Ace plays Final Fantasy X: The Sexism

graphix-2-2Well, like any RPG in the history of ever, you don’t have to look too hard to find sexism in the Final Fantasy series. And that unfortunately includes FFX. At this point, it’s really not very surprising to see women objectified in games and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to talk about how sexist this game is, because when you compare it to other games, it’s really not that bad. On a whole, Final Fantasy tends to be fairly good about this sort of thing. Yeah, we got large-breasted ladies like Tifa from VII—the game that also brought us Yuffie, the girl who is incapable of zipping up her shorts.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen the women in these games pose for the sake of posing. At least nothing immediate comes to mind until I start thinking about X. And even though X seems to have more objectification than other Final Fantasy games, it’s still nowhere near as bad as other games as a whole, and it doesn’t forget that the women need personality and motivations as well. I’d honestly much rather talk about sexism in the sequel X-2, just because there’s more fodder to work with. But that’s a review for another time.

So here we go! Sexism in Final Fantasy X!

Well, first of all, I should start this by saying that Tidus should not be the main protagonist. Yuna should. It is Yuna’s story, and Tidus just happens to be a part of it, not the other way around like the game tries to trick you. Tidus is more or less along for the ride and it is Yuna who is on the hero’s journey. She deals with more conflict than Tidus, and she has more at stake. So while Tidus is fighting to save his dad, Yuna is fighting to save the world, a victimized world she loves so much that she’s prepared to die for it. Even the betrayal by Yevon affects Yuna more. It couldn’t bother Tidus the same way as it does her, because Tidus hasn’t dedicated his whole life to the teachings of Yevon. So while Tidus does have a reason to exist in the game—again, he’s not Vaan—it is Yuna’s story. She is our main character. And when our main female character dresses like this, yeah, objectification doesn’t seem too prominent.

It also means that Yuna at least has more purpose to her than being a love interest or a background decoration.

So this leaves our two other female characters, Lulu and Rikku. And they are both well rounded. Sure, I’m not a big fan of Lulu hooking up with Wakka and her characterization did get a little odd toward the end of the game. She came off as strong, but in the end her relationship with Wakka seemed awkward at best and incredibly forced at worst, considering the Wakka-Chappu-Tidus relation. She loves Chappu, Wakka’s late brother, and so she hates Wakka for trying to replace Chappu with Tidus, because she doesn’t want him to be replaced. Which is entirely understandable. And though I don’t think she should condemn herself to being single for the rest of her life, choosing Wakka came off as a cheap romance gimmick. Like, bitter resentment gives way to love and understanding. She could have easily picked Tidus based on that. She does have a history with Wakka; the two have worked as guardians together before, but this is not something the game explores well.

Furthermore, every once in a while she got relegated to the role of explaining the plot for Tidus’s sake, when any character could have filled that purpose, but my biggest problem with Lulu is her outfit. It defies gravity. And it seems specifically designed to show off her spine-injuringly large breasts. If you win a battle with her in your party, she’ll actually lean over and her breasts will fall out as much as they possibly can without showing off her nipples.

And then there’s Rikku, our spunky fifteen-year old. I’ve already talked about her and the general objectification of teenage girls as a whole, but she still has a lot of personality to her. Both in this game and in the sequel, Rikku is by far the most entertaining character, and she has a much-needed energy about her. She’s different from the others in that, like Tidus, she doesn’t follow Yevon, and she doesn’t let all the death and destruction bring her down. She still wants Sin gone, but she doesn’t agree with Yevon’s method. However, none of this changes the fact that the game likes to have butt shots of her and she’s introduced to the party through this scene:

When you really look at this game, if Yuna was considered the main character and Rikku and Lulu weren’t objectified in their breast size or where the camera likes to be, and if all the random background people, especially the women, could invest in some clothes that covered their underwear, this game would be fine in female representation. It doesn’t really play to stereotypes, and the men don’t outnumber the women to the point of near nonexistence. And if you take out what little objectification there is—and possibly the wedding scene, which was filler anyway—very little, if anything at all, would change if the characters were genderbent.

So what do you guys think? If you’ve played it or any other Final Fantasy game, do you think the franchise is sexist or not? Or now that I’m done with all my FFX posts, what you do think of the game as a whole? Let me know.

11 thoughts on “Ace plays Final Fantasy X: The Sexism

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  4. Oh my gosh, when I first played this game when I was 12, and when I saw this scene with her taking off her suit, it was alittle awkward and wondered if they did that on purpose. It’s obvious that they did!

  5. Also i’ve noticed that Yuna gets kidnapped like 3 times. which reminds us of the damselle in detress cliche.

    • She’s not though. The damsel in distress trope is about lack of agency. The damsel needs to be rescued the hero usually is able to get themselves out of the situation. One functions to deprive agency, the other seeks to reinforce it.

      The first time she gets kidnapped Yuna defeats her captors and you just happen to arrive at the same time. The third time she does it as a ploy to defeat one of the game’s villains which you spoil by trying to be big damn heroes, the rescue is a failure and you all end up meeting up through the process of escaping.

      Point is while there is one legitimate rescue generally those are used to reinforce Yuna’s agency, not deprive her of it so she isn’t an example of the trope.

  6. Love the article. I think I agree with almost everything you said. And I’d like to add 2 things about Tidus:

    1. So many times I see gamers express hatred towards Tidus, calling him “whiny” “bitchy” “meg ryan” or other gendered slurs. It’s bullshit because all TIdus ever did was commit the crime of showing emotion. As a male character, he displays traits considered to be feminine (cause emotions are for GIIIIIIIRLS), and this is something that pisses off a whole bunch of people, because feminine = weak and pathetic.

    2. I’ve always seen FFX as “the story of Yuna told through the perspective of Tidus”. IMO video games in general work really where when the protagonist is separate from the playable character and FFX is a great example of this. I’ll admit, this doesn’t seem to be the intention (what with Tidus saying “this is my story”), but I would argue that this is the result: Yuna is the protagonist of FFX.

    • And Yuna argues with him over it the first time he says it saying “it’s my story too”.

      That said the dynamic is sort of an interesting inversion with Tidus being essentially dragged along by forces outside of his control but his relationship to his father being core to the events whereas Yuna drives things forward by her agency. Yuna acts, Tidus reacts.

  7. Oh there definitely is a lot of sexism in the story and world (sexualized attire is popular across gender lines and no, these aren’t designs to reinforce male power fantasies, I think this has to do with JRPGs having large followings with women), but I think any discussion of sexism in ffx without discussing Yuna and her feminist implications.

    Her agency fundamentally defines the plot, even when captured the game uses it primarily to reinforce her agency using events such as “you arriving right as she saves herself” and “you tried to be big damn heroes but ended up preventing her from stopping the big bad because the bad guys caught you and used you as leverage to stop her”.

    The interesting thing is usually agency is presented as counter to femininity and while it’s good to present women defying gender roles to emphasize the ability to do so, it gets to be a problem when the message is “to achieve agency you must take on male gender roles”. In having Yuna as a counter point to that, somebody that literally drives the plot through her agency and her choices while embracing femininity, it presents femininity and agency as not intrinsically oppsed.

    This flies counter to the cultural narrative that femininity is degrading and to empower oneself one must masculinize oneself.

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