222: Dude Looks Like a Lady

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I would like to point out that a transexual has one gender, and is not "both and neither". For instance a transgender woman was born/labeled/assigned a male body at birth and transitioned to a gender role as a woman. So a transgender woman is a woman.

The gender subversion is an interesting one that doesn't make it into Windwaker. Zelda as Tetra is the swashbucklette leader of a gang of pirates, and willfully contributes to Ganondorf's defeat with her light bow. She does double duty, of course, since she is captured (in what appears to be Ganondorf's bedroom, no less), but her struggle is never portrayed as masculine even as she fights.

Her appearance is more masculine as Tetra but only because she's wearing pants; without typical gender signifiers (such as colossal breasts and feminine garb) cartoon characters usually default to male.

Harbinger_:

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:
Because she doesn't wear a skirt and have long hair. (Which would encumber a rogue which is what she seems to be) she is automatically assumed to be gender confused or a transvestite? Seriously I thought we were pass gender stereotypes by this day in age. Boy was I wrong.

the point isn't that she's gender-confused. the point is that she consciously adopted a more masculine identity in order to defy gender roles. Zelda/Sheik is no more gender-confused than Joan D'Arc was.

In what way is cutting your hair, taking the fight to the enemy and wearing clothes that you won't easily trip over more masculine? I'm fairly certain there was also nothing in the game that said she was trying to defy gender roles. She wasn't a suffragette she was forced into exile and to fend for herself.

if you don't think short hair, aggressive behavior, and wearing pants are traditionally masculine traits, then i'm not sure what you consider gender roles to be.

I think of Cammy White as being a balance of the two roles captive/ hero herself. Captive under another's influence (one of Bison's Dolls) yet she can take care of herself at the same time. She would be a princess that saves herself; hence why she's in a fighting game I suppose.

Huh. I would not not have thought of looking at Shiek/Zelda in this light, and I have reason to think about things like that, since you're implying something to do with trans... issues, which apply to me personally.

I will note that I've played a lot of Zelda games, and while the idea as a whole hasn't changed from the core of 'damsel in distress', there's been a definite change in behaviour and presentation.

Zelda has become more and more capable as the series progressed.

In 'A link to the past', Zelda is far more helpless than she is now.

In Twilight Princess not only does she fight alongside link at the end, but she also makes a reasonably convincing case for being the actual ruler of a country, rather than just someone that needs rescuing.
She's repeatedly shown holding a sword, though decides to surrender rather than fight...
It's actually a surprisingly powerful reflection of the idea of 'wisdom' over courage.
She surrenders because she feels it's better for the people of Hyrule than if she were to try and fight...

Wow, some people put way too much thought into stuff like this.

Sheik is Zelda in a different outfit. Why is that so hard to understand?

The trope of the princess disguising herself as a man to mingle with the common folk is older than Shakespeare. It's not rocket science and we don't need a dissertation on how it works.

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:
Because she doesn't wear a skirt and have long hair. (Which would encumber a rogue which is what she seems to be) she is automatically assumed to be gender confused or a transvestite? Seriously I thought we were pass gender stereotypes by this day in age. Boy was I wrong.

the point isn't that she's gender-confused. the point is that she consciously adopted a more masculine identity in order to defy gender roles. Zelda/Sheik is no more gender-confused than Joan D'Arc was.

In what way is cutting your hair, taking the fight to the enemy and wearing clothes that you won't easily trip over more masculine? I'm fairly certain there was also nothing in the game that said she was trying to defy gender roles. She wasn't a suffragette she was forced into exile and to fend for herself.

if you don't think short hair, aggressive behavior, and wearing pants are traditionally masculine traits, then i'm not sure what you consider gender roles to be.

So you're saying that women aren't aggressive by any means shape or form and that its not proper for them to have short hair or wear pants?! I think that gender roles are outdated and foolish.

From the first moment I saw Sheik, I thought Sheik was a girl. This was when I was around seven years old.
It didn't seem odd to me that a girl was running around being capable and possibly more useful than Link; it was completely normal for me.
I think this is because of the media I grew up with. It was mostly the anime of when I was younger: Sailor Moon, Card Captors Sakura and their ilk. The main characters were girly, but extremely capable. From them, it wasn't such a leap to suddenly have a less girly woman who could still kick the arse of a couple of enemies.
To me, Sheik has always represented a strong, capable woman, who was defined by her actions, not her gender.

