean they need to deck their male co-stars in the face once per hour of game time, a la Lightning of Final Fantasy XIII.

THANK you!

I'm not generally a fan of female leads for precisely this reason. They tend to be too wussy or too aggressive. I actually preferred Mummy's-boy Hope to Lightning, despite how annoying he was. Then again, he could never match Vanille. GOSH I wish she'd been optional like Yuffie.

Eileen Stahl:
Can you imagine a Final Fantasy VII with Cloud constantly sucker-punching Barret?

...Yeah, I can now. Heh heh heh.

CitySquirrel:

I am also surprised Aeris didn't appear in this article.

I thought of her in regards to the flower.

I think that Eileen Stahl might have missed the point of Tales of Symphonia. She says that Colette "systematically loses her ability to eat, feel, and speak; willingly dooms herself to die as a sacrifice for the world," which is true. But she's also ignoring the fact that Colette is the Chosen One and that, technically, she's EXPECTED to die in order to save the world by becoming an angel (the vessel for the Goddess Martel who isn't even an actual goddess). Colette's fate is meant to be viewed as a tragedy because she really is not given a choice about it; if she doesn't go through with sacrificing herself then the world will eventually die.

As well, Tales games have often been about deconstructing the entire 'Chosen One' device. The reason that all of those negative things happen to Colette is really BECAUSE she is the Chosen One. It's not meant to be pretty or heroic, it's meant to be tragic. I liked Colette as a character because she was surprisingly sympathetic despite the fact that she's supposed to die - she accepts that - and does admit that she's scared about dying and becoming an angel, but she's also strong. It's even noted that one of the characters wishes they could be more like her because of that strength she has in facing her own death despite her fears.

Tales games also have a surprisingly good roster of strong female characters. Sheena, for instance, is a little bit clumsy but she wants to save her world and the people she cares for, but she is also - later in the game if you complete certain side-quests - made the successor to the leader of the village of Mizuho. Raine can't cook but is incredibly smart and often times serves as the voice of reason for the group; she's sort of the mentor of the group, especially given that she is the main characters' teacher at the start of the game. Lastly, Presea is shown swinging an axe around that is just as big as she is and is, personally, my favorite melee fighter. She might not be as fast as Lloyd, but she packs a strong punch and is shown to be a strong woman who is just insecure about the fact that she's been stuck in the body of a twelve year old for sixteen years.

Then again, Tales games are about deconstructing a lot of common devices used in video games... the villains are often not hugely Complete Monsters and there is a bit of a blurred line about who may or may not be in the wrong sometimes.

You also get Tear in Tales of the Abyss, Chloe Valens in Tales of Legendia, and Judith in Tales of Vesperia; all strong female characters without them being too in-your-face like Lightning on the other side of the spectrum.

EileenStahl:
Final Fantasy XIII conspicuously avoided giving Lightning even slightly feminine traits, perhaps for fear they would still carry that ancient connotation of weakness.

I hope you write more of these articles, lightning was a HORRIBLE character among other bad characters in a bad linear game that I wouldn't even call a final fantasy game.

JRPGs seem to be lagging behind Anime, which went through this transition and is already out the other end.

The traditional Anime girl was your "princess" type. Ornimental and useless except as a motivator and back-story piece for the male characters. (I always think of Lin MinMei in Robotech as the perfect example.)

Then came the feminist response, where the female and male roles were literally reversed. "Catseye", which is about 3 sister thieves, is a good example. The men are so stupid and worthless that the middle sister is actually dating a police inspector who never seems to catch on to anything that is going on around him.

The final period, which we are in now, is much more balanced with male and female characters often teamed as equal heroes. Right now I'm watching Blassrieter which is just one of many modern examples of this.

I agree with the article, wussy girls/overmanly-girls arent interesting nor fun.
And it doesnt make sense, since these character dont seem to have a problem with killing billions of hideous monsters in hell to get to the next "plot point" where.. they get stupid.

I mean, the character is going to be a badass (aka not hopelessly naive, stupid and innocent) from the start if their routine is to punch Chtullu in the face then rip him appart for breakfast (and his loot)... so it doesnt make sense that they break down and are easily captured whenever a cutscene shows up.
Then they cry about the importance of life in a dramatic akward moment.. but why didnt you say anything when we killed 300 human bandits to level up and buy you a new combat umbrella?

Then again, the average villian is very often a complete idiot with no other goal than "get more power and destroy/conquer everything".. because.. he can.

Writers are just lazy and they always use the same boring tropes and cliches, beleivable, deep and coherent characters are kind of rare.

I fail to see how this makes them any different from female characters in other genres of video games, from both Japan and the USA alike.

If you want a counter-example, look at Celes, from FFVI. Undeniably feminine, yet tough, dynamic, with an excellent character arc and she pretty much steals the second half of the game.

Chrissyluky:

EileenStahl:
Final Fantasy XIII conspicuously avoided giving Lightning even slightly feminine traits, perhaps for fear they would still carry that ancient connotation of weakness.

I hope you write more of these articles, lightning was a HORRIBLE character among other bad characters in a bad linear game that I wouldn't even call a final fantasy game.

