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The New Heroines

A dialogue about teen and YA heroines in pop culture.

Category

video games

Mae Borowski – Night in the Woods

Who is Mae Borowski

Having trouble at college, 20 year old Mae Borowski drops out and comes back to her home town Possum Springs after being gone for about 2 years. Upon returning to the place where she grew up, she starts to notice how the not only the town has vastly changed, but so has her friends Gregg, Angus, and Bea. Mae is very lost and is scared to move forward with her life and has no clue where to start while it seems all of her friends have their lives in order with a plan. Mae goes back into town tries hanging with her friends like playing with them in their band again to try and get a grip on her life; despite not doing anything to really progress forward like getting job or even telling her parents why she dropped out of college.

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Mae is known throughout the town by family, friends, neighbors, and people she doesn’t even know as a certified troublemaker with a long history of breaking the rules. With a snarky attitude and quick to anger, Mae’s personality certainly isn’t for everyone and has caused her to be quite the fire starter in arguments with others. When she hangs out with her long time and close friend Gregg, they go off to perform “crimes” together which could be anything from smashing old cars to knife fights in the woods. When she hangs out with her childhood friend Bea she sees how much she’s matured and how quickly Bea had to grow up.

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When Mae settles into her home town among her friends, she also notices that not only are things different but something is off. She starts having weird nightmares and later claims she saw a ghost kidnap someone. If that wasn’t strange enough, she and her friends even discover a severed arm in the middle of town. She has no idea where to start be asks her friends to help her find what’s going on. Although her friends are more concerned with Mae’s mental health, they go on these adventures all over town out of love for Mae in hopes to calm her mind.

Psychoanalysis

Mae suffers from several different mental disorders, the biggest being dissociation. Dissociation, Mae describes as “things just turn into shapes.” This was the reason why she put a kid in the hospital when she was in high school because she started hitting the “shapes” and they had no real meaning to her beyond that. This can be from anything to an object to a plant to another living person. The person hat suffers with this disorder stops seeing them for what they really are and will start to think of them as something else. It’s almost like an emotional detachment from something, however when you throw in Mae’s history of poor anger management, things can go from bad to worse. Even still on top of all of that Mae also suffers from a history of depression.

When Mae starts claiming she saw a ghost kidnap someone, no one really believes her. Even her friends are reluctant to buy into what she saying because they think that this “ghost” was something she probably imagined out of stress and lack of sleep from her nightmares.

Psychoanalysis is way of understanding others on a mental level. There’s no simple set in stone way of telling someone follows a certain disorder like dissociation, anger issues, or depression, but each of those have more layers to them. Some of those layers can apply to the person and some of them can’t. For Mae, her depression is more mild than some other forms of depression. However, her dissociation, is unfortunately rather strong struggle for Mae when it could be very subtle for others.

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Feminist Criticism

Although Mae is a female, her laid back attitude and loud mouthed language can be considered unladylike. Whenever someone criticizes her behavior, she’s pretty quick with defending her actions. For example, her mother asks her to not step on the power lines around town since the cops don’t approve of it and will throw her in jail. Mae’s response is that the cops won’t be able to catch her because she’s on the power lines. Mae will also perform her crimes with Gregg which all are actions that would be considered more masculine to do. For example, some of the “crimes” they have committed are smashing light bulbs and cars and stealing money and other objects. Mae sexually identifies herself as bisexual and will hit on other women. All the while being this spunky person, Mae still regards herself as a woman despite having many different masculine qualities like her personality and her actions.

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Mae the Heroine

So how is Mae a heroine and why is she important to note? Mae fully regards herself as a female and is able to still “kick ass and take names” in sense. She doesn’t take anything from anyone, no matter who they are. Despite not knowing how to move on with her life she still carries on and takes everything one day at a time. When she has what she considers a pressing matter she gather all of the necessary information and attack the situation head on. On the flip side, when she doesn’t know what to do, she more or less tries to avoid talking about it and then that issue can grow stronger.

With this, she’s very relatable because not everyone can give 100% all the time on every matter. Sometimes we don’t know what to do about something and all we can do is put on a brave face and keep pressing on whether we’re doing a good job of it or not. Mae knows what she’s able to handle and she tries her best to do that. Mae doesn’t go out to save the world, but among her friends she can be considered a heroine by doing things like taking a role in a small show to help save or even the small stuff like being there to talk with them about life and to give advice. Mae doesn’t what she can for herself and her loved ones and being a notable heroine can be something simple as that.

