279: Wussy RPG Girls

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Jamboxdotcom:
i do agree that Tifa was positive, but then again, she was less of a lead and more of a sidekick.

kouriichi:
One of the few women i can think of that was accually strong and independant, without being a b*tch was Tifa. But even then, she had breasts you could build a country on!

Let me butt in again about FF7 and say "no way".

Tifa is pretty passive for most of the story. She's in love with Cloud since before the game starts, but all she does is stand behind her bar and hope he gives her a flower or something.

Aeris intuits Cloud's fake personality and in a sense confronts him about it by saying she wants to meet the real him. Tifa, on the other hand, knows something very weird is going on when Cloud relates another man's memories as his own. She was there, so she knows he isn't telling the truth. She doesn't do a thing about this, though.

Tifa has to stop being so passive when Cloud totally breaks down and she has to go into his brain to pick up the pieces, but this is a departure and a growth for her. She's positive in the sense that she overcomes her weakness, but I don't think I'd call her "strong and independent".

I'll leave off with a very insightful copy-pasta I picked up on 4chan's /v/ one night when all the kids had gone to bed and they had a great FF7 discussion thread:

Anonymous:
The trauma Tifa suffered was simply losing the social network she had built for herself and allowed herself to become completely dependent on. She was slowly losing it anyway (all the boys were leaving town), as girls like her tend to in real life, but ultimately the issue and the cause of her emotional instability was the way she handled her social life. Not a lot of girls get to be surrounded in easy attention the way she was, and there's a reason for that. It's not a healthy way to grow up. When it all slips out from under her, she can't cope with the loss, because she's never had to cope with emotional trauma without someone to lean on.

It's trauma, but it's trauma she set herself up for.

Cloud shows obvious chemistry with Aeris. Almost as soon as they meet in the church, and right after the escape, they're joking with each other and there's no tension between them at all, although it could be argued that this is more indicative of Aeris' charisma than anything special between her and Cloud.

Aeris is clearly level-headed when compared to Tifa. Unlike Tifa, who got to spend her childhood concerned only with herself, Aeris has the demeanor of a girl who grew up in a densely populated area, although she fortunately lived in a nicer part of it, and was likely protected somewhat by Shinra's interests in her.

It certainly Eileen's prerogative to point out sexism in Japanese culture, and I do not intend to argue that. But to accuse JRPG's, the genre of games most aim towards female gamers as being the primary example of this, makes me think she has no idea what she is talking about.

The examples Eilleen gave were certainly the best matches to her arguments. Other than the idea that things have gotten better since the year 2000, since half the examples are to games made after that year. (Shadow Hearts came out in 2001, Tales of Symphonia came out in 2003, Wild Arms 4 came out in 2005.)

But the archetype Kabuki or Princess is not the norm for girl characters in JRPG's, and this is an unfair set of examples that are the acceptations. The common archetypes in JRPG's for the main female protagonist to be are either the Childhood Friend of the male protagonist or the secret Supreme Being. So let me offer some counter examples wider diversity of JRPG ladies that fail to meet Eileen's description.

Of course, any female character regardless of her characteristics can be view as sexist depending on what version of feminism you choose to judge them by. So I'll only aim to show examples lacking the traits Eileen claim were common place, which follow three rules:
1. Cannot be a princess.
2. Cannot act weak/submissive, especially compared to men.
3. Cannot get kidnapped.

Now, how to give a random series of counter examples? How about alphabetically by game or series title? Sounds fun. Okay, let's go:

Arc of the Lad - Delma, Lieza, Camellia
Breath of Fire - Deis, Momo
Chrono Trigger - Lucca, Ayla
Dragon Quest - Jessica
EarthBound - Hinawa
Final Fantasy - Faris, Tifa, Agrias, Meliadoul, Lulu, Rikku, etc.
Grandia - Millenia, Miranda
.Hack - BlackRose
Illusion of Gaia - Gaia, Lily
Jade Cacoon - Garai
Kingdom of Hearts - Mulan
Lunar - Ruby, Jean, Lemina
Mario RPG - Valentina
Persona - Maya, Ulala, Mitsuru, Chie
Quest 64 - Shannon
Rouge Galaxy - Kisala, Lilika, Johanna
Star Ocean - Remini, Nel, Opera, Precis, Chisato
Tales of Symphonia - Sheena
Unlimited Saga - Laura, Judy, Ruby
Valkyrie Profile - Jayle, Lenneth
Wild Arms - Cecilia, Virginia
Xenosaga - Shion, KOS-MOS, Myzuki

I certainly haven't named all of them, but I think that's enough to make my point. I admit I cannot think of any examples in "Other Life: Azure Dreams" and the "Y's" series. Obviously, "Zelda II: The Adventure of Link" fails with its leading lady. And there is no RPG beginning with 'N' that really counts as a JRPG.