That's an interesting point of view, coming from someone who makes it a point to boisterously advertise their gender.

The Cheezy One:
Rinoa from FFVIII at least seems self capable. While she does end up in mortal danger at least once, she doesn't have a fit over her own usefulness. At least, not that I can remember. It has been at least 3 years since I even played the game.
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.

The problem with Rinoa is that she's the fantasy girl of an introvert nerd too shy to make any effort or himself. She's not exactly a life-coach girlfriend character, but she does go to ridiculous lengths to bring Squall out of his shell. It doesn't matter that you are socially completely inept when she will, of all people, choose to cling to you until and after you figure out how to interact with people.

You know, it's actually a good thing she went comatose or else Squall's character development, which was the only real point of the plot, would have completely relied on that pathetic dynamic. That's right, she contributed more to the story as a MacGuffin Girl.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade isn't exactly an rpg, but the female lead, Momohime, also fits into this category, she is an actual princess, seen innocent, gentle and kind, yet I never once heard her whine. Well.. except when the male lead came into the hot springs around the mountains at times while she was bathing but that's understandable.

Her masculine parts in personality though come from an evil, murderer's spirit, possessing her body so he may either get his body back or get revenge for those who killed him. Both parts of her are likeable, though you only see her feminine parts near the start of the story and at the hot springs. She's strong but wouldn't waste her breath on punching the nearest person or killing more than she needs to defend herself from.

You said it was worse before 2000, I think I might have gotten a bit worse. While rosa is not exactly a strong female character look at other RPG's from the SNES era. Lets look at Square RPG's (because that is what I'm the most familiar with):

(oh and spoilers)

Final Fantasy 6 had Terra a fairly powerful female lead (and the closest thing to a Final Fantasy game having a leading female until XIII). Yeah she had a mental breakdown, but that was closer to Bruce Banner turning into the hulk. Then their is Celis who was the 2nd in command of the imperial army that is until she had a crisis of conscious and betrayed them. She to has a potential "moment of weakness" where she attempts to comit suicide (assuming you aren't really good at catching fish) but her adoptive father died in front of her shortly after her waking up from a coma shortly after all her friends were presumably killed when they failed to stop the villain from becoming a god. All in all, I might consider suicide under those circumstances as well.

In Chrono Trigger their is the Princes Marley who is sort of tecnicaly kidnapped but not really. She is a a complete tom boy and after the main character dies she basically becomes the team leader. Luca a genius, she is smart and independant and not overtly feminin. Finally their is Ayla who is not only the chief of her village, but could smash your head it two if she wanted to.

In Secret of Mana one of the main plot points is the Female Character (you enter her name)is trying to save her boyfriend from the villain, and not the other way around. She like Marly is also a tom boy and head strong, except instead of using a cross bow her starting weapon is a pair of Iron Knuckles.

It is really post FFVII that things start to go down hill. 7 had Tiffa, a legitimately strong female character, Aris a weak "princess type" but who fit with the story well and Yuffi, who I think was supposed to come across as strong willed, but just seemed like annoying jail bait thrown into the game. In 8 the only truly strong female character is the Sorceress, with the next best thing being Quistess. 9 was a bit better as Frea was fairly cool, and Beatrix was Bad Ass, but neither Dagger or Eiko were the best examples. 10 was pretty much a washout, I think Lulu was supposed to be a "strong female type" but I couldn't take her seriously with her dress and she just came off as anoying and arrogant. 10-2 was significantly worse, and from what I have seen of 12 and 13 their hasn't actually been that much improvement. From what I have seen of 13 (the game I have the least experience with) Lightnings "strength" is completely counteracted by the other female characters.

pigmy wurm:
You said it was worse before 2000, I think I might have gotten a bit worse. While rosa is not exactly a strong female character look at other RPG's from the SNES era. Lets look at Square RPG's (because that is what I'm the most familiar with):

(oh and spoilers)

Final Fantasy 6 had Terra a fairly powerful female lead (and the closest thing to a Final Fantasy game having a leading female until XIII). Yeah she had a mental breakdown, but that was closer to Bruce Banner turning into the hulk. Then their is Celis who was the 2nd in command of the imperial army that is until she had a crisis of conscious and betrayed them. She to has a potential "moment of weakness" where she attempts to comit suicide (assuming you aren't really good at catching fish) but her adoptive father died in front of her shortly after her waking up from a coma shortly after all her friends were presumably killed when they failed to stop the villain from becoming a god. All in all, I might consider suicide under those circumstances as well.

In Chrono Trigger their is the Princes Marley who is sort of tecnicaly kidnapped but not really. She is a a complete tom boy and after the main character dies she basically becomes the team leader. Luca a genius, she is smart and independant and not overtly feminin. Finally their is Ayla who is not only the chief of her village, but could smash your head it two if she wanted to.

In Secret of Mana one of the main plot points is the Female Character (you enter her name)is trying to save her boyfriend from the villain, and not the other way around. She like Marly is also a tom boy and head strong, except instead of using a cross bow her starting weapon is a pair of Iron Knuckles.