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Maxine “Max” Caulfield

Max_Maxine “Max” Caulfield is from the video game Life is Strange. Life is Strange is a choice-based and story driven adventure game. Max is a senior at the art school Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay. She wants to be a photographer and her Polaroid never leaves her side. Max takes a picture of anything that catches her interest. While she is not a popular student, Max is well respected by most of the other students at Blackwell. One student, Victoria, is constantly at odds with Max and always bullies her. One day, after her photography class with her professor Mr. Jefferson, Max witnesses Nathan Prescott, the rich golden child of the school and town, shoot and kill a girl who is later known to be Max’s old friend Chloe Price. After this happens Max is able to rewind time to back before her class ends and thus before the murder. After showing off her “advanced” knowledge to her class about the topic being discussed, Max goes and saves Chloe from death. This starts Max and Chloe’s epic journey to both figure out Max’s odd superpower and investigate the disappearance of Chloe’s friend, Rachel Amber. Max’s ability allows her to rewind recent time in order to alter the events of what had just happened.

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Narratology

Narratology is the study of how narratives are used to convey meaning and what techniques are used to tell a story. The narrative is made up of the story and the plot and as Peter Barry describes them in Beginning Theorythe ‘story’, being the events as they happen, has to begin at the beginning, of course, and then move chronologically, with nothing left out. The ‘plot’, on the other hand, may well begin somewhere in the middle of a chain of events, and may then backtrack, providing us with a ‘flashback’ which fills us in on things that happened earlier” (Barry 215). The story starts with Max preventing the murder of Chloe while the plot actually starts with Rachel Amber’s disappearance. After the first time Max sees Chloe die, Max prevents Chloe’s death by pulling the fire alarm to cause a distraction for her to get away from Nathan. Chloe is/is not murdered by Nathan as a result of her looking into Rachel, something that Max and the player by proxy find out later on in the adventure. Having Max as the narrator allows for the story to be told in real time and as time goes on, the plot starts to unfold for the player. This provides for a fluid and entertaining story where the person playing the game only knows as much as Max knows. Max’s time rewinding power influences the plot of the story because different events happen as a result of which choices are made in the dialogues between Max and the characters of the game. Some of these choices have little impact but some have very severe impacts on the plot of the game providing a very unique experience. This overall theme of the butterfly effect plays a huge role in the game.

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Feminist Criticism

The feminist criticism framework looks at how women are portrayed usually compared to men. Max challenges the typical theme of a male superhero with her ability to rewind time. Max uses her rewind to literally save lives (or decide not to). One scene that shows Max saving a life is towards the middle of the game, Kate Marsh, a student at Blackwell that is constantly bullied by Victoria and her friends, attempts to jump off of the roof of the dormitories. Max uses her rewind powers to get up to the roof and talks Kate to come down from the roof instead of jumping. This scene challenges the common male superhero saving lives idea.

Conclusion

Life is Strange provides a unique storytelling narrative by using Max to tell the story and uses the rewind powers to include alternate endings and events. This is heavily influenced by the idea of the butterfly effect. Max challenges the stereotypical male superhero by using her powers to save lives over the course of the game.

Ellie: The Last of Us

 

The Last of Us is an award winning game created by Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment. In this game’s world chaos brews as a mutant form of the cordyceps fungus changes everyday people into raving cannibalistic monsters known as infected. The old government has fallen and a new military-centric one rose in its place keeping everything under its iron reign.

About Ellie

Ellie’s journey first began when she was bit by one of the infected, but did not change. It was then that she knew she was immune to the cordycep fungus and Marlene, Ellie’s guardian and leader of the Firefly resistance, knew she had to be taken to a lab to have the fungus reverse-engineered. Marlene hires Tess and Joel to smuggle Ellie out of the quarantine zone before Ellie is discovered and killed. After a number of close up fights with the infected, Tess gets bit by the infected and commands Joel to continue on as she makes a final stand against military forces approaching their position. He must get Ellie to the Fireflies’ lab to find a cure.

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Ellie is a 14 year old girl born 3 years after the initial outbreak. She accompanies Joel, a smuggler from the Boston, Massachusetts quarantine zone, on their journey to survive in this dystopian world. When we first meet Ellie she is a loud and impulsive girl with a strong sense of loyalty to her friends. As the story continues and her character unfolds before the player’s eyes, they quickly learn that Ellie is also quite witty, sarcastic, funny, and clever. She even pulled out a joke book to try to get Joel to lighten up a bit. Ellie is not someone to sit on the sidelines and prefers it that way. She is not afraid to take matters into her own hands and fight alongside Joel in anyway she can. Whether it be throwing a brick at a thug’s head or shivving the infected in the neck; she will try her best to help defend Joel. There are countless times that without Ellie’s help, Joel would have been killed.

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When it’s not fighting, Ellie also helps out in navigating across the landscape of crumbling buildings and flooded tunnels. Joel is able to lift Ellie onto higher platforms where she will look for something to help Joel up. Ellie also uses her small size to unlock a door for Joel at one moment in the game. Without her help, Joel would never have been able to traverse across the abandoned city landscape as easily as he did.