Now, if you still believe JRPG's are proof of Japanese sexism despite the number of women who make and play these games, I challenge you to go make an even longer list of examples of female characters who don't fall into Kabuki archetype in WRPG or any other game genre. Because I'm pretty sure we'd have no problem finding a few dozen weak princesses in any type of American game.

And would it be any less sexist if we saw that no female characters were allowed to be royalty, act weak, or get kidnapped? Happens to males in JRPG's often enough.

Let's see...

We have:
Selphie and Quistis (FF8)
Freya (FF9)
Lulu, Rikku and Paine (and arguably Yuna) from FF10/10-2
Aya Brea (Parasite Eve)
Feena (Grandia)
Millenia (Grandia II)

None of these fit the princess stereotype and are just some that come to mind.

the persona series has always had some very strong female leads, just look at Aigis or Mitsuru

Great article Eileen, couldn't agree more. If there is anything that annoys me more than hypocrisy its wimpy characters sent on quests that wouldn't be given to Chuck Norris.

Retyping for clarity.

Sigh, yet another journalist writing yet another article about feminism in games, as if they had just newly discovered The Disturbing Trend(tm).

Look, I hate to bash you since I don't know who you are, but you're behind the curve. This whole deal has been done to death, and quite honestly, I'm sick and tired of it. What's more, I'm sure I'm not the only one. Look, I get it. We get it. I don't need another article to remind me of this every other month.

For every single wussy JRPG girl you list almost anybody who has been gaming for the last five years can list a counterpart who is the exact opposite. Often times in the very same game ( Marle was kinda wussy, but Ayla kicked ass ). This is something you yourself seem aware of in the first place, which begs the question of "why write this article in the first place?" Reading further reveals a "history" of Japan, leading to the conclusion that you used the topic as a segue into an attack on Japan.

Briefly putting all this aside, why is this even so bad in the first place? Almost every single "journalist" who decides to "contribute" to this discourse, when asked this question, will say something like, "well, young people are impressionable and if they see female characters in a game being 'girly,' they might try to emulate these characters and be 'girly' themselves. But why is this so inherently evil to deserve this kind of relentless persecution? Nothing bad really comes of girls, for lack of better word, being "girly." I don't even particularly care if men are "girly." People are who they are, and seeing as they aren't evil or pitiful as you'd have me believe, what right do you have to judge them? I have a friend who likes pink, likes to cook, likes clothes and shoes, cries easily, the whole shebang. I remember her friends telling me that she once went to a club and not once the entire night, realized that guys were hitting on her! How's that for blithe innocence? What are you going to tell her? The person she is sucks? That she annoys you? Because going by this article, that's exactly what I would expect. By the way, she's not "emotionally stunted" and has a degree in computer science and engineering from a Tier 1 university. Oh, and right out of university, she moved far, far away from her home for her new job to a place where her ethnicity went from commonplace to nonexistent. She's a tough cookie.

If you want to argue the semantics of why certain things are "girly" and certain things "manly," that's a whole different story, and quite frankly, a better article. Than you'd be attacking the root of the problem, and I wouldn't have a problem. Instead, you cherry pick on an industry that is actually fairly progressive, and give an extremely one-sided, poorly researched "look" ( more like attack ) on a culture you don't entirely understand.

One, the Japanese do it to boys too. Look up shota. Sure you don't see shota in games so much but its in manga, anime, etc., and besides, given the controversy loli already creates, can you imagine the hell that would break loose if shota reached western shores?

Two, the west has its own long history of damsels in distress. Kabuki, on the other hand, is, as you have said, about tragedy and telling incredible stories. Which is more sexist?

Three, JRPGs have tons of awesome female heorines.

Four, and this is a big one, in nearly all situations where a female heroine is wussy, it contextually makes sense! Honestly, I don't expect people who are very young and / or generally brought up in very pampered conditions to know how to defend themselves. A hardened soldier ( that the rescuer often is )? A bit more.

Five, what about the possibility that gaming as a whole commanded a primarily male audience while in its infancy, and therefore had stories tailored to males?

Six, JRPG writers used tropes, archetypes and stereotypes. News flash! So does everybody else. Your very website even hosts for fun personality quizzes that divide people into these groupings. Maybe we should just stop using these archetypes. Than you'd be happy and everything would be marvelous again. Oh wait... archetypes are, and often arise from, shared characteristics of similar character types... Hmm...

