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Breaking the Narrative Episode 8: Not Always a Damsel

In our previous entry, we showed that Samus Aran for the complex character she is and revealed not only her PTSD but how so many treat her just as they do a man. So how are we going to top this now? That’s the hilarious thing, by taking the damsel concept they’ve been pushing and showing that gaming’s greatest leading ladies constantly and consistently break the mold of that. Like the history articles, we’ll be choosing five examples from throughout that time. Some we’ve touched upon, and some we haven’t. Each example that will be listed today will have started out in the distressed role to become a heroine in her own right, whether it is in a sequel or within the same game.

The one everyone talks about first is Princess Peach Toadstool. Hers is an unusual case considering the original series in Japan has a different second game, but for us in the US the game Doki Doki Panic (Translates to Heartthrob Panic) converts an Arabic themed family into the Mario cast for the most part and makes Peach one of the strongest characters in the game. She also has her own game in the form of Super Princess Peach and has a strong protagonist role in Super Mario RPG as well as the Super Mario 3D World game.  In most of the games she has been depicted as being able to have heavy control over magic of several types and can glide in the air due to her skirt. See, sometimes there is functionality to feminine garments. (Source: http://nintendo.wikia.com/wiki/Princess_Peach)

Of course, we are going to follow this up with a girl who isn’t even human. She is a hedgehog by the name of Amy Rose. In the first game, she is a preteen much like her hero Sonic. She was saved by him from the evil Dr. Robotnik for use in one of his experiments. Nothing romantic from Sonic; he was simply doing the right thing. She did show in the original series (after the fact) an interest in him. Then, starting with Sonic Adventure she chases after him with a giant fuck off hammer, fighting off everything with her own strength.  She would advance to be the lead of her own storyline in nearly every subsequent game. Even with the series decline she still stands on her own as an independent and willful character. In fact, if you listen to how she speaks of her hero it’s as if she feels entitled to his attention and to controlling him. Not the best example of a good person but she is a strong female who was once a damsel trope. (Source: http://sonic.wikia.com/wiki/Amy_Rose)

Next, we are heading back to Castlevania to talk about Sypha Belnades in particular. Sure her descendant Maria Renard could qualify for this as well, but Sypha was the original. In Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse she went in head-first to try to stop the Count, but was frozen in stone by the Cyclops of the Graveyard. That was, until Trevor Belmont came in to defeat the beast. Once that occurred, she was freed and requested to join him in his quest. Once joined she applies her magic, which is all offensively based, to fight the hordes of monsters and demons across the land, leading to an insanely strong family of vampire hunters to be born from hers and Trevor’s shared bloodline. (Source: http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Sypha_Belnades)

Next I’m going to go with a very entertaining character, Lucia from Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete. At the beginning of this game, Lucia goes to the titular Lunar to meet with the Goddess Althena, being a goddess herself. The reason this gets interesting at the beginning of the game Lucia is the most powerful because she has deity level powers. She becomes a damsel because the villain of the game curses her to rob her of her powers. However, as the game goes on, she reclaims her power more and more, making her a unique example of a damsel that ends up being an aid to the main party as time goes on. Eventually she gets kidnapped by the villain, once she obtains a boost of power from Althena for reasons I will not spoil, but you do end up saving her again and once you do, she ends up aiding you in killing the main boss. The entire ordeal takes her struggles and uses them to make her seem less like a trope and more like a human being, this making the after-boss content that much more worthwhile.

Now for the last example we are going to use today, we are going to go with my favorite Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy VI. Now a lot of people would touch upon the amnesiac Terra here as she is the central piece of plot progression throughout the first half of the game. However, I’m going to go with General Celes Chere as her actions and character provide a more important influence to the overall plot of the game, namely because it is optional to not retrieve Terra in the second half of the game. Celes’ story starts with her being held captive by her former army because she started to disagree with their cause. Once she is freed she becomes an integral member of the group, going so far as to subvert the damsel in distress trope completely in order to recruit the owner of the game’s primary mode of transportation, the Airship BlackJack. As the game progresses and all seems lost at one point she even attempts suicide out of despair. When that fails and she finds her love interest’s bandana she decides to go out to save him and what’s left of the world, going from damsel all the way to main character of the game! If that’s not an inspirational depiction of a woman I don’t know what is. This is back from 1994.

Most of these characters are either misrepresented or ignored by our opposition because as always, they break the narrative so viciously it’s irreparable. This in all just brings us to understand the necessity for good writing for strong and weak characters both. There is nothing wrong with being weak, a lot of us are weak at one point or another and coming to terms with that weakness makes that weakness a strength. This is something that our perpetual victim class refuses to accept. They are insecure and feel it necessary to be strong over the rest of us. But this also goes to the point of us being able to start seeing men as victims sometimes as well. If we accept the fact that none of us are ‘strong’ alone we can find strength in our friendships and our family relationships becoming strong as a group of individuals rather than a collective of sheep. That is our strength, that we come together to be strong as we admit our weaknesses. This is why Alison has the strength she has, because as she had said in the past, we are always there to catch her, just as she is there to catch us.

As such if you look at all the characters I’ve mentioned here you see that they all become strong because they find their strengths in their friends and loves. This is the whole idea of the United States as a melting pot, the masses are weak until the come together under as single idea of freedom. That is why in the end we will win, because we aren’t popular but we don’t care because we have strength in our bonds made from this shared hardship. We won’t always agree and that’s a great thing, because as we have these disagreements then we forge out the impurities from our blade and armor to come back stronger. That is why we have already won because deep down we’ve already realized this. This is also why we tend to use humor to fight this battle because we look at the situation and see the joke, and we get the joke.

To make a final comparison we are the Fool in the Major Arcana of Tarot, I have a surprising amount of experience in this field so I will give the most accepted interpretation of the card. The Fool represents unlimited potential and an uncertain outcome. This characterization is usually depicted with an unopened bag and a white rose with the sun rising in the distance. This denotes a beginning of a journey and that the Fool has all the tools needed, the white rose representing purity of intent. Also, most tarot depictions show the Fool being guarded by a dog as well. aybe I should design a Honey Badger Tarot deck with the Fool being represented by Brian. Would any of you like a Tarot or regular card deck based on the Honey Badgers? If so maybe it’s something that the lot of us can talk about designing. Until next time please remember to Game Freely. Next time we’ll be debunking racial representation issues in the medium.

Maybe I should design a Honey Badger Tarot deck with the Fool being represented by Brian. Would any of you like a Tarot or regular card deck based on the Honey Badgers? If so maybe it’s something that the lot of us can talk about designing. Until next time please remember to Game Freely. Next time we’ll be debunking racial representation issues in the medium.

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
Follow me at
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.