Please note that feminine /= female and masculine /= male. Girly men and tom-boys are not lesser example of men or women, just different. Also, androgynous is a better label for Sheik than 'transgendered', which is to do with someone's gender identity.

I would think that the whole 'girls are helpless' 'boys are capable' gender role schema was irelevant in today's society, but every day I see evidence that it is sill alive and kicking me in the bum. Women routinely make themselves incapable of action in the name of 'fashion'. Conversely, any man who looks similarly incapable is looked down on.

Attractive women in our society are ornamental at the expence of capability. Anyone who thinks for a moment that they will be called on to be capable would not would not bind themselves into footwear/skirts/dresses/corsets that make them incapable of saving themself or anyone else.

So yes, wanting to break out of the defined 'women are helpless' stereotype is still relevant. As much today as 100 years ago when the young male heros in pantomines were played exclusively by young women with a bound chest. Yes, Zelda is throwing away the trappings of 'feminine' in order to become someone who is good in a fight. She gains the allure of androgyny, something that is especially attractive to the repressed.

Belly dancers are not repressed, and they never wear high heels, they are bare footed. They are feminine and strong and sexual. An ancient concept, yet one we seem to have forgotten the lessons of. Today's women are more like ballerinas: bound feet, obscured sexuality*1 (flat chested and hips covered by fluff) straining to be dignified against overwhelming strictures surrounding their movements and role. Lifted high in the arms of a man, can such a woman ever stand on her own?

Sheik's androgyny explores the option of being liberated only to those who feel trapped by their gender role. His ambiguity is most beguiling to those who don't think outside the precepts of our society.

---
*1 Of course, to other option modern women seen to have available to them is commodified sexuality, displaying their wares like .. wares. Showing cleavage and underwear isn't liberating when it's de riguear, it simply turns one into an object composed of jiggly bits, interchangeable with any other set of jiggly bits and judged only by the merits of said bits. Again, in belly dancing, one's body is swathed in cloth. It is by one's mastery over one's body movements that one becomes sexual, not by getting your knockers out.

If forced to choose between being trussed up or laying myself out for inspection, I'd definitely truss my chest and lay out my own rules about how I should be treated. Zelda is indeed free to be herself when she is Sheik, and trapped when she is Zelda. Being beautiful (thereby attractive, wanted, desirable company) is a powerful desire for women, and not a wrong or bad desire. But being beautiful should never involve deforming oneself, binding away one's ability to move and express oneself. It's our society that has us convinced so. Find a different way.

This IS a feminist rant because there is a need for feminist ranting. I'm not suggesting you burn your bra, just make sure it's comfy at the end of the day. It's not empowering to choose your own chains, it's empowering to stop chains from binding you. And I see a lot of chain choosers clinging to the siderails of the steps to empowerment.

damn I knew there was a reason I like OoT despite its mediocrity. the scenes with shiek always amused me. Interesting read indeed but I'm not sure if you're reading too much into it.

I'll have to agree with the people who mentioned that this was an interesting point, but perhaps Ocarina of Time wasn't the best example. I've heard from more than one source that Nintendo only used a male character model for Sheik because a female one made the twist too obvious.
I personally prefer it when there is no clear Damsel in Distress role in a game to begin with. Why can't all the characters be competent? And indeed the mission control role is one to show characters who are competent in non-combat roles without putting them in danger. But then I just hate escort missions, so perhaps I'm reading too deeply into this too.
Good article, all the same.

Harbinger_:

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:
Because she doesn't wear a skirt and have long hair. (Which would encumber a rogue which is what she seems to be) she is automatically assumed to be gender confused or a transvestite? Seriously I thought we were pass gender stereotypes by this day in age. Boy was I wrong.

the point isn't that she's gender-confused. the point is that she consciously adopted a more masculine identity in order to defy gender roles. Zelda/Sheik is no more gender-confused than Joan D'Arc was.

In what way is cutting your hair, taking the fight to the enemy and wearing clothes that you won't easily trip over more masculine? I'm fairly certain there was also nothing in the game that said she was trying to defy gender roles. She wasn't a suffragette she was forced into exile and to fend for herself.

if you don't think short hair, aggressive behavior, and wearing pants are traditionally masculine traits, then i'm not sure what you consider gender roles to be.

So you're saying that women aren't aggressive by any means shape or form and that its not proper for them to have short hair or wear pants?! I think that gender roles are outdated and foolish.

i am saying no such thing. I said that traditionally it was considered improper. For the most part i agree that gender roles are silly and outdated, but it's just as silly to pretend they don't still exist and still influence our thinking.