One of my most favourite game characters of all time, Selvaria, is emotionally fragile and messed up. GOD, JRPGS SUCK!! Oh wait, except she was abducted by a fascist government and experimented on like an animal. I guess that would make a person emotionally fragile and messed up. It contextually makes sense!

Would it really make you that much more happy to have to rescue shota types all the time? Should we just entirely "rescuing people" from games to avoid offending anybody at all? Why this misguided attack on Japan? I don't know, you tell me. You sure offered a lot of complaints without any solutions. Or hey, maybe instead, let's write another article to incense anti-Japanese sentiment.

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

Yeah I was thinking about that.

Lulu was wise and had control of highly destructive magics, she provided great insights alongside other strong characters like...oh crap..what's the name of the guy with the gimped arm and the awesome glasses? Well those two.

Yuna had control of super powerful demigod like things that could rip the shit out of anything in her path. Tidus by contrast was a winy child whose only redeeming quality is that his father was at least interesting. (I so wished the game would surprise me and just murder him in the first half hour).

Then you have Tifa who was overwhelmingly powerful in physical combat, seemed to be strong willed and intelligent.

Aeris whose connection with the planet around her was unparalleled by basically anyone that wasn't a fallen god or powerful enough to drop an entire meteor on the planet. Her sacrifice no more "weak" than that of Jesus, who I don't quite relate with, but if that was a sign of weakness in her then there is an entire faith that probably has a bone to pick with the idea.

Garnet was quite literally a princess who had to come to terms with how she was sheltered and with the essence of who she was, of the importance of the things that comprise her. She was given a task that leaves most people historically in her position to live utterly bland and shallow lives.

Ashe came across to me as another literal princess who had grand dreams for her people and wished to make sweeping (and positive) changes. She constantly risks certain death, largely with strangers for whom she trusts (a trait missed by many in the modern world), and assuming you complete the game she succeeds.

Fran is an intelligent, agile female who has great insight (as far as any insight in Final Fantasy games goes) and again a strong connection to the world around her. She is a source of much of my favorite quotes in 12, alongside Balthier.

Are many of the women in these games drawn dainty and feminine? Yes. I imagine this is more to tap into the inherent good feelings of seeing attractive people that most people get. It's easy and it is cheap. You could make every character in every game look like the Queen from Final Fantasy 9 and that wouldn't add any artistic merit, well perhaps it would, but it wouldn't change the stories any. It would merely remove an easy good feeling factory.

The men of many JRPG's are fairly cliche, their characters are no less riddled with issues of impossible form and emotional frailty that any of the above females at times show. The Japanese, as far as games and anime is concerned (and as far as I've experienced) are very good at creating the illusion of deep philosophical meaning but under scrutiny it falls to tatters.

Am I any better? Oh good god no, but I'm also a terrible surgeon (trust me) but I can still criticize one that leaves their watch inside of a patient.

The issue I have with barbie syndrome, the nitpicking of all the social expectations riddled within female characters is that it is harmonized (rather nastily) with the ken syndrome.

I can think of few titles that do not feature an impossible figure, male or female, with very strong and obvious socially expected gender rolling. It's not, I think, that people are singling out women. It is not that all game designers are just masturbating (perhaps both literally and metaphorically) as they make their way through the story.

I think it's a matter moreso of people expecting too much from people who are at their core amateurs at what they do. Just a quick digression, WoW makes 100 million dollars a month but has bugs in it that are easily replicated and exist for years. They are a massive company but they suffer from the same quality issues of many small indie orders.

The thing is we look at indie productions as if they are young and fresh, and the AAA titles as if they are old and educated. But the teams working on these projects are not decendents of great writers, there are no disciples of Stephen King or Tolkein or Dickens working feverishly within the buildings that pump out these titles. They are writers, and their writing is entertaining, but it is overall not nearly good enough to make deep underlying points with.

The women can many times be crappy characters because the people writing the stories are poor at what they do (not forever, just at the time they made that game at the least). The >men< in those stories were equally shitty, but we were not looking for evidence of terribly written male stereotypes, that doesn't get website views and that doesn't fit well with the western fetish for confirmation bias.

I do think that women get targeted in some forms of entertainment, and when they do get targeted it is horrible and relentless. But I'm not so sure that JRPG's (or at least final fantasy) are the major proponents of anti-women movements. Instead I think they just suffer from the same issue I've seen in about three dozen anime's I've watched along side friends (by being there, not actively searching for them myself).

You get great lines like "Women are the clouds, Men are the Sea." For about 10 seconds you think it is a profound statement because of the sincerity of the character and the background music meant to support that thought, then after it settles and you think about it for 10 seconds in silence you realize they are using mad libs for philosophy.