It is really post FFVII that things start to go down hill. 7 had Tiffa, a legitimately strong female character, Aris a weak "princess type" but who fit with the story well and Yuffi, who I think was supposed to come across as strong willed, but just seemed like annoying jail bait thrown into the game. In 8 the only truly strong female character is the Sorceress, with the next best thing being Quistess. 9 was a bit better as Frea was fairly cool, and Beatrix was Bad Ass, but neither Dagger or Eiko were the best examples. 10 was pretty much a washout, I think Lulu was supposed to be a "strong female type" but I couldn't take her seriously with her dress and she just came off as anoying and arrogant. 10-2 was significantly worse, and from what I have seen of 12 and 13 their hasn't actually been that much improvement. From what I have seen of 13 (the game I have the least experience with) Lightnings "strength" is completely counteracted by the other female characters.

Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Seriously, I have no idea what the hell you're getting at here... I'm not sure whether it's that you're randomly flopping about without making a point, or that your grammar is so horrendous that I can't make heads or tails of this. The only thing I could maybe decipher is that you're regurgitating the myth that FFVII was the downfall of JRPGs. (Hardly true, it was the pinnacle of the genre.) Yet you don't seem to be doing anything to back that statement up, you just offer one sentence descriptions of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger characters that don't offer anything substantial.

Seriously, I think I felt my brain ooze from my ear a little bit.

Skyweir:

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...

However, now your getting away from the point of the article and the passive feminine stereotype to dismiss a counter example as "other stereotypes". Technically everyone fits in with some stereotype, there are entire sciences dedicated to this, and it's used practically for things like advertising.

If you want to get technical you could make the same arguement about the majority of male characters being stereotypical, because when you get down to it, they are too.

As far as genes "making girls do things", yes... believe it or not we aren't magical constructs of free will. Human beings are run by things like chemicals, pheremones, and electrical impulses. Your behavior is very much wired into your biology, and men and women both have traits that tend to be hardwired and which influance their behavior.

Women tend to be passive, and a lot more submissive than guys on average, all raging about it aside, because that's how nature designed them. Nurturing insticts and all of that. Guys on the other hand tend to have more aggressive and direct insticts.

"Barbie Horse Adventures" itself is not wired into one's DNA (though I suppose it could in theory become a meme burned into the primal consciousness under the right circumstances) but that kinds of things that game speaks to are.

We aren't dealing with a situation where society hands girls dolls and says "here, your a girl this is what you play with" it's just how things wind up, and yes there ARE Tomboys and such that are "aberrant" in that they don't wind up like that (and a lot has been written through the years about people whose insticts don't jibe with others of their gender), but they tend to represent exceptions rather than the rule.

To put things into perspective, it's possible to radically change someone's behavior by altering the chemicals in their body (especially the brain). Someone who doesn't realize they are being doped is going to think a lot of the changes going on are their own idea. With the right tools you can take a person and turn them into a raging maniac, though more commonly alterations to brain chemistry through drugs and such take place to try and cure mental aberrations and bring people who are crazy more in line with normal behaviors.

What's more with the right techniques people can even be programmed and altered just like a machine, because on a lot of levels that's what we are. Brainwashing, deprogramming techniques, and other things all exist and can be used on people.

Humans aren't unique here either, I mean you can see how neutering a dog (which changes the body chemistry) brings about radical behavior changes as well.

The point here is that we are driven by our biology, our thoughts, personalities, and other aspects are build around our physical forms, not vice versa. A lot of things that are your idea, are your idea because of your biological needs and what your system drove you to.

Men and women have differant chemical and pheremonal makeups, which lead to us developing differantly on a mental and instinctive level. There are all manner of aberrants of both genders, but as I said, in the end it's the tomboys and the effiminate guys that are the odd ones out.

Seriously, you should learn this kind of thing in school. Psychology, Sociology, and similar things are not new, and people have been changing behavior by manipulating their biology (via drugs and such) for many, many years now.

For your consideration - KOS-MOS and Shion from Xenosaga

The article leaves out a handful of very strong female characters to make a see-through point. Kanon from WildArms2, Tifa from FF7, Selan from Lufia 2, Katt from Breath of Fire _, and while you have Collette in Tales of Symphonia, you also have a strong-headed character like Raine. Crap, you even have Cornet from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, who's sole purpose in the game is to beat the crap out of monsters with a like-named instrument to save a prince in distress.

If anything, the weak female to strong female ratio is pretty decent. Like in Grandia 2. You have Elena, the weak-willed singing nun, to Millena, the manipulative sorceress of DOOM. Both are main characters.

Now yes, women may have evolved (just like men) in the years. Most 1980/90's jrpgs heroes were muscle-bound men and warrior women. This gradually evolved into adventurer types of all figures. When 2000 came around, men became whiny teenage losers who you couldn't imagine carrying a sword and women became dainty glass princesses who's only purpose is to doggedly follow and support the man. Fact, when they said they were going to do a remake of Lufia 2 and make the same buff characters of the past into today's standard (as well as alter the game play), I was horrified.

Now I haven't played FF13 yet, but if women are making a comeback, I hope it's to the pre-Tifa of yesterday. Not the double-standard maiden of 300 years ago, and not Lara Croft lookalikes, but the well-toned woman who can take care of herself and isn't there to give male players an erection at every cut-scene.