Well, first off, I love how one person commenting on this has already been suspended. Yay free speech. But it is the Escapist's discretion as to who gets to post, being a privately owned group.

But I think there is an overanalyzation or a misanalyzation of the intentions of Nintendo's making Sheik as a breakaway role in Ocarina of Time. It's not as though they're saying that to be strong, you can't be a woman, and that if you're a woman, you're inevitably going to be carried off and have to wait for a man to save you. Though Sheik was a gender ambiguous character, this doesn't mean that Nintendo's message was "For women to be strong, they need to be more like men." Remember that Zelda did end up saving Link's ass when they were rushing down the tower of the Castle as it was falling apart by using her power to open all the closed off passages. If anything, Nintendo wasn't after the standard "Damsel in distress" story, mainly cause the Damsel in Ocarina of Time was the key figure in preparing for battle against Ganon's forces. I'll analyze this point later.

But back to Sheik. Once Sheik reveals themself to be Princess Zelda, she is captured I grant you that. But the reason she is captured is not so Link has to go save her and defeat Ganon, Link's whole goal from the beginning wasn't to save the princess like earlier games. It was to defeat the evil forces. The capture of the Princess was so Ganon would have an unfair advantage over Link when he arrived. Sheik wasn't any stronger than Zelda, Sheik was just Zelda under a different alias, one I think Ganon knew all along.The purpose of Zelda becoming Sheik was so she could roam freely without Ganon picking her off. Sheik is mysterious because she has to be, otherwise she'd be throwing up a signal that says "HEY GANON! I'M RIGHT HERE FUCKING WITH YOUR PLANS," and the whole quest would've failed. So Sheik is the driving force behind Hyrule's salvation, not Link. Link is merely the pawn of a greater scheme. And Sheik is still a woman, and I believe what Nintendo has done here (knowingly or not) is tell women that they don't have to stand for the bullshit of gender roles. It tells them that they too can participate in the plans with the boys, because they're equals.

Y'know..I think I covered the Damsel in Distress bit too. Zelda isn't the Damsel in Distress waiting idly by while some man comes around to save her. She has to be saved at the end because she's more of a general of an army. And having your general taken captive is devastating to your resolve.

But if you disagree, just quote this and reply.

What the article doesn't mention is that Sheik, while much more effective in Smash Brothers: Melee, is basically useless in Brawl. Zelda is much more used.

Plus, Zelda-as-Zelda in Ocarina of time is, for the majority of the game, eight years old. The rest of the time she's Sheik/Zelda. And Link is pal-ing around with every girl on the continent.

I did enjoy the article, but a previous poster was right, it would have been nice to see it expanded past just one Zelda game and look at from a broader scope.

I will concede that clothing plays a big part in how we expect someone to act, but not that all womanly garments convey helplessness and a big "please kidnap me" label. Zelda may not have needed to dress as a man to be a hero, just drop the lace and ruffles. Joanna Dark, Alyx Vance, Samus Aran, Tifa Lockheart, Jaheira from Baldur's Gate... These are all women warriors who kept their femininity, and give off a "don't fuck with me" aura, all without playing tomboy or dressing in mens clothing. But they also weren't wearing a Victorian silk dress and high heels.

And then there's Princess Daisey, who does the whole clothing swap like Zelda, but instead of quazi-ninja garb, she goes for a dominatrix suit and a studded strapon, and makes Bowser her bitch as she yells "Hi, I'm Daisy"... Damn you Deviant Art, you warped my fragile little brain...

Khell_Sennet:

And then there's Princess Daisey, who does the whole clothing swap like Zelda, but instead of quazi-ninja garb, she goes for a dominatrix suit and a studded strapon, and makes Bowser her bitch as she yells "Hi, I'm Daisy"... Damn you Deviant Art, you warped my fragile little brain...

And then there's Ken Rosenberg, a cowardly workshy fop; Colonel Cortez, a over-extravagant absent father with a taste for men in short sailor uniforms; Kent Paul, a simpering coward; Avery Carrington, an overgrown balding cowboy...it's not just women who get "locked in castle" roles.

And take a look at "Hilary King", whose even more messed up than Daisy ever was. Mercedez and Candy look positively three dimensional by those standards, while Auntie Poulet even subverts the main character.