Crap...I lost myself. The TL;DR to this nonsense is that I think it's more that many people hire poor writers for their games and not that games are out to make women look like pansies (moreover I've played tons of games, even JRPGS, where the women are no more nor less ridiculous than the men).

Sgt Pepper:

Selphie and Quistis (FF8)
Freya (FF9)

I fail hard for forgetting those three. (Quistis especially).

You know I don't mind bashing this article. The argument presented here has more holes in it than Torrey Pines. It's a golf course.(ba-dum tish)

What bugs me about a lot of people who comment about the nature of female characters is that they can't seem to get away from the archetypes, which is what I was trying to get at when pointing out the dichotomy. It would be easier for me to simply label the archetypes rather then describe them. Basically they are "The Peach" and "The Lara". I don't think I need to go into real detail about these archetypes. The descriptive character representatives should give you all the info you need to know.

I like to think that there are several girls, particularly in JRPGs that defy this sort of dichotomy. Aerith has always been my prime example because she makes it clear that she controls her own destiny and does not let outside elements interfere with her goal. I also think Garnet is a good example, since she actively seeks to see life from perspectives other than the one she was birthed into. Prier from La Pucelle: Tactics(Rare game, play it if you can find a copy.) is an interesting take on the aspect of "The Lara". I would say more, but I would not want to spoil the experience. But I will say her story is "enlightening". Virgina Maxwell from Wild Arms 3 is also an interesting example of character growth, as is her rival Maya. The major point here is that none of these characters are weak, and none of them defy their femininity. Nor do they parade it about the way characters like Morrigan(Darkstalkers) or Bayonetta do.

Another problem to this argument that keeps coming up is Alyx Vance. I admit I am not a fan of Half-Life, but I fail to see what is so great about her. And often the most prominent argument presented to me is that she wears pants. I am willing to admit that I am possibly missing something; but considering the subject matter of the main character being a needlessly mute hero that everyone around him portrays as some kind of savior, it makes it difficult for me to find any relatable qualities to any character in that game. (Of course, I could write pages on that character quirk, and I have.)

I admit that I waste a great deal of my time trying to dissect things like characterization and many people don't. So it often irritates me when people present an opinion that I feel misses the point. I apologize if that comes off the wrong way, and I certainly don't hold it against you. Actually it means you probably have more of a life than I do and don't have time for that sort of exercise.

Nobody save perhaps women actually seem to give a shit about whether or not a character is tough and strong. You don't base the quality of a character off of how many kills they rack up or how much "ass they kick". This is also not exclusive to JRPGs, but just about any RPG or game that exist. Obviously, the majority of people who buy RPGs and such are men and throughout history men seem to have accomplished the most. Why would you expect Japanese games to portray women as equal or superior to men when they're not treated as such in the Japanese society? Manage your expectations when going into games. But in reality, I can't actually believe someone in their right mind would complain about female character's performance in JRPGs, because as far as I can tell, there are no men there. Even the most rugged and brutish male characters found in these games seem to home in on a 2 out of 10 on the man-o-meter.

llagrok:
Nobody save perhaps women actually seem to give a shit about whether or not a character is tough and strong. You don't base the quality of a character off of how many kills they rack up or how much "ass they kick". This is also not exclusive to JRPGs, but just about any RPG or game that exist. Obviously, the majority of people who buy RPGs and such are men and throughout history men seem to have accomplished the most. Why would you expect Japanese games to portray women as equal or superior to men when they're not treated as such in the Japanese society? Manage your expectations when going into games. But in reality, I can't actually believe someone in their right mind would complain about female character's performance in JRPGs, because as far as I can tell, there are no men there. Even the most rugged and brutish male characters found in these games seem to home in on a 2 out of 10 on the man-o-meter.

One quick point. A lot of people who complain about certain characters in games are min-maxers who won't use a character if they can't get maximum potential out of him/her. But I honestly feel that most of those people shouldn't be considered in a debate like this, as they see the character as nothing more than a sheet of numbers.

llagrok:
Obviously, the majority of people who buy RPGs and such are men and throughout history men seem to have accomplished the most. Why would you expect Japanese games to portray women as equal or superior to men when they're not treated as such in the Japanese society?

Bad argument mang.

Counter argument is as follows: the history of humankind is pretty much, up until perhaps fifty years ago, the history of gender inequality. In many places it still is. Even among first world nations, there are still those who would contend that gender inequalities still exist. If women had the same freedoms back then as they do now or if there were total gender equality now, who knows what women could've accomplished compared to men.