One important quality of Ellie is the effect she has on Joel. Joel was in a pretty bad place in his life; the world he knew is gone, his daughter is dead, there are no signs of this apocalypse lighting up. Surviving through the initial outbreak and the years after made Joel wary, morose, and cynical. This can be seen with his overall outlook on the post-pandemic life. However, after meeting Ellie and traveling with her, his character becomes a little less ill-tempered and more so optimistic.

Ellie has a constant curiosity about how the world was before the outbreak, often asking Joel about his life before the cordyceps fungus. She enjoys what remains of civilization such as music (including country), comics, and books.  

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Ellie and Feminist Criticism

It is difficult to apply something that is against the idea of patriarchy in a world where patriarchy is tossed out the window in favor for anarchy and survivalism. It turns into how well can you survive in this world and how good your aim is. But nevertheless, there are some aspects to this game and feminist criticism that can be applied to Ellie. First off, her general character. It is not about needing to protect Ellie, but wanting to; players generally have a natural feeling to want to protect Ellie, but why? Yes she is a great character with her witty remarks and her company is very much enjoyed, but what if it is more than just her personality? Ellie is a young girl and that is probably one of the reasons why players, not to mention Joel, are so keen on protecting Ellie. If Ellie was a young boy, let alone an adult man, players might not have the same connection they have with 14 year old girl Ellie. This plays into the idea of ‘female’ and ‘feminine’ in feminist criticism. In The Female Reader: Essays in Gender and Politics of Literary Criticism edited by Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore, it states that men use their lead role in culture “to elevate them (women) as the representatives of a higher and purer nature,”(pg 127). So seeing Ellie as a pure and innocent being makes players want to protect her which is funny because Ellie is not afraid to use profanity to express her emotions and she will resort to violence right off the bat.   

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Ellie and Posthumanism

Nothing can get more post-human than dead men walking right? Well, even if the infected are not reanimated corpses they are still mutated cannibalistic humans that plague Ellie’s world. The human population continues to decline with the spread of the cordyceps fungus and violence that was brought about after the initial outbreak, bringing the world into anarchy. The fungus ultimately destroyed the modern world forcing people to evacuate large cities and seek shelter either in the outskirts or in a quarantine zone. With no humans around the cities became jungles with trees growing from destroyed buildings and rivers covering streets; reverting back to landscapes before human influences.  

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Ellie is something a little more than just human. With the cordyceps fungus in her system and her immunity she holds a unique place in the world. She is the only possibility for a cure that we know. In posthumanism we talk about the idea of humans undergoing a change. Somewhere along the line, Ellie developed an immunity to the fungus. This immunity makes her better suited to survive in this world than any other non immune human, but under any circumstances she is not a regular human.  Again, she is an infected human; a human with the cordyceps fungus and immunity.   

Conclusions

Ellie is a unique and special character that many The Last of Us players hold dear. She provides an interesting experience with seeing the apocalyptic world through the eyes of a child born into it. Ellie shows that you don’t need physical strength to be strong where is counts. She teaches players the value of loyalty and the strength of determination. She shows there is still some joy in a hopeless world.

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Zelda: The Legend of Zelda

Zelda is a powerful princess from the Legend of Zelda, a predominantly videogame series from Nintendo.  She is not your average video game princess in distress, but an integral part of the main protagonist, link’s, journey.  She is the owner of the triforce portion of wisdom and in one title she is even the reincarnation of a goddess.  If that doesn’t convince you that Zelda is a powerful character, than I don’t know what will.  While she isn’t who the player controls in the games, she takes many forms that aid Link during his journey and she goes through many transformations as a character.

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A Legend of Zelda game that I’m focusing on is The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, where zelda spends most of the game as Tetra.  

Tetra presents herself as a fearless and cunning pirate that is captain of a crew.  In the beginning of the game the developers tease the player into thinking she is simply a damsel in distress, but this idea is diminished very early on.  The player sees her fall from the sky and must defeat a series of enemies to keep her safe.  Very soon after, you understand that she is in no need of saving and can handle difficult situations on her own.  Early on she comes off as very harsh but the player will later learn that she has a very soft heart and has incredible kindness.  So where does Zelda come into this?  SPOILER ALERT, the player and Tetra learns, later in the game, that she is Princess Zelda, a descendant of the Royal Hyrule family.  She is without a doubt an awesome character, but how does she fit in classic theoretical frameworks?

Feminist Criticism and posthumanism are two very interesting frameworks that I think Zelda fits in greatly.  A feminist critique has the viewer understand a character through a lense which includes how feminism has evolved.  In this context I will be looking at Tetra/Zelda while considering how “femininity” is typically seen in media.  As for posthumanism, Zelda will be put in the spotlight to understand how her character expresses what it means to be human.  Although she isn’t technically from the real world, she still radiates with human values we see throughout today.