I was under the impression that she pretended to be a male from a dying/dead race so that there'd be no way she'd be mistaken for Princess Zelda, holder of the Triforce of Wisdom. Thus, Ganondorf had to search for a young Hyrulian woman, while in the manga at least, he had one of the few remaining Sheikah working for him.

No longer having the element of surprise at her disposal, the new Sheik form doesn't need to be so convincing (thus the more slender muscles). It just needs to be deadly.

Also, I seem to remember her transforming back into Zelda the second Link was ready to take on Ganondorf, a point at which hiding wouldn't do much good.

One of the reasons that, in the past, women were in towers and whatnot may or may not be a direct result of the male's general expendability. Each woman can be impregnated by a single male, but one male can spread throughout numerous women. Thus, less males are needed, and women need to be protected (humanity fights nature tooth and nail). According to [url=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_humans[/url], there are several differences between the genders resulting from their roles in reproduction.

BTW, does this article even have a point? I didn't see any, besides a little bit of "gender roles are not needed". That's nice and all, but gender roles are intrinsically tied to the very real, though certainly not imparing, differences between males and females.

Tharticus:
This was an interesting read but this kinda looking more deeply about Zelda being a transgender person.

To me, Shiek is Zelda in disguise. The same goes for the Wind Waker when she was Tetra.

Bringing up Tetra is brilliant.

I was kinda like Uhmm what? when i read the article, cause sure, shiek could go for a guy, but i honestly think turning that into "chicks can't fight" is reading too much into it.

But as u say, zelda fights in WW and TP, directly, with lightarrows right in ganondorfs face.

The article even gives the direct explanation of why zelda cannot fight all alone: cause then link (the player) wouldn't be needed!

Captain whats his name isn't incapable of action due to him beeing male when he calls on samus to fix things, he's incapable of action for the same reason zelda cannot handle everything herself, cause thats not something support carracters do, they... you've guessed it.. support. Otherwise they would be main caracters.

So to be honest, while it wa sinterresting to read, i think this article is just reading way too much into something.

Zelda might have chosen to apear as a guy when she's dressed up as shiek for the reason of beeing hidden... who would suspect a dude of beeing a princess.

I bet ya that if maro wantet to lay low and could dress up like princess peach, he would do so as well. That would actually make things a lot easier... mario disguises himself as peach, bowser kidnaps 'peach' mario drops the disguise and kicks bowsers ass... no chasing him through space/paintings/whatever.

Brendan Main:
Then again, maybe I'm reading far too much into games that let you kick chickens.

I think this sums up the whole article.

This article brought to mind a very interesting question, what DID Zelda do during those 7 years other than hide herself away? Was she off doing damage control to keep the world from descending to far into hell for Link to save it?

I think a game exploring the time during those 7 years would be a great boon for Nintendo, personally I'm now very curious as to see her exploits during Link's hibernation.

So the head of state is a weak, feminine role and hiding in the shadows is a strong, masculine role. Even if she had been fighting Ganon, based on the state of each town, she still completely failed until Link woke up and fixed everything.

Well, I think it's fantastic that this article exists, because it highlights the existence of transgender people in gaming, issues of whether or not Sheik is or is not trans. Also, it'll make Ye Reader think.

And thinking is pretty great.

(So is trans visibility, woo!)

cobra_ky:

Harbinger_:
Because she doesn't wear a skirt and have long hair. (Which would encumber a rogue which is what she seems to be) she is automatically assumed to be gender confused or a transvestite? Seriously I thought we were pass gender stereotypes by this day in age. Boy was I wrong.

the point isn't that she's gender-confused. the point is that she consciously adopted a more masculine identity in order to defy gender roles. Zelda/Sheik is no more gender-confused than Joan D'Arc was.

That or she does it so that Gandondorf doesn't find and enslave/kill her.

But maybe I'm just looking at it too much on the obvious side of things.

MajoraPersona:
I was under the impression that she pretended to be a male from a dying/dead race so that there'd be no way she'd be mistaken for Princess Zelda, holder of the Triforce of Wisdom. Thus, Ganondorf had to search for a young Hyrulian woman, while in the manga at least, he had one of the few remaining Sheikah working for him.

Oh...guess I wasn't.

Is it just me or does Princess Peach have a bigger role in her games than Zelda does it OoT. I never really thought of her as a main character like the goron chieftain or Saria or the Deku Tree or the zora princess or even Malon. She just seems to me a way of moving the objectives forward and doesn't affect the plot because she is almost incidental to the story. Saving the individuals that matter to link as a person is the reason hes fighting gannon. Zelda is just there.