Also, moar Japan bashing please. If this was the intent of your article Eileen Stahl, congratulations. Mission accomplished.

Illyasviel:

llagrok:
Obviously, the majority of people who buy RPGs and such are men and throughout history men seem to have accomplished the most. Why would you expect Japanese games to portray women as equal or superior to men when they're not treated as such in the Japanese society?

As poorly written as original article.

Counter argument is as follows: the history of humankind is pretty much, up until perhaps fifty years ago, the history of gender inequality. If women had the same freedoms back then as they do now, who knows what they could've accomplished compared to men.

Also, moar Japan bashing please. If this was the intent of your article Eileen Stahl, congratulations. Mission accomplished.

Seems like the point went way over your head. It's not about what "could have happened" if the world had been a better place, is completely irrelevant. It's not a comparison between men and women's capabilities, it's simply a reminder as to why they tend to be portrayed as inferior in certain aspects. If they are considered less than men in Japan, why would anyone expect them to come out as equals or superiors in Japanese video games? Why would anyone complain about it?

How is this Japan bashing? I've studied Japanese/Japan for 2 years now, it's a given fact by any Professor or Japanese person I meet and speak to.

Oops, second part wasn't directed particularly at you. Was reading some of the earlier comments in this thread and there's a lot of Japan bashing going about. My bad, I should've been more clear.

Its relevant because the only reason why things have turned out as they have is precisely because of the systems of gender inequality that were in place. That said, if you had said something like, those systems were probably put in place for good reason ( e.g. maybe male cavemen were way better hunters or something ) and are now outdated, I would've been like "fair enough."

Sir John the Net Knight:
Another problem to this argument that keeps coming up is Alyx Vance. I admit I am not a fan of Half-Life, but I fail to see what is so great about her.

She's neither a Peach or a Lara. She's a balanced person. She shouldn't be all that great or special, the problem is there's so little of that in gaming.

thats their culture, but you also have to look at the tomboys (tifa from FF7 and fang from FF13 to name 2) the mold is cracked but will song break.

An FFVII where Cloud spent the whole game suckerpunching Barret would be the most awesome thing devised by man. (or woman)

Now that that's out of the way, I do think it's funny that the Final Fantasy series, perhaps the 'go-to' series for pointing out the flaws in jRPGs, hasn't really featured completely helpless love interests in a while. A case could be made for Rinoa but really, Squall's the whiny bitch in that game, and Garnett's temporary descent into mutism is caused by the death of her mother and, oh yeah, the total annihilation of her entire kingdom. I really don't blame the girl her moment of weakness.

But of course, wussy heroines are a problem of the jRPG genre, but then again, it's not like Western games can boast superiority of gaming because of that one factor.

Every genre has its foibles I guess, and the extent to which you can stand them will determine your liking for certain genres.

Um... so don't buy games that you don't like?

fortunately to counter this issue, most of the male "heroes" of JRPGs are wussy little girly-boys more feminine than their female counterparts in regular RPG games, so...

I will take the wussy heroine girls over the feminine male heroes any day.

Are they still banging on about this? XD
Archetypes become archetypes because they're a type of character you can come to expect. It just seems like a very complicated and long winded angst at, yes, wussy rpg girls, but face it, they've been around a lot longer than most people alive today.

Its like looking at the Eiffel Tower and complaining that its a tall metallic pointy thing in Paris. And no matter how much some-one complains, no-ones ever going to tear it down by writing an article.

Personally I love this character type, not because she's meek and submissive and often the target for all the bad happenings, but because when something happens to the character I feel genuinely upset and hope to high heavens that by the end of it I can save them. But it certainly cant hurt to have another lady in the party hellbent on busting some heads to help you succeed, while enjoying it all the more.

This is a feeling I cant get from such things as Oblivion or Fallout where the characters are a lot more bland and one-dimensional, add to that a lot of western-made games. I wont argue that there's no difference in sexes but I will argue that there is a difference in people, just so happens in JRPG's we get treated to girls nicer than the ones we have to deal with IRL today.

Calling them wusses and this extensive hate on them almost makes you sound like you'd be the type to bully some-one like this. Not that I expect you to.

So some credits to you for an amusing, well-written article, more so for doing your research and teach people the history behind it, I like that some people don't just hound something without looking into it. Zero credits for the actual subject. We've heard it already in some way or form, more often than not from those other girls who hate the "wussy rpg girl" archetype.

Sinspiration:
So some credits to you for an amusing, well-written article, more so for doing your research and teach people the history behind it, I like that some people don't just hound something without looking into it. Zero credits for the actual subject. We've heard it already in some way or form, more often than not from those other girls who hate the "wussy rpg girl" archetype.