It's hard to find good writing in general, and even harder to find good writing about women. I just read Emma by Jane Austen and it's probably the best that I've come across so far. It's an interesting book. The story, the actual plot, is kind of like the background story of any Socratic dialog. Stuff happens and it's almost like noise. Then Emma has a side conversation with another character about the stuff that happened, and that's the part where thoughts and philosophies are revealed.

Whose responsibility is it to write good female characters for RPGs? When there's such a dearth of good writing in the rest of life, is it even reasonable to demand that it appear out of nowhere in an RPG?

Maybe this is an offshoot of what really angers traditional feminists: New Feminism. A growing number of self-identified feminists today don't care as much about absolute equality between the sexes. Equal opportunity is more important than equal outcome, for instance. They accept that men and women have gender-based roles. They cherish traditional feminine qualities and don't care to see women who are as tough and strong as men and who fight like men.

Quaidis:
The article leaves out a handful of very strong female characters to make a see-through point. Kanon from WildArms2, Tifa from FF7, Selan from Lufia 2, Katt from Breath of Fire _, and while you have Collette in Tales of Symphonia, you also have a strong-headed character like Raine. Crap, you even have Cornet from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, who's sole purpose in the game is to beat the crap out of monsters with a like-named instrument to save a prince in distress.

I think the point of the article is how often the female lead is fits this stereotype. The main characters love interest having to be the damesel in distress to make the character look good. And you have to admit, happens far more often than it should. Also remember being glad that Colette wasn't the healer considering how often she wasn't playable. In games where the main healer is constantly captured its a pain in the ass.

*Wall o' Text Incoming!*

Oooooh, one of my hot-button topics. (I apologize in advance to the author of the article)

SHORT VERSION:

My biggest disappointments in the article were as follows:
1) The disingenuous manner of accusing JRPGs of having poor role models for women and ignoring similar poor role models in western RPGs
2) Cherry-picking a few characters to match her thesis and ignoring the wealth of characters that don't support it
3) Trying to make it sound as if certain common character types (i.e., making a character have low self-esteem about herself) are somehow culturally 'Japanese' and not what they are: common writing techniques used by all writers in all cultures
4) Assuming that the characterization of women has gotten better because "modern women demanded it" (nah, that's too long to go into, let's just say i really disagreed with that part of her article)

LONG VERSION:

I must say I can pretty much disagree with most everything in the article. "In Japan...women were seen as inherently fragile and their 'heroism' was defined by their maidenly virtue..." Citation, please! I'm sorry, is this author talking about the Japan that exists in our world? Or is she talking about Europe? Or is she, in fact, talking about the Japan that Westerners think they know about but, in fact, don't have a clue about. For example, in the Tokugawa period, is she talking about samurai? Ainu? Peasants? Merchants? Imperial? Courtesan? Each strata of Japanese society had different expectations of their women, and absolutely NO class of women in Japan (in any era) were ever expected to let their "heroism" rest solely on their 'maidenly virtue'.

Also, her reference to the Onna Daigaku - really? One could make the same argument about the Bible being a guidebook for proper womanly behavior for the same time period in Europe, but historical study shows that although many people wrote about the Bible as an guide for proper behavior, the vast majority of the society didn't actually hold women to that ideal save through lip service. You'd think she only knows about Japanese culture from one or two books and not from actual historical study... If that's the case, then I challenge you to think about this: how accurate are Disney movies and Looney Tunes at portraying gender roles in the West? If you only read Shakespeare, what would your expectation be of women in Renaissance Padua? If you only read historical romance novels, how would you describe a typical woman of 19th century England? Did all women in the middle of the twentieth century really live and die by the Emily Post guide to etiquette?

As for her comments directly relating to video games: these are all things that Western women raised to believe in the Modern Feminist myth *want* to hear, because it feeds into what they've been told their entire lives. (Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the Feminist movement. After all, I wouldn't be able to do what I do in my job right now if it weren't for the feminist movement in the last century.) As other people have pointed out, there have been PLENTY of strong women characters in JRPGs. In fact, in the game that the picture for the article comes (Shadow Hearts) from are *at least* two strong women characters: the French spy Margerete and the Japanese Lieutenant Colonel Kawashima. They are both strong women who have a no-nonsense attitude and a female nature - Margarete is a shameless flirt, and Kawashima is a love interest of one of the other NPCs. Also, what does the titular 'Wussy RPG girl' Alice do, after seeing her 'defender' Yuri disappear in a horrible catastrophe? She spends the next six months on her own, making her own way, fighting her own fights, while searching for him. Does she have help? Sure, as a game mechanic. But the story clearly shows her in control of the party. Does she fall into a subordinate role when her man reappears? Sure, also as a gaming mechanic. (And I haven't even addressed Koudelka, the woman who drives the main characters along their path throughout the majority of the story...)

