Last Generation Gamer: The unappreciated feminism of Final Fantasy VII

 Game does not work, time to blow the dust out.

Game does not work, time to blow the dust out.

Last Generation Gamer is Seed Sings way of reflecting on the greatest video games that were released before the current gen systems.  These are not necessarily reviews.  Let's look at these thoughts as a walk down memory lane.  If you have any ideas for Last Generation Gamer contact us seedsing.rdk@gmail.com

Video games come under a lot of fire for being generally misogynistic. These accusations are usually dead on. People like Anita Sarkeesian have been pointing out the male gaze inserted in our popular culture. The girl as a prize, Mario saving the princess again, Ms Pac Man not having the right to keep her maiden name, there are way too many examples of men ruling the video gaming world. Horrid events like gamergate continue to show the communication hold that misogynists have on the industry. Things are slowly getting better with games giving us FemShep, Samus Aran, and Lara Croft as solid protagonists who happen to be female. Unfortunately these heroes have a few of their own issues related to misogyny. You can win Samus in swimsuit in the many Metroid games, Lara Croft has her iconic assets, and FemShep gets the most idiotic formal outfit (without all the mods or DLC)imaginable in a great game like Mass Effect 3. These heroes are still strong protagonists and these unfortunate additions do not alter their story arcs, yet it still holds the empowerment back.

The Final Fantasy series has always had some issues with damsels in distress and the woman as the prize. Great games like Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy X have incredibly powerful women who heavily rely on the weaker men in the game to save the day. Final Fantasy X-2 has only women as playable characters, yet there is still the eye rolling hot bath scene mid way through a game about the end of the world. Plus Yuna's main goal in X-2 is to find a boy.

Final Fantasy VII (Playstation 1997) was a groundbreaking game in the popular series due to the inclusion of 3D graphics and full motion video cut scenes. The in game story was massive and required 30 or more hours to complete. The characters all had very in depth backstories that were unnecessary to complete, but brought a richness to the entire game.

When exploring the full depth of these backstories, the hidden feminism comes to the forefront of Final Fantasy VII's story. The three playable female characters, Aeris, Yuffie, and Tifa, all have their own agency and do not rely on the men to be the hero. In the standalone world of Final Fantasy VII (I am only talking about the original game, not any of the extra games or movies associated with original Square-Enix release) the female protagonists are fiercely independent and vital to defeating the conflict. These powerful women seemed out of place since there was never a "wait for the man to show me how moment" from any of these characters. During my first play through I never thought about the feminism, yet as the years go on, and I remember how great Final Fantasy VII is, the feminism seems quite clear. 

The game begins and ends with Aeris (or Aerith) Gainsbourough's face. She suffers her horrible fate at the midpoint of the game, and never acts as the damsel in distress. Aeris goes to her fate thinking she can win, and the hero fails in his rescue. Yuffie is the daughter of nobility and runs from her duties. When you visit Yuffie's father, she stands on her own to prove her worth as a warrior and leader. Both of these women do not need the men to save them. Both control their own destiny.

Tifa Lockhart is the true feminist hero of Final Fantasy VII. On the  surface Tifa seems like every other video game woman. She has the halter top and she seems to pine for the hero's affection. Once you play through the game Tifa is not defined, or made stronger, by Cloud. She is her own person, with her own dreams. Tifa may want something more from Cloud, but his obliviousness does not make her follow him like a puppy. Tifa is responsible for bringing Cloud back into the fight. Cloud is Tifa's damsel in distress.

Final Fantasy VII still has some unfortunate parts of the game. There is the outdated and uncomfortable time spent on the Don Corneo quest, and the costume choice for Tifa. With the upcoming remake for the Playstation 4 some of the games warts may, or may not, be wiped away. Even with the problems, Final Fantasy VII still managed to put in the game three female characters who were not in distress, did not need the male hero, and could be counted on as the leaders. Square-Enix may not have wanted to create feminist icons in Final Fantasy VII, but the gaming community is lucky to have Aeris, Yuffie, and Tifa in our history.

Special thanks should go out to my good friend Wikipedia and www.feministfrequency.com for providing insight and facts.

RD Kulik

RD is the head editor for SeedSing and the host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He still gets mad when blocky Sephiroth stabs blocky Aeris with a blocky sword. Think RD is crazy? Come tell us why.