A well worded argument, but I don't think most gamers have quite the same taste for cliche that you seem to.

On the topic, I'd like to point out Virginia Maxwell from Wild Arms 3. She is the main character and though she is entirely competent she is still in touch with her feminine side. It's still a problem in that that is the only one that comes to mind.

Eileen Stahl:
If you've got low self-esteem, are meek and doe-eyed, and have the worst luck of any person living or dead, chances are you're a JRPG "heroine.

Or Isabella Swan from Twilight.

Which says it all.

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. While an immense improvement over the Wussy RPG Girl, Lightning is really an example of the same principle taken to the other extreme. In the place of constant kidnappings, the game pounds her toughness into players' heads by having her perform random acts of aggression. She's written as far more overbearingly macho than the majority of male protagonists and, just like the Wussy RPG Girl's nubile frailty, her toughness is so exaggerated that it's sometimes hard to take her seriously.
Final Fantasy XIII conspicuously avoided giving Lightning even slightly feminine traits, perhaps for fear they would still carry that ancient connotation of weakness. But it's definitely possible for a heroine to be girly - and, yes, even a bit vulnerable - without making her a cream puff.

I'm going to take issue with this because, from my point of view, the author is essentially complaining that a character who joined the military at a young age as a means to escape the emotional impact of her parents' deaths, and has subsequently suffered from a significant lack of emotional development, is neither feminine nor vulnerable - on the surface, I must presume. Lightning shows little in the way of vulnerability, outwardly, precisely because that is the purpose of the "Lightning" persona, it's a means of escaping from who she really is and to instead be someone who focuses solely on the goals set before her and completing them with no actual thought for the consequences. She lacks the ability to empathise with others, and to approach problems from their viewpoint, because doing so would force her to confront who she has become. It's very apparent from the way she mentors Hope, also suffering from the immediate loss of a parent, that the "Lightning" persona, like his "Operation Nora" is just a coping mechanism to put aside whatever emotions she might otherwise have to confront.

As for complaining about how "macho" the character is, is it really a great surprise? Genders aside, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the career soldier is more "macho" than an ex-pilot with a young son, the grieving teenager or the self-styled "hero" and leader of a small-time gang of monster hunters. As, again, her persona is built upon confronting problems directly, according to orders, and avoiding bringing her own emotions into decisions, it's unsurprising that her typical course of action, once she's lost any true direction, is to take out her feelings of impotence through aggression. Once her life loses any sense of order, her first response is to lash out at those she sees as being responsible without any forethought.

While I suppose you could call it a bit of a cop-out, Lightning exists to be a character who has gone to extreme lengths to avoid showing vulnerability. She's one of those characters who has a lot of hidden depth, hidden in this case meaning rarely appearing in the game. The problem in that respect is that the title isn't so much about Lightning learning to be Claire Farron again, as it is about her learning that blindly following orders to avoid thinking is a pretty bad idea. Rather than have her characterisation go full-circle, the developers instead decided to have her to eventually adapt to change, instead of resisting it at every turn. As we never truly see Claire outside the "Lightning" persona, her original personality never really gets a chance to make an impact.

Maybe it's because in real life I'm closer to the "macho girl" type than many, but I like Lightning, and I see the "What about a game where Cloud constantly sucker-punches Barret?" as the exact problematic reaction. Why can't we have a girl that does this? Why can't we have someone who is going to such enormous lengths to be "strong" that she sometimes gets extreme? It's like "Oh, female characters should always be emotionally competent and work out their problems very smoothly and socially." Yes, because that's totally realistic. This is all a knee-jerk reaction to "macho woman."

I saw the name Schala dropped as another "wussy princess." Schala successfully defied her planet-raping, mass-murdering mother and her monstrosity of a brother multiple times and saved the world. You're complaining about her being wussy? She's got some of the biggest balls in game. She don't need the Lightning personality to have a whole ton of bravery and strength. That's also key -- we should be able to deal with macho women, but also understand when the non-macho types are being strong and when they're Wussy RPG Girls.

I wouldn't count Shion from Xenosaga as a Strong Woman, but now I'm just nitpicking. She spends the entire game being in a lovesick stupor, her weapons are pathetic, her skills are weak, and she flails around whenever KOS-MOS kicks ass and complains about OH NO THE HUMANITY! (Which in some cases does make sense, but she's usually a passive observer who cries a lot about what goes on in the games.)