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One of the first scenes of the game expresses a key element of feminist criticism.  This scene not only introduces Zelda to the player, but reveals much of her characteristics that are typically seen as masculine.  Part of modern day feminist criticism, empowering women, aims to motivate girls to stand up to the idea that they can’t do everything that men can do.  It is evident in Zelda’s introduction she proves that she can handle herself without the need of a male counterpart.

In this scene Zelda is dropped, by a huge bird, from a astonishing height and lands in a forest.  After the player saves her from a band of enemies she wakes up from being knocked out from the fall.  Through the dialogue between her and the player she explains how she has been through much worse and doesn’t need help.   

This flips the typical associations connected to women on its head.  This proves to be supported throughout the game as the player witnesses Zelda do very heroic things.

The topic of posthumanism can be difficult with characters from fantasy games because most of the time they aren’t human.  Although, the great thing about characters is that they’re created by humans so human values enter the character regardless.  Zelda has great power in her land because she is part of the royal family of Hyrule.  In most of the games, she is the one at the top facilitating the land.  To most, this power could be utilized for personal gain but for Zelda it is keeping the people’s best interests intact.  

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Late in The Wind Waker story, Zelda is revealed as the princess of Hyrule and this is a surprise to all of the characters.  This is a call to adventure for Zelda to take her rightful place in the palace and she must make a choice of how she will use her power.  Zelda, be very reluctant to take on this position, wants to use her power to help Link.  She proves that her beliefs motivate her to do good by the power that she is given.  

This is a quality that humans value greatly and it’s something that could be argued to be fundamental to being human.  In parallel to analyzing humans from a biological level is understanding them in a philosophical way.  Viewing Zelda in this way offer the player a way to connect to her at a human level.

So what does this say about Zelda? She is an incredible and deep character that is, without a doubt, a great heroine.  She exhibits a number of heroic characters and by putting her in a couple theoretical frameworks show that she is a deep character.  In the Legend of Zelda specifically, Zelda is more than capable to take care of herself as well as command an entire pirate crew.  Zelda is always evolving in each new game iteration and she always proves to be an essential heroine to the story.

http://zelda.wikia.com/wiki/Tetra

 

-Harry Lindner

Children as Heroes; One Girl Growing up in the Zombie Apocolypse

 Clementine from Telltale’s Walking Dead Games: Season 1 

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    When thinking of heroes/heroines, children do not often come to mind. The term “hero” creates an images of a person taking control and power; making important, necessary decisions to solve problems in their path. Children usually do not have power or control of their life, and rely on adults fully in order to survive; which is why it can be difficult to think of a young child as a hero. However, in situations where people have to lean on all members of their community to survive, such as a zombie apocalypse, some children step up to the plate and offer their help. For instance, Clementine in Telltale’s Walking Dead games is thrown into a violent world between the living and undead and shows everyone that she is capable of more than people expect; and ultimately proving she is a hero.

Clementine’s Introduction

Imagine being thrown into the zombie apocalypse at only eight years old. Imagine being uncertain of if your parents will come back or are even alive. Imagine hiding in a tree house because your babysitter is now a flesh eating monster. Imagine being completely alone during all of this. This is the exact situation that Clementine is thrown into.

The Telltale Walking Dead games starts out in the perspective of a man named Lee. Lee meets Clementine early on in the game, when she mistakes him for her father. Clementine then comes to Lee’s rescue, by handing him a weapon, when he gets ambushed and pinned by her zombified babysitter. Showing the player, within minutes of meeting her, that she will put herself out there to help others.

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    Lee and Clementine start traveling together after this. Clementine wants to travel to Savanah, where she believes her parents are still alive (the player finds out her parents are dead when listening to the house’s voicemail; the father got bit). Because Clementine is only a child, Lee keeps the blunt truth from her for a while (depending on how the player wants to play). Clementine, in the first season, is often shielded from “bad” things because of her age. The adults wanted her to have some form of a childhood, since she is growing up in the zombie apocalypse, and will have to grow up earlier to survive. However, even though the group tries to shield Clementine from the violence of their world, Clementine surprises them with her adaptability and bravery.

For example, in one scene further into the game, Clementine’s group is trapped outside a safe house with an injured member while zombies are approaching. As the adults start arguing about how to get into the house, Clementine crawls through a doggie door entrance and unlocks the door.

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Depending on the player, they can either get mad at Clementine for putting herself in danger or praise her for quick thinking. Clementine risked herself by going into the house, alone, unaware of any zombies that might have been sneaking around. But, she knew that the longer they wait and argue outside, the more danger the group is put in. She makes an important decision without any push from the adults and in result saves her group.

