definition fail: Zelda isn't trans. Trans people aren't male, female, both, and neither simultaneously. That is a misconception that cisgender people put upon trans people despite our protestations. Stop it please.
You'd have more luck if Zelda was Zelda, then became shiek, then stopped being zelda -ever again- because then you could at least argue that her identity was consistent. As it stands, if Zelda was not just say 'in disguise' then at most you can argue that they identify outside of the gender spectrum altogether.
Still, the idea people have had in this thread about a return to the OoT universe playing as Shiek throughout the years link is away is awesome, and has much potential. The world would have to be redesigned and expanded considerably though, or it would just be 'shiek visits the same areas link visited years ago (and in the future...) and doesn't quite fix them because that would make links job a bit too easy' which would be unfulfilling.
Trans people aren't male, female, both, and neither simultaneously. That is a misconception that cisgender people put upon trans people despite our protestations.
That's a valid point, and it's one that I wish I had addressed. As it stood, the "both and neither" line was a way of simply stating the premise to an audience unfamiliar with the concept. But I agree - as a simplification, it does the concept no favors.
I do believe strongly that the vociferousness of the "She vs. he" debate regarding Sheik reveals a playerbase resistant to a character that occupies a space outside of the bounds of conventional identities. As I say in the article, I think these definitions are bound to be incomplete for the reasons you mention: Identity isn't necessarily a matter of sorting out male and female signifiers and putting them in tidy piles, labeled blue for boys and pink for girls. Our desire to classify, in game and out, comes at a price.
I see now that the "both and neither" line reinforces the very ideas I'm trying to debunk. It's unfair, and I apologize.
It would be interesting to play as Zelda/Sheik during those seven years. Give much more insight into the character, as well as adding another dimension to the story. SOMETHING must have happened over that time.
Or maybe that's just me.
Some arguments that are flawed or refutable:
*Zelda's guise as Sheik is androgynous and not very masculine at all. Therefore she is not a transgender.
-Throughout OoT, she was referred to as he. The supplemental material that expands the story clear up that Zelda was given male features through magic in the transformation. Also a Sheik in etymological terms refers to a male leader in the Arabic and Islamic culture.
*Zelda only took up the identity of Sheik to conceal her identity, therefore she is not transgender.
-Zelda could have picked any disguise, yet she chose a male one. Why?
*Choosing a role as the opposite sex for social freedom does not make one a transgender.
-Lets break down the word, transgender.
Etymology: Latin trans-, tra- across, beyond, through, so as to change, from trans across, beyond
sex <the feminine gender> b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
By dressing up as a member of the opposite sex (gender), Zelda crossed (trans) the boundaries and that are considered normative roles for the sexes. That is transgender behavior. Many people live transgender lifestyles with better or other opportunities in mind.
*Zelda cross dresses only part of the time. She also identifies as a woman in other times and for the majority of the time. She does believe she is a man nor does she prefer to be one. This makes her not a transgender.
-Cross dressing, as I already explained previously is transgender activity. There are entire scales and categories of transgender behavoir.
Previously I broke down and pointed out that the word transgender, means crossing the gender norms or encompassing across it. Because Zelda lives a life as both a man and woman, that fits the description. It is also a misconception that all transgenders want to be physically a member of the opposite sex, or identified as one. Or for that matter believe nature made them the opposite gender by mistake. Most transgenders accept their natural born sex.
As someone who identifies as a LGBT, for years I disliked the labels put upon us or even identifying as a LGBT. I did not enjoy how because one engages in certain activity, has certain thoughts or displays certain traits that we automatically belong in a community. Deep down I personally believe that living things are beyond borders of sexual orientation, paraphilias, political lines, race, mental disorders and etc... However I have come to accept that the rest of the world uses these labels and I must adapt to get my point across.
The article is really well written. But yeah, the fact is you read too much into it.
But not as much a some people here seem to think.
Even if Nintendo didn't intended this stuff in the first place (which they didn't. And that's a fact, I'm afraid) that doesn't mean that it cannot be there. There are tons of art pieces which talks about topics that the author didn't even intend to. And yet, there they are. The artist's subconscious manifests itself in their work anyway.
Because let us not forget one thing: Nintendo is a Japanese company. And gender roles are strongly established in Japan. Even if they have made improvements since World War II, they have been baby steps only. It wouldn't be surprising if this influenced the decision of the whole Sheik / Zelda thing, even if it was just a little bit.
On the other hand, we have to remember than Zelda's role in the series has been increasing ever since. Even if she was kidnapped and/or had a more passive role, she has an active role in the final battle of most of the games (OOT final battle included, BTW).
It even reached a climax last year with "Spirit Tracks" for NDS. Which BTW, I can't believe no one has mentioned until now. In this game Zelda has the strongest presence in the whole series and actively helps Link during the whole thing. Actually, arguably she is the main character of the story instead of Link. She doesn't steal the show as Midna did in TP because she's still a little bit too much in the soft side, but she comes close.
Did Nintendo always think of Zelda as a capable character despite her gender and the whole Sheik stunt was just a cool plot twist? Or they actually were influenced by the Japanese traditional visions of gender but with OOT they realized that having Zelda as an ass kicking princess was cool and followed that path afterwards?
I guess we'll never know.
On other topic, to the people who tries to diminish the article, or even video games as a medium altogether just because this stuff has been done before in other mediums:
If we're going to follow that line of logic then we should diminish most narrative since all the way to ancient Greece. Since you use TV tropes as "conclusive evidence", you should not forget that, according to them, "tropes aren't bad".
PD: In Brawl Sheik was more feminine... but also more badass. S/he takes down a freaking Arwing with a single punch, for crying out loud! lol Not even Captain Falcon would have pulled that off!
The Sheik thing really isn't that deep, from a purely dry, tactical militaristic perspective such as mine, Zelda's choice to take on the persona of Sheik is absolute perfection. Think about it. Gannon controls the triforce of power, as well as the everything else. Zelda has her magic, which isn't really enough to defy Gannon's everything. Now, since Gannon is looking for a young woman in her late twenties with blonde hair and a pale complexion, and a specific eye colour, and she has the ability to mask every single one of those aspects aside from the young thing. It makes no sense to not do that. Not doing so would be showing us how not to run a magical insurgency.
This is a really excellent article. Well grounded and researched in theoretical discourse while still making it accessible to those who haven't done that reading.
Provokative and interesting. And bold considering how touchy some Nintendo fans can be towards anything that has a whiff of criticism. And truly I didn't think this was critical (read: negative), rather critical (read: analytical).
I also notice that you haven't posted an article since May. I hope you, too, weren't part of the Escapists evacuation of contributors.
All reactions that the author is looking into this too much, and have put more thought into it than ninentdo, are really quite idiotic and uncritical in nature. Critics by definition should understand a work more than its creators. Furthermore, as creative members of society, we reflect and reproduce it in everything we create. This is most pronounced when it comes to gender and gender relations. Also, making reference to Zelda in games that followed Ocarina is pointless, as the article was focused on a fixed point in time, a turning point if you will. The author is spot on in everything they say, and for those who can't see it, I suggest you read more of issues of gender.
Its amazing how many people try to wave away the gender issues by reference to the literal components of the story! "Zelda became sheik because of this.... Zelda got caputred because of....." Try to see beyond the literal people.