I would count Marle from Chrono Trigger even though she's a princess, because she constantly defies expectations, rebels against her father the King, is a total tomboy, saves the main character from his already occurred death without sacrificing herself (!!!) and goes breaking into the King's chamber by jumping through the window and standing up to the entire Court. Tell me that's not badass.

What I want to see now are JRPG females who have the power level in their weapons just as much as the men. Ayla is the only one in Chrono Trigger (as bows are the Wussy Girl weapon of choice, and somehow energy guns are also put in that category). In Persona, Yukiko's fans are stupidly weak. (Contrast Jean from Lunar 2 Eternal Blue, who has razor fans and kicks tons of ass. I'd add her to the Strong Women list.)

I want the "female-healer-archer-with-no-attack-power" trope to go die in a fire.

TheAmazingHobo:

Grand_Marquis:

Luckily, no JRPG characters have much going on in the personality department, so they're among equals! OH SNAP. Yeah I went there

Yes, you did. And on the way to over "there" you apparently fell down a flight of stairs and hit your head quite hard....

As for the article, I did enjoy reading it, if nothing else simply because it was well written.
However, I always cringe somewhat when someone decides to label a certain type of stock character as "bad", no matter how articulate the labeling might be.

I do believe that most stock characters, as long as they are not used out of habit or without any reflection, CAN and DO serve a purpose. Some games DO require a figure that must be rescued. And what if you simply need a weak, feminine character to pull of certain stories or character relations ? Is it bad to use one ? Bad all the time ? Really ?

Then again, I do enjoy a good rescue romance and whatnot.
So I might simply be talking out of my ass.

Good sir I'll have you know that bump on my head was a birth defect! >:O

But on a serious note, I agree that stock characters have their place in fiction, and that place is important. But there is also such a thing as a Badly Written Character. It's true! They really exist, and not in some convenient realm of "It's all Subjective" or "it's just fiction" either; those arguments are dangerous. They're easy ammo for any given genre fan who wants to defend this or that product. They can just use it to go the opposite direction from the one you're suggesting the article takes: it lets them parade around Badly Written Characters as perfectly acceptable Stock Characters who should get a free pass. Because it's all subjective, you see. It's just fiction, they're not real, you understand. So that makes it okay somehow. This line of thinking is a recipe for stunting the growth of their genre as a whole.

Identifying and destroying the overused Stereotypes and the Badly Written Characters is a vital process for strengthening any genre. And it's a role that is woefully underrepresented in the JRPG fandom. Among others. (many many others)

Aurora Firestorm:
I want the "female-healer-archer-with-no-attack-power" trope to go die in a fire.

Off topic - you know, the final season of the 2003 Ninja Turtles cartoon was pretty strange, but when the Turtles met their elemenal-powered Mentors, my god it was a breath of fresh air to see Earth/Stone represented by the female one. People need to mix that shit up more.

Honestly Tifa's probably the worst of the lot. At least others are honest about it. Tifa's just so ..passive.

She flat out knows Cloud is delusional but never calls him on it. Or asks what's up o says anything to anyone and just let's him continue living his lie. She's jealous of a girl he just met. No one questions the severity of the actions Barrette has everyone pull and her outfit, Now I know JRPGs as a whole have some crazy senses of style but even giving the nature of her world she looks whorish. No one anywhere is dressing remotely like she does.

and the worst part, the absolute one hing I can't forgive or over look. She get's into a slap fight with a secretary and can possibly lose. She's an alleged black belt she should have just kicked Scarlet's head off and called it a day.

Just because you give a female character a typically male battle role and skill set doesn't mean you've created a non wussy female character. She's still helpless most of the time and can't deal directly with other characters and is more often than not just relegated to a back ground role. I often have to wonder why she's even in the game.

Grand_Marquis:

Good sir I'll have you know that bump on my head was a birth defect! >:O

But on a serious note, I agree that stock characters have their place in fiction, and that place is important. But there is also such a thing as a Badly Written Character. It's true! They really exist, and not in some convenient realm of "It's all Subjective" or "it's just fiction" either; those arguments are dangerous. They're easy ammo for any given genre fan who wants to defend this or that product. They can just use it to go the opposite direction from the one you're suggesting the article takes: it lets them parade around Badly Written Characters as perfectly acceptable Stock Characters who should get a free pass. Because it's all subjective, you see. It's just fiction, they're not real, you understand. So that makes it okay somehow. This line of thinking is a recipe for stunting the growth of their genre as a whole.

Identifying and destroying the overused Stereotypes and the Badly Written Characters is a vital process for strengthening any genre. And it's a role that is woefully underrepresented in the JRPG fandom. Among others. (many many others)

I definitly agree with the sentiment that it is a necessary process.
I just meant to point out that it should not be done reflexivly, because we judge a stock character to be offensive, stupid or bad. It should be, as you pointed out so aptly, because a stock character is actually badly written, i.e. does NOT serve a specific purpose well.