In addition to performing heroic actions, Clementine also stands up for others, even those who have wronged her. In a tense situation, a group member named Ben reveals he was the one who was paying off bandits in order to protect the group (but ultimately resulted in three people dying). The group starts to take a vote whether or not to kick Ben out and most of the adults vote in favor of it until Clementine speaks up.

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Although Ben messed up in the past, (he didn’t help Clementine when zombies were coming toward them and runs away leaving Clementine in danger) Clementine still stands up for him and voices her opinion in this important decision. Clementine’s words cause some adults to change their minds and give Ben a second chance, showing how much power Clementine has in the group (even for a child).

Critical Race Studies view

Telltale’s Walking Dead games come with a long list of victories and fails in regard to race.  One of the main victories is the main playable character of this game is Lee, a black adult male. The majority of main characters in games are white males, so it was very exciting to players to have a change. However, the intention was to make the game with two black protagonists, Lee and Clementine. Unfortunately, Clementine race has been recognized as a fail and brings forth the issue of African american characters being made intentionally racially “ambiguous”.

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This is a picture of Clementine and her parents. Clementine’s father is very dark-skinned, while the mother is more light-skinned.  However, Clementine’s character looks more white or Asian American (an opinion that be found on SEVERAL discussion boards regarding Clementine’s race). Even though her hair is a big indicator of her race, her skin color ended up confusing a lot of gamers. The lead animator of the game ended up clearing up these questions in an interview, confirming that Clementine is African American.

Is Clementine’s Design Racist?

The problem is not that black people cannot have very light skin. The problem is that most video games characters are white and to create an “African American” girl and make her so fair skinned brings up the question, “Why did they make her look so white?” In the article linked above, the author speculates that because Clementine is given such an “innocent and pure” persona, the designers purposefully gave her lighter skin.

Using a quote from Audre Lorde’s, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” on page 118: “To allow women of Color to step out of stereotypes is too guilt provoking, for it threatens the complacency of those women who view oppression only in terms of sex.”

Did they make Clementine lighter skinned because their stereotype for darker skinned children did not match the persona they were going for? Maybe not. But think about how this looks to people who play the game. A girl with two black parents appears white in most scenes, with only her hair resembling her parents race. And why does this matter? Because the developers created Clementine to be so racially ambiguous to please an audience that maybe they believed would have liked a light skinned girl better. (Not to mention casting an white adult woman to voice a eight year old African American girl) These designers had a great opportunity to do what VERY FEW games have done so far, have two main characters that are African American. And arguably they did do that, just in a very poor way.

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“Change means growth, and growth can be painful. But we sharpen self-definition by exposing the self in work and struggle together with those whom we define as different from ourselves, although sharing the same goals. For Black and white, old and young, lesbian and heterosexual women alike, this can mean new paths to our survival.” (Lorde, pg. 123)

Feminist Criticism view

Using Toril Moi’s work, “Feminist, Female, Feminine” to analyze Clementine’s character is a bit tricky. First of all, Clementine’s journey takes place in a world where most social constructs are forgotten; anarchy reigns and survival is the highest priority. In a zombie scenario elements of the patriarchy might linger, but would not take a key role in the world. Women wouldn’t be forced to stay at home, or bear children; they would be expected to help the community survive like any man would. So the feminist part, I believe, would not apply to Clementine. Secondly, Moi focuses more on the feminist political movement and feminist texts; which again doesn’t really matter in a zombie apocalypse game.

However, when looking at the game dialog, several of Moi’s characteristics of female and feminine can be applied. Clementine’s character, in particular, is used in the game as a little girl that the player is tasked with taking care of. If the player has to take care of a little boy than a girl, the game would be very different (in my opinion). The characters in the game treat Clementine very delicately because she is a girl (also because she is very young), and her feminine presence almost has a calming effect on adults in the group (who are often yelling and arguing with each other). The writers have designed her as a “pure” character who needs to be protected, but is also brave and helps others. They use Clementine as a “damsel in distress” in a lot of scenes, but then let the player groom her skills (and her hair) to make sure she can take care of herself and survive without him.

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The game dialog indicates that Clementine is a strong character (in an emotional and mental sense) which is a “newer” characteristic among female characters, especially very young ones. Clementine has to survive in a world with monsters who want to eat her. Not to mention, she deals with the death of her parents and her primary caretaker, Lee, in a very short period of time, but never gives up. Not many children could do that.

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Conclusion

Being a hero is not as simple as performing a few brave actions or standing up for others once or twice. Being a true hero requires a person to be continuously brave and always stand up for what you believe in. Clementine shows again and again that she is a hero at only eight years old. She pushes herself to do good. A final example of this is when her group comes across an “abandoned” car filled with much needed supplies and the group decides to take it all. Clementine voices to everyone that the stuff belongs to someone else, and it is wrong to take it. Clementine knows that survival is important, but she also knows that taking the supplies is like killing the people it belongs to. Clementine is not only a heroine, but she is a heroine in the zombie apocalypse when most people are out for themselves. She is an unlikely hero in an amazing game.