And that's just the characters from the game she happens to mention. I could go on and on. (For example, the second game in the Shadow Hearts series has one of my favorite female characters in any JRPG, Karin, who starts out as a soldier in an army in WWII.) Others have already mentioned many characters, so I won't. :)

Now, as a woman myself, I notice gender roles in games/books/movies/commercials, and I see bias all over the place. For instance, if you really stop and watch modern-day TV, the worst negative stereotypes on TV (shows or commercials) are always against men, not women. Our society is just inured to it. Also, if you're going to complain about 'Wussy RPG girls', have enough intellectual honesty to admit that it goes both ways (male/female) and across all cultures of the developers (Japanese, Korean, American, European). Just because Mass Effect allows you to play male or female, don't think that represents equality of the sexes - it just means that the character is essentially gender neutral. (And, for the record, I think both God of War and Gears of War portray far more damaging sexual stereotyping of men than anything I've seen women 'subjected' to in the typical JRPG.) Anyone who thinks that Neo is a better character than Aerith, BTW, needs to pay more attention to symbolism, since they do exactly the same thing. :)

However, this article is inaccurate at best, relying on Western stereotypes of other cultures at worst. She makes the common mistake most Westerners do, that a sexist society MUST be a bad society, as if gender division of roles is inherently teh ebilist ebil [sic] of them all. As for wondering why these stereotypes still exist 300 years later... Ummm, I'm sorry, what version of the Western World does she live in where those exact same stereotypes are not used all the time in our own literature and media? Although that subject too big for discussion, the short answer: it ain't just Japan, baby. These stereotypes persist because of a mix of societal acceptaince, marketability, and smidgeons of truth thrown in here and there. In Japan, in the United States, in Europe: everywhere.

Ahem. Sorry to the few of you who actually read this. Had to get it out.

/rant

drisky:
I think the point of the article is how often the female lead is fits this stereotype. The main characters love interest having to be the damesel in distress to make the character look good. And you have to admit, happens far more often than it should. Also remember being glad that Colette wasn't the healer considering how often she wasn't playable. In games where the main healer is constantly captured its a pain in the ass.

Ah, but is it the female being stereotyped, or is the male character stereotyped first and the female then written to match the male stereotype? Remember, most video games are/were written to sell to men first, and they'll see the female character(s) as decoration, but the male character(s) will be their avatar (where the main character is not a female written solely to please libido, a la Tomb Raider)

Therumancer:
This is a satire right?

Hah.

Good comment, Therumancer. They should print it in the next issue.

What about Yuna from FFX...she wasn't frail...she didn't sacrifice herself...hell she wielded her powers on her own and even saved herself when she did get kidnapped (trust me I remember that scene well it made me laugh) she also wasn't overbearingly macho or anything like that...she was endearing to the player because she was an outgoing girl pretending to meek and humble to honor her father's memory...her character developed even more when she casts aside the precepts that she once held close after she finds out they don't even matter anymore.

Lulu wasn't a cold hearted woman who kicked ass, she was reserved but emotional woman who didn't let the world tell her who she should be. She wasn't afraid to call out when the hero did something stupid.

Rikku...well okay Rikku was the typical chattery, overly outgoing, plucky, tomboyish girl but she was still pretty endearing because it fit (she was 15 or 16) she also started out seeming tough but throughout the game you see that she's just a 15 year old girl trying to get her father to notice her instead of Yuna (which was sad because he's Yuna's uncle not her father).

The Electro Gypsy:
"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)

Tit-Mage was not the heroine. "Kidnapped 37 times over the course of the game, even getting kidnapped from other kidnappers at least once" Yuna was.
Lulu was the Amazon who guides the protagonist through the ropes until he becomes competent and she loses all purpose in the story but stands around to give a general sense of being vaguely wise and informed. Think Rose from Legend of Dragoon. That's a different archetype.

Therumancer:
-way too long to be saying so little of relevance-

I think you managed to hit every note except her point.
Female RPG characters who are not heroines and thus have nothing to do with the article. Check.
Completely unrelated male anime archetypes with typical anti-feminist underpinning as if the guy from Love Hina has anything to do with the conversation or is comparable to the JRPG Princess archetype in any way. Check.
Western cartoons that have nothing to do with JRPGs, and even then have "Princesses" who are strong-willed and smart and who take control of their destiny, unlike JRPG Princesses. Check.

Axeli:

The Cheezy One:
Rinoa from FFVIII at least seems self capable. While she does end up in mortal danger at least once, she doesn't have a fit over her own usefulness. At least, not that I can remember. It has been at least 3 years since I even played the game.
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.

The problem with Rinoa is that she's the fantasy girl of an introvert nerd too shy to make any effort or himself. She's not exactly a life-coach girlfriend character, but she does go to ridiculous lengths to bring Squall out of his shell. It doesn't matter that you are socially completely inept when she will, of all people, choose to cling to you until and after you figure out how to interact with people.

You know, it's actually a good thing she went comatose or else Squall's character development, which was the only real point of the plot, would have completely relied on that pathetic dynamic. That's right, she contributed more to the story as a MacGuffin Girl.

She's a Judd Apatow-movie heroine, except with the JRPG-standard Awesome Hidden Powers of Vague Origin.

Hold up.

Hold the fuck up.

Alice, from Shadow Hearts, as the banner image?

No way. No bloody way.