But I still maintain that there IS a need for stupid, weak, useless and helpless characters.
As long as they are well written stupid, weak, useless and helpless characters.

This article written by Eileen Stahl has some points I agree with. However, the author seems to give examples that, at least for me, do not represent the majority of female protagonists in JRPG. I played a lot, and I agree with what the author said about these example, but these types of protagonists do not represent half of the protagonists in JRPG I know.
If you think about the FF series, maybe it is ok to apply this "kabuki tradition" as a general rule. But we should not forget about Terra, Tifa, Eiko, Riku, Ashley. One can say: "some of these girls are not the protagonists". Ok, here more examples: Tear (from Tales of the Abyss), Farah (from Tales of Eternia), Millie (from Star Ocean: First Departure), Reimi (from Star Ocean: The Last Hope). These characters are not fragile in the sense stated in the article, neither are tough as Lightning. Of course they have issue and problems in the past, but that is what forms round-characters in these stories. According to E.M. Foster, there is not good long story without round-characters to be the protagonist of it.

I'm guessing the writer only played the most stereotypical of JRPGs, or she's going by what she's read about them.

gallaetha_matt:
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.

It amazes me how much rubbish a person can say about something they barely know.
If you have not played a lot of JRPGS, donīt you think you actually have nothing to say on the matter?
Plus, you donīt seem to understand femininity at all,as you impose a very sexist characterization on your female characters.
Generalising, if think Japan is not creative with their female characters, you are not being creative in your games and in your critics either, because you are dragging the point to the exact opposite side.
I am not a FFIX fangirl (actually, I think it is one of the most unattractive game of the series since the XIII), neither a JRPG fangirl; but you cannot generalise like this.

How could you assert that every character in JPRG is either a teen or a child?
What about Cloud?
What about Tidus?
What about Cesio?
My God... What about AURON?

Azaraxzealot:
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.

Really? Backwards?
Have you ever played ALL JRPGs to state that ALL of them are backwards?
And what do even mean by "games with real depth"?
Do you really consider backwards a game that allows a player to choose between 12 characters and over 80 different endings, that allows unexpected turn of events depending on the player's choices, that does not dictate what the players needs to do by imposing cut-scenes, i. e., a game that is by itself the proper definition of "game" (J. P. Wolf, 1991)?

clarissa:

Azaraxzealot:
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.

Really? Backwards?
Have you ever played ALL JRPGs to state that ALL of them are backwards?
And what do even mean by "games with real depth"?
Do you really consider backwards a game that allows a player to choose between 12 characters and over 80 different endings, that allows unexpected turn of events depending on the player's choices, that does not dictate what the players needs to do by imposing cut-scenes, i. e., a game that is by itself the proper definition of "game" (J. P. Wolf, 1991)?

JRGs DO spend all their time imposing cutscenes so that we can't play. See Yahtzee's review of FF13

games with real depth are those with real decisions with real consequences, like in Mass Effect when i had to choose to let Ashley or Kaiden die... that was something that made me put the controller down and REALLY think.

a JRPG would have made the decision for you. thus making a less interactive experience and therefore less of a game.

Azaraxzealot:

games with real depth are those with real decisions with real consequences, like in Mass Effect when i had to choose to let Ashley or Kaiden die... that was something that made me put the controller down and REALLY think.

a JRPG would have made the decision for you. thus making a less interactive experience and therefore less of a game.

Ok, ok. You are right at certain point. But I know JRPGS in which you have to do choices just like this one you said and these choices have serious consequences for the story and for the gameplay.
Star Ocean series, for instance, you have to choose 4 characters from, in general, 10 options.
In Star Ocean II, if you pick a certain character, you will have some benefits for you which differ from the benefits you will have from picking another character: items, quests, transportation, crafting, etc.
You can also choose not to pick anyone at all.
And if you do so, either they die, either they give you money, either they save you, and so on an so forth.
And this is just an ONE example. I have, at least, 10 JRPGs like this in mind.

Azaraxzealot:

JRGs DO spend all their time imposing cutscenes so that we can't play. See Yahtzee's review of FF13

Ah, and by the way...
FFXIII is an exception. I played it shortly. That THING is not an RPG. Shouldnīt even be considered a game.
That thing is a disgrace upon all gamers. It is a true blasphemy.

I cannot believe in a game that restores my hp after every single battle...

Also: Star Ocean II (PS1) does not have cut-scenes. Not even a single one.

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