Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Aerith (aka Aeris)

ff7_aerith5It’s not often that we find Christian themes in media straight from Japan, except for when we do, because it happens all the time. Japanese culture seems to be very fascinated with Christianity as a whole, and so it comes as no surprise that we may find some Christian themes in the Final Fantasy franchise as well. When I first sat down to outline what I was going to say for this post, I initially planned to discuss Aerith as a Virgin Mary figure, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Aerith has more in common with Jesus than she does Mary. While it’s true that she does share some traits that we would find with a Mary figure—purity of heart, (more than likely) virginal, etc.—these are also traits that Jesus had. And really, the main reason I first thought of Mary and not Jesus is because Aerith is a woman.

So let’s talk about Aerith as a female Christ figure.

Probably the most obvious similarity between Aerith and Jesus is that Aerith dies and saves the world through her death. Aerith’s death has become an iconic and shocking scene in video-gamedom, ever since it happened. But let’s really think about what is happening during it. Aerith is praying on an altar in the Forgotten City, attempting to cast a Holy spell with the White Materia to stop a meteor from destroying the planet. However, during her prayer, Sephiroth brutally murders her, the White Materia falls to the bottom of a lake, and all seems lost.

Due to Sephiroth and Jenova, upon death, Aerith’s Holy spell is held at bay, and quite frankly, I was also under the heavy impression that she had been unable to enter the Lifestream. And until Sephiroth and Jenova are dead, she cannot enter the Lifestream and talk to it. The plot of the game is less “save the world” and more “kill Jenova so Aerith can tell the Lifestream to combine with Holy and stop Meteor.” Though Aerith never technically rises from the dead, she is very much around after her death. I also suppose we could call whatever limbo she was in before Jenova’s death Hell, and we can also call her entrance into the Lifestream ascension into Heaven.

Furthermore, Jesus died and rose again in fulfillment of the Gospel, and upon Aerith going into the Lifestream, what she set out to do—save the planet—happens. So she is a savior.

On top of that, she’s also the healer of the group. All of her limit breaks have healing properties to them. This may be a minor point, since most video games have at least one healer character, and that doesn’t make all of them Christ figures, but healing the sick was another thing Jesus did.

But without being picky, the backstory of her people is very much in line with Christianity. Aerith is the last surviving Creta—or Ancient, as they’re sometimes called. The Creta were migratory people who were searching for something that’s actually called the Promised Land. Jesus came from Jewish ancestry, and Aerith comes from the Creta. I guess the best way to describe the Creta would be “The Planet’s Chosen People.” They had the ability to communicate with the planet and were very spiritual in nature.

Even in life, Aerith wanted to go out and explore the world because she could hear the wind speaking to her. Before joining up with AVALANCHE and exploring the world with Cloud and company, Aerith liked to hang around in an abandoned church. The church is very much designed in a Christian fashion, and despite being located in the slums of Midgar, Aerith gets flowers to grow there. After her death, her ghost can be found back in the church, and at the end of Final Fantasy: Advent Children, there’s a ginormous group baptism that takes places there. And we find out that she called everyone there to be “baptized” and cleansed of the sickness Jenova started spreading again.

I suppose we could make the argument that the water here is indicative of Shintoism, as Shintoism has a lot to do with water and cleansing, but the “baptism” happens in what looks like a Christian church.

Also, throughout Advent Children, Cloud speaks to her. She provides him comfort and she’s looking after him and everyone else. She’s also combating Jenova’s illness through him and the other characters—God works miracles through us—but she’s still ever present, and she does help out to make the impossible possible, like when Cloud needs help to destroy Bahamut and she physically grabs his hand from beyond the grave.

So I think that Aerith is very much a female Christ figure. What do you guys think?