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(Season 2 of Telltale’s Walking Dead games features Clementine as the main playable character! So her hero’s journey can continue, at the will of the player).

Sora and Kairi: Two Sides to the Same Journey

How would the story change if the hero wasn’t the main character? Think of all the details you would miss by only getting the main character’s perspective. In the Kingdom Hearts series, a video game series mixing the elements of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and the magical worlds of Disney, there are many heroes, but the game focuses on a young man named Sora. Sora goes on adventures to save the world and find his friends Riku and Kairi.  As interesting and amazing as Sora is as a main character, I personally prefer to focus on Kairi, who the rest of blog post will be focusing on. This is actually my second blog post on Kairi, and rather than go back and do a full description again you can read that by clicking here. If you don’t want to go that post, I’ll do a quick description here. Kairi is a childhood friend of Kingdom Heart’s main protagonist Sora and lived with him in their home world, The Destiny Islands. During the first game, Kairi is captured by the antagonists and is going to be used to grant their wishes because her heart contains pure light. Sora goes on a journey to find the helpless Kairi and she is more of a prize to be won than a character on her own.  She is kept in a pod in a coma for a majority of the game until Sora comes and rescues her, traditional Disney Princess story. After Sora defeats the main antagonist, Sora and Kairi are separated again and leads into the events of Kingdom Hearts II. In this game, Sora is again searching for Kairi trying to protect her from the evils in the world. The new antagonists tried to capture Kairi again, but this time she escapes and goes looking for Sora on her own so she can help him. Both are looking for each other, and Sora no longer has to rescue the helpless female Kairi. When they finally meet, Kairi and Sora work together as equals to defeat the antagonists and save the world again.

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As the title of this blog post, and that very brief description says, there is two sides to the same story here, each following two characters that are very involved in it. First we have Sora’s side of the games, which is the main viewpoint which the player sees while playing the game. On this side of the story, Kairi is a childhood friend and love interest which Sora needs to save and protect throughout his quest. She seems helpless, and she was in the first game cause she was in a coma and all, but Sora never learns about her new personality and character development. Sora believes that it’s part of his quest to find Kairi wherever she is and help her. On Kairi’s side, she main0120-20sora02was helpless and needing rescuing during the first game, but she developed into a strong, independent character, which Sora and the player didn’t learn about until the end of the second game. While Sora was searching for her during the the entire second story, Kairi was going through her own brave adventure looking for Sora. Their journeys were each part of a larger story, and the player was only shown Sora’s half.

This idea of different narratives changing the view on a story is called Narratology. To word that better, Narratology is the study of how the narrative or structure of the narrative can affect the viewers perception of it. In this case, the viewer/player is given the story through the viewpoint of Sora, which turns the story into a typical Disney tale. But by looking at both narratives, you get two completely different ideas or perceptions of the story.

One large example from the game series is a scene that is shown many times throughout them. In their home world, The Destiny Islands, there is a cave near there home where the children would constantly play. During the start of the first game,  Sora, being a young boy and being in love with is friend Kairi, draws secret pictures of them together on the walls of the cave. He thinks he needs to keep his feelings a secret and tries to keep these drawings as a little sanctuary for himself. But, in the sequel, there’s a flashback of Kairi who not only found these drawings on the wall, but added on to it. She added the drawing of the paopu fruit, which is a magical fruit that when you eat together your destiny become intertwined.  It’s revealed that Kairi had the same feelings for Sora, but that part of the story was left out from Sora’s perspective. This changes a lot of the first game, rather than Sora having to prove himself to win Kairi’s love, whether it’s by showing he’s better than his childhood friend Riku, or saving her life, he already had her love and could have not worried about it for the entire game.

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Cave drawing of Kairi and Sora sharing a Paopu Fruit

There’s even more characters in this tale, each with a different perspective and take on the events, meaning that there’s hundreds of ways to see this story. The games even touch upon the story seen through the lenses of other protagonists, Ventus, Riku, Aqua, Terra, Xion, and Data-Sora. Kairi’s side of the story from the events past the second game are not as explored or explained as Sora’s side, so we’ll have to see where Kairi’s story, and the story as whole, goes in the upcoming sequel.