YOU fucking fight monstrosities that would give Lovecraft nightmares while holding nothing more then a bloody textbook, or if you've her ultimate weapon, a bloody textbook BOUND IN HUMAN FUCKING SKIN, and tell me that she's "Weak" or "Submissive".

Wussy Rpg Girls:
Their chief purpose is just to make you feel sorry for them.Or, to put the problem in the words of Shadow Hearts' Alice: "I-I can't. No ... I ... I can't do anything. I ... KYAAAAAAAA!!"

Spoilers below.

Anyway, If memory serves, that scene popped up when you were fighting whashisface, the executioner mask within Yuri's graveyard. And, to put that one in perspective for anyone who has not had the pleasure of playing the game, it's after he hits you with each and everyone of Alice's internal demons and greatest nightmares.

She spent a year traveling Europe with Zhuzhen, the pervy old monk, working as an exorcist, and strangely not needing big ol' Yuri around to carry her through. When they finally find Yuri in Keith's spooky, monster infested castle, he's not only mentally locked in his childhood, but he's using the L3 Darkness spirit, a fucking terrifying guy in his own right, for the fight.

And THEN, she dives into HIS personal nightmares, and talks HIS demons into leaving him the fuck alone in exchange for HER soul.

So, no. I do not think she qualifies as weak nor timid.

And, while I'm still nerdraging, Yes I will admit that getting kidnapped the first time was and "Oh no save me" thing, but on the other hand, it wasn't one of those "Oh no I've been kidnapped to tempt the hero to fall into my trap" plots but rather a "This person contains a lot of power for my apocalypse machine so I will quickly grab her and slot her into the battery slot" sort of thing. The whole "Oh no save me" sorta doesn't stick when, during her torture scene, you can explicitly CHOOSE for her to be timid and meek, or insult the hell out of your captor. Doesn't change the scene, but the whole "This machine is so SEXY" dialogue tree is funny as hell.

And being cursed early on in the small fishing village was, I swear to god, just a case of wrong place, wrong time.

I mean, you showed up, saw some guy die of the curse in the inn, talk to the town elder, hear a scream outside, follow Alice out, and then have some mildly annoying boss curse her for having too pretty a voice. This all within half an hour of crashing your plane nearby.

I mean, come on. You can't hold that against her.

Wussy RPG Girls:
Instead, the villain kidnaps her, using her as a battery for some sort of nefarious plan, prompting the hero to rescue her yet again and take her back to a peaceful life in the village. Where's the heroism in that? Even when the lady becomes a goddess, she still can't save herself.

Discounting the fact that, ya kno', the battery slot of the evil plot generator is usually specifically designed to not allow the captive to escape, either by locking them in unbreakable plotium or by draining their magical/spiritual/whatever energy as soon as it is generated?

The sort of device you usually NEED someone to rescue you from?

Huh? Maybe?

Wussy RPG Girls:
Often the amount of trouble one girl can get herself into in a mere 40 hours hinges on the ludicrous. Colette, Tales of Symphonia's Wussy RPG Girl, systematically loses her ability to eat, feel, and speak; willingly dooms herself to die as a sacrifice for the world; has her soul and memories erased; comes down with a deadly illness that slowly turns her body into crystal; and is kidnapped for use as a dead goddess's vessel, threatening her soul a second time.

Because, you know, sacrificing yourself in order to save the world is not heroic at all, right?

Suffering through a disease that slowly robs you of all your sense (considered among psychologists to be the cruelest form of torture), then turns you to crystal, is sorta easy compared to slaying a few dragons and calling it a day, right?

I WILL yeild the point on Yulie and Atoli, though. Because GOD DMANIT YULIE IT'S NOT YOUR FUCKIN FAULT SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY and GOD DAMNIT ATOLI YOUR SELF ESTEEM ISSUES JUST SPAWNED YET ANOTHER BOSS.

But on everything else, you REALLY need to get off your high horse. It's seems to be chafing your butt something fierce.

Good LORD! So many people jump on EVERY article that these writers write and go, "No, no no! You're WRONG! Here's example of 'X, Y, and Z.' See? You're WRONG!" I actually thought this article made a very good point. Japanese girls in video games tend to fit this Princess character type like a glove. Not all of them, but a majority.
Flip it on it's head and write about how male characters in JRPGs tend to fit character types, and I'm sure everyone would go crazy saying the same thing.

To be honest and trying not to be sexist but I like the wussy RPG girl. I don't know why 100% but I think it's the whole rescuing a woman and showing off how cool I am thing. Now here's something a lot of people have probably forgotten about is the evolution of Yuna in Final Fantasy X and X-2. In FFX she was the wussy princess type but her character did get tougher near the end of FFX and in FFX-2 she became a more modern(although over sexualised)woman. She became an independant woman who with a few friends are having fun adventuring and helping people while trying to find clues on where Tidus is. Maybe JRPG writers should have the wussy females at the start of the game evolve into a normal woman of today thoughout the course of the game.

Sniper Team 4:
Good LORD! So many people jump on EVERY article that these writers write and go, "No, no no! You're WRONG! Here's example of 'X, Y, and Z.' See? You're WRONG!" I actually thought this article made a very good point. Japanese girls in video games tend to fit this Princess character type like a glove. Not all of them, but a majority.
Flip it on it's head and write about how male characters in JRPGs tend to fit character types, and I'm sure everyone would go crazy saying the same thing.

