Nintendo fans and fans of underdogs alike were able to have their cake and eat it too when the popular gaming company announced that 2013 was officially the “Year of Luigi”. The year, which stretched into 2014, celebrated Mario’s oft-overlooked younger brother by giving him a slew of new games and generally showing the green mustachio a lot more love than he’s probably had in decades. Now that the plumber’s party has died down, some people are wondering “what’s next?” Well, wonder no more! Fans of the Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants have quickly decided that this year’s festivities will feature much more royal clientele. Yes, 2015 is slated to be the “Year of Peach”.
Though at the moment the Year of Peach is entirely unofficial and driven by fan input—seemingly inspired in no small part by the efforts of Tumblr user nintendopoe—there is some really good reasoning for it. In fact, it’s the same exact reasoning behind the Year of Luigi: 2013 happened to be the 30th anniversary of Luigi’s first appearance (Mario Bros.) and now 2015 is the 30th anniversary of Princess Peach’s first appearance (Super Mario Bros.) as well. I wouldn’t argue that every character deserves a special year dedicated to them. I think we can all do without the “Year of Toad”, for example, despite how much people seem to love Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. However, Peach is such an integral part of the universe (what would Mario be doing if not saving her? Or Bowser, for that matter?) that it would most certainly be a shame for Nintendo to let this chance slide.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Disney over the years, it’s that princesses sell. In fact, even if a girl isn’t a princess, she ends up being turned into a princess all for the sake of marketing—is it any wonder why toys of Lilo and Stitch are no longer being made despite the strength of the film itself? There’s something timeless about a princess, or at least the concept of them, and the movie industry hasn’t been the only one to notice this. Many modern games still employ princesses as a trope or a stand-in collectible, both of which aren’t really ideal for the representation of ladies in games. But let’s bring this back to marketability and the line-up of one very specific puzzle in the 3DS Mii Plaza.
Ever since I saw it, I knew that I’d have to complete the ‘Nintendo Starlets’ puzzle no matter how many people I’d need to street pass to get the pieces. Obviously I knew Princess Peach would be on there, but the other characters were a mystery to me: which female characters would Nintendo deign to put on the same rank as the pinnacle of princessliness herself?
As I continued getting pieces, though, I became more and more disappointed. Rosalina was the next princess I unlocked: not unexpected, and my feelings on her are rather neutral. Then Zelda. Then… Zelda again. And finally Pauline. I don’t know about you, but there’s something incredibly boring about this group. The disappointment came twofold: from a girl who didn’t sign up for a puzzle called “Nintendo Princesses” and from a Nintendo fan who knows that Nintendo has a wealth of female characters to choose from, or at least enough that they didn’t have to use Zelda twice.
Female representation in video games is something that I’ll always be looking at. I’ve looked at it since I got my Pokémon: Red Version game and wondered why I couldn’t play as a girl, and even before then when I watched my mom play Metroid 2 and stared in wonder while Samus traversed the depths of her home planet of SR388. While many series warrant a look, the series that has continuously kept me watching with the evolution of its female characters is no doubt the Mario series of games.
As to be expected, the lovely Peach is often at the forefront of the conversations and why not? Arguably, she’s the main female of the series and the main love interest, so of course she’d be under the most scrutiny. In the past years she’s become so much more than the unseen damsel offering the hero cake; she’s become a hero in her own right. She’s come to star in her own game and is even starting to get recognized more prominently in other Mario games such as Paper Mario and the upcoming Super Mario 3D World. Though many of these things in and of itself are still problematic (see: the execution of Super Princess Peach), it’s still an important step that she’s actually becoming a character rather than remaining an object for players to obtain. And I like Peach, I really do, but she has never been my princess. That title belongs to the oft-overlooked Daisy.
In fandom, there is a lot of hate for the “girlfriend” character. I have discussed this before in a post I did on sexism in Supernatural, where I criticized fans for hating on female characters because they get between their favorite male/male ship, or because they somehow think that the actor or (weirdly) the character belongs to them, the fans. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: hating female characters because of a ship, or because you think you are this actor’s/character’s “true love”, is just silly.
I can’t preach on this topic enough, and I often get annoyed with other fans for immediately hating on a female character after one episode. That being said, sometimes it is okay to be wary of or dislike the girlfriend character.