A Marxist View of a Princess

Zelda, princess of Hyrule, has proven herself just as strong as her male counterpart, Link, time and time again, making her the perfect example of a YA heroine. She is a character from the video game series named after her, The Legend of Zelda, and ranges from 10-19 in age, depending on which game in the series you are talking about. Her abilities include psychic ability, and knowing how to shoot a bow. She uses her powers to aid Link, although often when he is saving her from being a damsel in distress. Despite being easily kidnapped, Zelda is cunning and unimaginably smart, a wealth of information for Link to look to in his frequent times of need.200_s3

Cue Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda released in 1998, introducing a character named Sheik. He was quick and wise, appearing out of nowhere when Zelda was gone. Sheik taught Link special songs that would help him in his journey, and remained a mysterious masked figure, helpful but unknown. At the end of the adventure, it is revealed that Sheik was actually Zelda in disguise the whole time. He had amazing combat ability and agility, but once Zelda is back, she is put back into her classic role. She needs Link’s help, which is unlike her male alter ego. Sheik is able to help himself, where Zelda is oddly not allowed to.

A marxist criticism is one where something is examined as a reflection of social institutions. I am going to examine how The Legend of Zelda reflects social institutions in which women are perceived as lower or less than males. We live in a world in which men and women are often not treated equal, and this is portrayed in The Legend of Zelda, through Zelda’s two identities.


There are stones featured in may of The Legend of Zelda games that assist Link in various ways. In Oc
arina of Time, there is one stone that when you hit it, it says “They say that contrary to her elegant image, Princess Zelda of Hyrule Castle is, in stone1fact, a tomboy.” This is strange to hear from what is assumed as an inanimate object, and even more strange, he
associates her “tomboy-ness” with not able to also be elegant. This
says that we as a society do not connect masculine to something that can also be elegant. This is an interesting phenomenon as The Legend of Zelda also presents the reverse, that feminine and elegant people cannot be masculine and strong.tumblr_mrgctfdwiy1s7sk51o2_500

In Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda released in 2003, the final boss battle against Ganon features Link with the aid of Zelda. Despite having an alter identity, which is a masculine hero, Zelda is given a bow, with which she uses to help Link land the final ending blow. wind_waker_final_battle_02_by_alvinrpgYes, she is given the opportunity to show her skill, but she is given minimal ability. This presentation reflects that we often do not accept women when taken out of the roles which our social institutions put them in. Women are not thought of in battle even today, but thought of as something to be protected.

Zelda reflects what our social institutions believe about women and their roles. Using a marxist criticism allows me to understand where these ideas in The Legend of Zelda stems from.

Sam Greenbriar: Lesbian, feminist, or both?

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“Gone Home” is a short narrative game where players play as twenty-year old Katie who just arrived at her family’s new home after she studied abroad for a few months.  The year is 1995, and Katie’s new home, an old mansion, is deserted and trashed.  Players have to wander around finding notes and clues from Katie’s little sister, seventeen-year old Sam, to see what happened.  If this game or story sounds interesting, stop reading and purchase the game on steam for $19.99.  It takes about two and a half hours to play through the beautiful mansion and the deep story.

Now for the spoilers.  The game never really tells us much about the player, Katie, but we learn all about her little sister Sam.  Sam is really struggling with her new life in a new home at a new high school.  She used to talk to Katie about everything, so when Katie is suddenly gone in this rough transitional period, Sam leaves journals for Katie to find, so she feels like she’s still communicating with her.  (The Greenbriar family portrait above shows Katie at the top and Sam on the left)

These journal entries explain that Sam found a new friend, Lonnie, who she felt very comfortable around.  This friendship later becomes a lesbian romantic relationship.  Because the year is 1995, Sam and Lonnie try to keep their relationship a secret knowing that their peers and elders won’t receive it well.  One by one, people in Sam’s life figure it out.  Sam’s story ends with her and Lonnie running away together.  (Below is a picture of Lonnie and a picture from their relationship.)

 

I consider Sam’s actions very stupid, brave, and heroic.  She has an underlying value of love, and lets it guide her actions.  That’s the cause that she’s fighting for.  I’m going to critically analyze Sam as a heroine using lesbian/ gay criticism, more specifically lesbian feminism.

Before diving into lesbian feminism and queer theory, we need to look at the value home alone places on females.  First off, it’s very intentional that players play as Katie.  They writers aimed to create a stronger connection between the players, of either gender, by putting them in a woman’s shoes and the main character Sam.  Next we look at Sam.  She is the main character because we know the most about her and her experiences.  Sam is a rebel, not only for her sexuality in a very conservative age, but even in her basic actions.  She is always sneaking off to punk concerts, she has stolen clothes in her locker, she’s even made a hideout out of a hidden room with a pentagram and a picture of the previous owner of the mansion who mysteriously disappeared.  She’s strong and independent.  Sam receives some of those qualities from Lonnie.  Lonnie plays second to Sam in the plot.  She’s been toughening up in JROTC for all of high school, she’s the lead singer of a punk band, she can kick ass in street fighter, and is always disregarding the rules.  Next we get a few glimpses of Mrs. Greenbriar through letters, sticky notes, and other documents.  She seems to be the one financially supporting the family.  It’s also implied that although she’s married, is looking for other love interests.  All together the females in the story are portrayed as much stronger and independent than the men.