Not even close to a majority. And it's not exclusive to Japanese games. The reason why we jump on this is 1) it enforces stereotypes while claiming to decry them and 2) we care about these topics. Giving an opinion isn't the issue - heck, i gave out a lot above :) - BUT: giving out bald-faced inaccuracies, couching it as fact, and then pigeonholing a specific culture while doing so? Nope, not gonna let it slide.

And yes, I do dislike stereotyping of male characters. (I hate modern marketing for this reason.) It's just that our society is so inured to that type of stereotyping it doesn't come up as forum subjects a lot.

OP needs to stop playing bad RPGs and/or blatantly ignoring other females. Try playing Tales of the Abyss or Tales of Vesperia. Try playing a Final Fantasy from V to XII and you might see a good female character; in case you don't know, FFVI had a major female protagonist before XII did it. Go play Suikoden, Phantasy Star, Wild Arms, Mother 3, and other titles that escape me.

Good LORD! So many people jump on EVERY article that these writers write and go, "No, no no! You're WRONG! Here's example of 'X, Y, and Z.' See? You're WRONG!" I actually thought this article made a very good point. Japanese girls in video games tend to fit this Princess character type like a glove. Not all of them, but a majority.
Flip it on it's head and write about how male characters in JRPGs tend to fit character types, and I'm sure everyone would go crazy saying the same thing.

It's hard to take her seriously when she complains about bad characters when there are plenty of good female characters. If there were really THAT many wussy RPG girls, then she may be on to something, but, as people have pointed out, there ARE good characters. She just needs to play a good RPG for once.

ultimasupersaiyan:
To be honest and trying not to be sexist but I like the wussy RPG girl. I don't know why 100% but I think it's the whole rescuing a woman and showing off how cool I am thing. Now here's something a lot of people have probably forgotten about is the evolution of Yuna in Final Fantasy X and X-2. In FFX she was the wussy princess type but her character did get tougher near the end of FFX and in FFX-2 she became a more modern(although over sexualised)woman. She became an independant woman who with a few friends are having fun adventuring and helping people while trying to find clues on where Tidus is. Maybe JRPG writers should have the wussy females at the start of the game evolve into a normal woman of today thoughout the course of the game.

I agree that Yuna's character development is an excellent example of, well, character development. :) However, to say it is an example of a 'Princess' type of character evolving into a 'modern woman' type of character completely misses the point that it is just character type "A" evolving into character type "B". This is simply solid writing, not a "oh, let's make sure to modernize our female lead". When you look at FFX, BOTH Tidus and Yuna go through exactly the same progression from weak character to strong character - not just Yuna. :) (If anything, Tidus was *more* of a 'Princess' character than Yuna in the beginning!)

I think it's kind of sad that so many RPGs have so little character development that standard good writing techniques are seen as creating stereotypical characters. (Stereotypes exist for a reason, etc, etc)

Girlie-man. Go to the gym. Get pumped up.

The article is well written, but then again, severely misguided.

We don't have to go to the "it happens in the West too" territory. We don't even need to.

As they have already said, Stahl biggest (and inexcusable) mistake was to take for granted, or at least give the idea that she does, that most JRPG have weak, self-sacrificing female leads and strong, willful women are a scarce and relatively recent exception to the rule.

It's just not true. Not by a long shot.

She just picked some easy-target examples (some of them cruelly taken out of context, like Colette from "Tales of Symphonia") and ignored the TONS of strong female leads that exist.

Many examples have been said already: Tifa from FF VII, Celes & Terra from FF VI, Shion Uzuki & KOS-MOS from the "Xenosaga" trilogy, Elly van Houten from "Xenogears", Tear Grants from "Tales of the Abyss", the girls from "Chrono Trigger", etc... and there are more that are to be said, like Seth from "Lost Odyssey" or Lenneth & Silmeria from the "Valkyrie Profile" series.

And yes, many of those games are from before the 2000's. Would you look at that.

And if we include the female supporting characters (like Yuffie or Sheena), the list just goes out of the charts.

There are even examples of the "Kabuki princess" archetype which show clear strength and will. They have already mentioned Aerith, and we have also Estelle from "Tales of Vesperia", Dagger from FF IX and Yuna from FF X (and this last one would be stretching the archetype, since she's more towards the "Miko" archetype, which although similar, is not exactly the same)

And finally, the fact that they are in this archetype doesn't necessarily mean they are badly written (the examples from the paragraph above are "decent" at worst), nor that if they are not in the archetype they are automatically good characters (as well said about Lightning. Another example would be Reimi from "Star Ocean 4", though in a different way).

It's not like there isn't any truth in the article, and as I said, is well written. The root of the Japanese archetype in the Kabuki plays is an interesting thing to look into as well.

The problem is that it is extremely biased.

Look, I can see why some people can get pissed off by this kind of characters, specially women. Even though I might add that I DO know female gamers who, maybe don't like the archetype itself (at least consciously) but they like some to the characters attacked in the article.

