All-female protagonist September: Bitchy or ditzy, the Final Fantasy Scale

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Blog by Lindsay M.

While considering the physique of female video game characters last week, I touched briefly upon the fact that Final Fantasy XIII’s Lightning is considering “bitchy” by many. This led me to the realization that females are often grouped into one of two categories: she is a bitch or she is a ditz. These categories in video games are often reflected in the real world, except in the real world you aren’t limited in your view of a person and can ask specific questions to make your opinion evolve. In video games, players are stuck with what the developers (and translators) allow them to see. This has led me to create what I call the “Final Fantasy Female scale”, as I find the repetition in character personalities through the series allows for an easy comparison.

Lightning is a realistic female. The world isn’t all bright, shiny, and perfect — and she knows it. She remains focused on the task at hand and won’t let anyone get in her way. By being vocal about her needs, she tends to separate herself from the crowd. As is reflected in life, this disconnect almost immediately leads to someone being labelled as a bitch. I personally feel very sympathetic towards Lightning, as I’ve been labelled as a bitch my entire life: when I was about seven or eight my grandmother actually screamed “why are you being such a bitch?” at me. Granted, I was being a bit of a brat, but when it came down to it I was upset because I wanted my mother and didn’t understand why she wasn’t there. Her and my dad split when I was two, and she had to travel for work all the time. Because she had no option (I still don’t know why my dad couldn’t just look after us, I can only presume he didn’t care to) I was left with a woman who made it very clear she didn’t like me yet showered my younger sister with love. I learned not to get close to anyone, to keep my guard up and hide against the wall, because when I showed emotion I got in trouble. Not only that, but I was incredibly shy and always terrified of being judged. It was a perfect storm of Bitch, essentially. I feel that Lightning is very similar, that she has insecurities due to losing her parents at such a young age. The only difference is that she’s far less shy around others, a trait that makes me admire Lightning even more.

On the other hand, we have Rikku of Final Fantasy X fame. She’s bubbly, she’s happy, and everyone loves her. Nobody cares if she’s smart, but they do care that she’s freaking adorable. Rikku is quick and agile, but never a very strong character in FFX. She has a sad backstory as well, with her mother dying at a young age, but she remains upbeat and outgoing. Oh, and her outfit gets skimpier as she moves into Final Fantasy X-2, because of course it does. Rikku is the picture perfect Final Fantasy girl; she is a pretty face to plaster everywhere. I’m not saying Rikku’s bubbly personality is a problem, as I’ve known many like her who light up my days. The problem is there is very little to her otherwise. Nobody sees Rikku’s bad days as representative of her as a whole because they are too busy judging her physical attributes (quite literally, as she won G4’s 2004 Hottest Character award).

So to the left we have Lightning, headstrong and vocal. To the right we have Rikku, perky and likeable. The bitch and the ditz, if you will. Most female characters from the Final Fantasy series in particular can fit one of the two types. Ashe is a bitch. Lulu is a bitch. Selphie is a ditz. Terra is a ditz. Expand this to other franchises (or indies) and I swear, the same thing happens — although sometimes a magical thing happens and a woman falls between the two ends of the spectrum. That is the issue here: women protagonists exist, but they’re usually completed polarizing. I’m yet to find a protagonist at the blockbuster end of the spectrum who falls in between in a realistic fashion, although I would love to hear from anyone who has found this character.

Nearly two weeks into the month, and I am starting to feel slightly trapped by the women I’ve encountered so far. My plan is to venture to iOS this week and play Severed and Submerged, hoping to find some believable characters in them.

– Lindsay M.
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