The three guys in the story are pathetic.  Sam’s dad is a struggling writer and you find unsold copies of his book all over the house along with rejection letters from multiple editors.  Players get hints from the game that Sam’s parents are very religious.  We see numerous Bibles in the house and other books about Christian lifestyle.  Next is Sam’s old friend Daniel, who she uses simply to borrow Nintendo games to further her relationship with Lonnie.  Last is Uncle Oscar who was the mysteriously disappearing “psycho” that got Sam the nickname “Psycho House Girl.”

Clearly there are strong feminist views in this game.  However, we are not focusing on all feminism in the game; that would be a small book.  We want to look at lesbian feminism.  To be concise and blunt, lesbian feminists took feminism to the next level.  Not only do they put themselves on equal footing with men, but then claimed independence from them.  In some cases, it goes as far to claim that it is the epitome of feminism.  This is what I really wanted to get at with Sam and Lonnie.  Sam and Lonnie’s lesbian feminist stance threw everyone for a loop.  We see this from the beginning when Sam first has a fascination with Lonnie.  This journal entry, “Hanging Out With Girls,” puts Sam’s previous friendships in the spotlight and explains whys she’s attracted to a strong feminist like Lonnie.

“It’s weird hanging out with girls.  Daniel was around ever since I was little and other girls, I don’t know.  But being around Lonnie is like instantly just right.  I gave her the Grand psycho house tour and took my revenge on Super Nintendo, and it was like, I don’t know, I finally found someone I feel normal around.  I drove her home and she gave me this tape and said, ‘you have got to listen to this’ I haven’t stopped playing it sense.”

Sam never had exposure to other girls as a kid, and now that she’s met a strong independent woman she is impressed and wants that for herself.  This is the beginning of Sam’s transformation, not into a lesbian, but into a more independent woman.  We learn a few journals later in, “A Very Long Phase,” that Sam has been attracted to women sense she was about seven, because that’s when She-Ra started airing.  “A very long phase,”talks about Sam’s parents learning the truth about their relationship.

“I had an interesting talk with mom and dad tonight, one you’re never gonna need to have.  I mean you’ve now, right?  I’ve known.  I’ve known since like She-Ra.  Mom and Dad didn’t I guess.  They saw the zine and the stuff on the locker, and they were like, ‘is there something we should know about you when Lonnie?’  And so here’s the thing, I was prepared for them to be mad, or disappointed, or start crying, or something.  But they were just in denial.  ‘You’re too young to know what you want.  You and Lonnie are just good friends.  You just haven’t met the right boy.  It’s a phase.’  But that’s what I didn’t see coming.  That they wouldn’t even respect me enough to believe me.  Well joke’s on them, cause they’re in for one very long phase.”

Sam and Lonnie have entered a “phase” that Sam’s parents can’t even comprehend.  This was the point when Sam started to antagonize her parents.  Sam knows her parents struggles, that her mom is probably looking at other love interests and that her father thinks he is a failure.  The marital troubles also go directly against the “family religion.”  She has a view of supremacy over her parents, because she has stayed true to her values and has a better relationship, in her eyes.

Again it’s hard to say how much of this is heroic considering there are many conflicting opinions thought out the story.  But there’s no denying Sam’s independence from men and her attachment to other strong women like Lonnie and Katie.  She’s taken a stance and in the end really does fight for it.

 

The Original NES Hero

Samus Aran became orphaned, at a young age, during a raid by the Space Pirates, on her home planet of K-2L. She was adopted by an ancient Chozo and taken to the planet of Zebes. Chozo are a highly advanced race of avian scientists, who infused their DNA with Samus, turning her into a warrior.

When Samus had finally reached adulthood, she joined the Federation Police but ended up leaving to become a Bounty Hunter and was recruited by the Galactic Federation. Through jobs offered by the Federation, Samus is answering The Call To Adventure as outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Multiple times she goes on adventures, which follow the path of the Hero’s Journey.

An example of this would be Samus’s extermination of the Metroid species. While fighting the Metroid race on the planet SR388, many earthquakes occurred which helped Samus. SR388 experienced earthquakes regularly, which affected the levels of lava on the planet. With the efforts of Samus fighting, Queen Metroid could have caused the low levels of lava, in response to Samus. With even the example of this adventure of Samus, she exhibits the traits of hero by answering the call to adventure and fighting against the Metroid race.

Another framework that should be identified by Samus is her personality. Samus rarely says anything throughout her storylines and completes impossible missions without even saying a few words. Samus shows that actions speak louder than words. You can see this as an example in the video game Metroid, by Nintendo.

Samus is Nintendo’s version of a hero. People may say Mario takes that spot but i believe Samus is a better overall example about who a true hero really is. She answers the Call To Adventure and follows the path of a hero’s journey.

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