However, we have to remember that liking a fictional character is, at the end of the day, like liking a real person. In other words, there are personality traits that we are more fond than others, and if a character have the kind of traits we dislike, not even the best writing in the world is going to prevent us from hating that character.

mr_rubino:

Therumancer:
-way too long to be saying so little of relevance-

I think you managed to hit every note except her point.
Female RPG characters who are not heroines and thus have nothing to do with the article. Check.
Completely unrelated male anime archetypes with typical anti-feminist underpinning as if the guy from Love Hina has anything to do with the conversation or is comparable to the JRPG Princess archetype in any way. Check.
Western cartoons that have nothing to do with JRPGs, and even then have "Princesses" who are strong-willed and smart and who take control of their destiny, unlike JRPG Princesses. Check.

No, I hit her point head on. A lot of the things I mentioned were intended to counter the cultural comments being made. The point here being that any perceived cultural bias in Japanese productions nowadays comes from the viewer projecting what they want to see, rather than there actually being one. All of those points are intended to illustrate that JRPGs are not springing from a pop culture of feminine oppression. You do not have the creative media in Japan trying to force this kind of a gender role.

Also, a lot of it comes down to how we want to define "heroine". The writer of the article is extending that definition to major supporting characters. Thus my examples are quite valid, since I'm drawing from the same source. After all she's using characters like Rosa (from Final Fantasy IV) and Alice (From Shadow Hearts) as examples of heroines and quoting them. In Final Fantasy IV the protaganist was Cecil, in Shadow Hearts the protaganist was a shape shifer named Yuri.

The arguement she is trying to make pretty much comes down to saying that these characters shouldn't exist, while implying that this is all you see. My point is that it's actually pretty typical feminine behavior given how women are wired, and it's also NOT all that you see. Oh sure in "Shadow Hearts" we have the cloistered white magic girl who is naive and ultra-feminine, but in that same game we ALSO have a playable female superspy who is doing the aggressive hero thing.

The point here being is that it's neither an unfair or negative portrayal, and that to act like it's common to the point of being omni-present in JRPGs is ridiculous. This is why I am hoping this was intended as a Satire, because it's pretty ridiculous especially if you play many RPGs at all.

-

When it comes to the Disney Princess thing, I will say that it depends on the exact character your talking about, however your typical Disney princess is pretty much a damsel
in distress. Characters like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are pretty much rescued by their princes even if they are the protaganists. Belle in "Beauty and The Beast" is more or less a bystander to what turns into a giant fight over her between a cursed prince and the local studmuffin. Jasmine from "Aladdin" pretty much represents what the protaganist (Aladdin himself) wants and has to fight for.

Understand that while some women will scream "OMG, negative stereotypes", that's pretty much what a lot of girls want, and instinctively gravitate towards. The same basic themes are played out in movies and books, especially those written for women by women. Romance novels, chick flicks... nobody is forcing women to create or consume these things.

For the women that don't have those tendencies, and deal with the problem of being a minority attitude wise, I can see how this is very frustrating, and how the old days of sexism provide a "ready made" enemy in the form of some kind of organized male oppression. After all to the "tomboy" or just a woman with a more aggressive outlook, it seems kind of offensive that despite freedom this is the kind of thing that actually interests most girls and the kinds of roles and fantasies they create for themselves.

Again, the point I'm getting at is that any problem, conspiricy, or cultural bias in the media (even in Japanese pop culture nowadays) is simply the result of people projecting. Women who want specific things feel that all women should be like them, have the same values, and that by not doing so they must be being subverted. That isn't the case. It's just how most girls are wired.

I mean honestly, you don't see some of these women-oriented "chick flicks" making tons and tons of money, and all these romance novels (traditional, and paranormal romance) being churned out, because there is some massive conspiricy of men forcing women to want this stuff. Especially when you consider (again) that the majority of it is created by women for women.

While this is very true in a lot of cases, they're still pretty far ahead of WRPGs in this regard. In the last ten years, how many WRPGs do you remember with female leads or even female characters being important to the plot beyond being someone's girlfriend? BioWare is pretty good at this, but I can't think of anyone else.

Hell, if you broaden it to consider games from other genres there are somehow even fewer. It's really weird to see Americans discuss how incredibly sexist and racist other cultures are, then turn around and act SHOCKED that somebody would imply that western culture COULD POSSIBLY be either of those things, just less obvious about it.

Japanese games do sometimes pile on the wusses, fanservice, racism and weirdness (though I've always loved weirdness), but they're far more likely to have a strong female character in there somewhere. Like most of the women in Persona 3&4, Disgaea, Valkyria Chronicles, Yggdra Union and so on. Is it really a problem if the character archetype exists in a story with more nuanced characters that aren't subservient and boring?

And what's wrong with Lightning? I mean, she's not very well-written (nothing by Squeenix ever is), but she's still easily more likeable than the other protagonists. She only ever hits that hat-wearing douche, which really just makes her more fun. There are some complaints that it somehow makes her too masculine, but what the fuck do you want? I'll take an aggressive woman with a sword any day over another fucking gritty Space Marine with a dead wife.

Apologies for wall of text/restating things other people have said/being incoherent.

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