The game never really makes an attempt to make you care about zelda by giving her a personality or setting her as a goal.

Kojiro ftt:

Brendan Main:
Then again, maybe I'm reading far too much into games that let you kick chickens.

I think this sums up the whole article.

Of course, this only raises more questions.

What about the chicken that disguised itself as a goose to duck this fowl play?

By subverting the pecking order, it becomes trans-gander.

Brendan Main:

Of course, this only raises more questions.

What about the chicken that disguised itself as a goose to duck this fowl play?

By subverting the pecking order, it becomes trans-gander.

Your words have made the synapses in my brain itch.

But the whole story isn't about saving a princess. When Link wakes up, his goal is to save Hyrule not rescue Zelda. For all Link knows, Zelda is still in hiding waiting for Ganondorf to be nixed so she can come back to Hyrule. Even at the end, Zelda's imprisonment is only added motivation to kill Ganondorf. What's more is that without Zelda, Link can't defeat Ganon. Therefore, Zelda is an empowered female role because only she can stun Ganon with the power of the Sages so that Link can kill him with the Master Sword.

I understand the ideas behind the article, how video games tend to have certain gender specific roles; but Zelda isn't really the best example of this.

Brendan Main:

Kojiro ftt:

Brendan Main:
Then again, maybe I'm reading far too much into games that let you kick chickens.

I think this sums up the whole article.

Of course, this only raises more questions.

What about the chicken that disguised itself as a goose to duck this fowl play?

By subverting the pecking order, it becomes trans-gander.

admit it, you thought that up while writing the article and have just been waiting for the opportunity to use it.

...did the thread title change?

"We're sorry. But your prince is in another castle."

Doubt it. I've only seen one game that really tried that thus far and, although we will see a few more games like that, I have a feeling that this idea won't catch on.

Or I could be talking out of my ass since I also predicted we won't be seeing a lot of male nudity in movies a few years ago, and that's one of the new fads right now thanks to Mr. Apatow and co.

EDIT:

cobra_ky:
...did the thread title change?

Hey, wait a minute, I think it did.

orrrrrrrrr maybe everyone's overcomplicating things A LOT, and it was just a plot device in a 1998 videogame that needed something to provide hints of where to go next (aside from navi).

i mean sheesh, how many games include a 'warrior princess' that fights alongside or -GASP- is the main character?

What about Governor Marley from "The Secret of Monkey Island?" Your character (Guybrush) spends 2/3rds of the game trying to rescue her from the clutches of LeChuck, only to end up back on the starting island to find she had already escaped, and your actions had just messed up her plans. That game is the perfect antidote for "your princess is in another castle" game stories.

Interesting but it should have covered a few more games than just OoT. What about games where the princess actually tries to do something? There's a few and I can name one from the same era "Paper Mario" albeit the princess does eventually get thwarted there's still a good portion of the game that she's actively doing something.

Fascinating, both in the archetype analysis and the philosophical underpinnings. I personally would like to see a "mid-quel" of OoT, where you play as Sheik during those seven years of Ganondorf's rule.

Also, a similar analysis with a different conclusion: Link (no pun intended)

Tolerant Fanboy:
Fascinating, both in the archetype analysis and the philosophical underpinnings. I personally would like to see a "mid-quel" of OoT, where you play as Sheik during those seven years of Ganondorf's rule.

Also, a similar analysis with a different conclusion: Link (no pun intended)

I almost spit out my coffee at the end. I thought I was fine, but that "La! la! la!" got me.

Snake's reaction is priceless, and shows the twisted logic at the heart of all this: "Thus. She. Is a Man."

Also, staring into Lucas' hollow pupils is like staring into a swirling abyss of nothingness.

It's just like Friedrich Neitzsche said: "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into Lucas' eyes, he will creep you the frick out."

Ambitious Sloth:
Interesting but it should have covered a few more games than just OoT. What about games where the princess actually tries to do something? There's a few and I can name one from the same era "Paper Mario" albeit the princess does eventually get thwarted there's still a good portion of the game that she's actively doing something.

Hmm... Tries to do something? In what sense?

The irony of Ocarina of Time's storyline is that it's Zelda's fault everything went wrong to begin with.
The young Zelda, troubled by her visions of disaster, manages to bring about the very disaster she hoped to avoid.
If she hadn't convinced young link to retrieve the master sword, Gannon would have been unable to obtain the triforce of power...

But... I'm sure that's not what you were thinking of is it? XD.

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