Wussy RPG Girls

Eileen Stahl | 9 Nov 2010 08:30
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Thus, tragedy befalling the heroine was commonplace in kabuki. The writers and actors would spend a great deal of time endearing the dainty, pure Princess Type to the audience, then put her through melodramatic scenes of torment. These might include poverty, torture, disease, or disfigurement. Whatever the case, seeing this innocent but powerless creature in distress was an easy way to tug at the audience's heartstrings. Her feminine fragility made her more endearing -and the manly samurai more heroic when he came rushing to her rescue.


Considering the time period, it's unsurprising that women in kabuki were portrayed in this manner. But why, 300 years later, are the leading ladies in JRPGs up to more of the same? For someone who's supposed to be saving the world JRPG heroines spend a lot of time taking a beating. Shana in Legend of Dragoon is first kidnapped, then falls prey to a mysterious disease. Alice from Shadow Hearts gets kidnapped multiple times, writhes in agony from a curse and, depending on what ending you get, actually dies. 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. Unlike heroes, who tend to triumph over adversity through force of will alone, it's the party that saves these heroines every last time.

This might be tolerable if she were also a dynamic character, but Wussy RPG Girls rarely have much going on in the personality department aside from a bland feminine "kindness." Usually this is conveyed hamfistedly, perhaps through a love of flower or incessant reminders to the protagonist to practice proper hygiene. And just in case being weak and boring isn't compelling enough, JRPGs go through the trouble of making the her emotionally pathetic, too. Sometimes she was tortured in her childhood, like Yulie from Wild Arms 4 or Atoli from the .//hack series. And she frequently suffers from low self-esteem, fretting that she's a "burden" on the party or blaming herself for events that are beyond her control.

Of course, just about everything is beyond her control. She exists in order to be pitied, and to give her power over her destiny would defeat her entire purpose. Just like kabuki's Princess Type, the only time she behaves heroically is in the form of pity-inducing self-sacrifice, such as when Eternal Sonata's Polka nonsensically chucks herself off a cliff to save her friends. And while, as in Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, she often turns out to be some powerful goddess or angel, she almost never gets to use that power for herself. 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.

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