Why Zelda Should Have Been the Protagonist in "The Legend of Zelda"
Like most people, I grew up with Nintendo, but I didn't buy a GameCube (affectionately known by most gamers as "The Purple Lunchbox") until I saw my cousins playing Mario Kart. Then I thought, "I need this in my life!" Shortly after, I played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and later, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Twilight Princess is the thirteenth installment in the franchise. In my opinion, it is the last great "Zelda" game and will always have a special place in my geeky heart. It has an amazing story, great characters, decent combat, and really fun mini-games.
I also loved The Wind Waker, the tenth installment in the franchise. It includes similar creative touches and an interesting (not necessarily well written) story, with plenty of side quests and challenges.
Looking back, I really wish Zelda was the protagonist of the series, not Link. Partially because I want to play a female character in the same way male gamers want to play a male. But also because it just makes sense. Zelda is a reincarnated goddess for f**** sake, so why does she still need the Hero of Time to protect her?
That's a rhetorical question. We all know the answer is, "Because lore reasons."
Twilight Princess With a Female Protagonist
We already had a great female sidekick in Twilight Princess, which set up an opportunity to recast Zelda as the protagonist. This is largely because it would have gone well with the developers' sudden turn toward treating female characters like people rather than objects or goals.
Midna is a great example of what women are talking about when we say we want a "strong female character." She is not a background character whose sole purpose is to help the male protagonist. She has her own goals and shit to take care of. She is not there to serve Link, nor does her life revolve around him.
Midna is treated like a person in her own right. Other female characters being regulated to the background wouldn't be such a big issue if it wasn't a prevalent theme in most video games to objectify women. Sadly, it is.
Yes, The Gaming Industry Is Sexist
Video games frequently objectify and dehumanize women, presenting us as rewards and sex objects. If you point that out, however, you will be inundated by angry male gamers. They will insist that video games aren't sexist, that women don't even play video games (as if we were suddenly just starting to in recent years, when in reality, the internet only made men more aware of us), and that it's only natural for video games to be marketed towards a male demographic.
Video games are created for men because they are made by men. And men are the only ones with the opportunity to make them because sexism denies women the same opportunities in the industry.
There is also the fact that video games are made with the assumption that women have "lady brains" and can't play them and/or wouldn't be interested as a result of our biology.
How is all of that not sexist?
And it's amazing that I can't point it out or even discuss it without the inevitable howling male gamer who comes along trying to silence me. Even here on HubPages, it happens, and it's exhausting—like I'm constantly being attacked for acknowledging f****** reality.
The point is, Midna's decidedly not-sexist depiction (and the time she was created in) was a turning point in gaming. That sounds very *dramatic* but it's true. Around the time Twilight Princess came out, games were becoming less sexist. Likely because female gamers were (finally) being recognized in the audience and as customers.
More Than Two-Dimensional
Midna is a fully three-dimensional character. Being female does not encompass her entire being. She does not mention children or lament her inability to have them due to her form, nor does she act as a mother figure for Link.
Midna and Link are on equal footing, and they are just friends. No romance was required just because Midna was a woman, nor was Midna sexualized.
Midna was developed so well. I was honestly surprised to see a female character handled with such . . . consideration. So why couldn't this be done for Zelda? Instead, she's holed up in a castle for most of the game.
A Character That Grows Throughout the Story
It is clear in the beginning that Midna is only using Link to reach her own goals. (How refreshing is it that a male character is a plot device in someone else's story, for once?) But as time goes on, Midna comes to have a real affection for Link, Zelda, and the people of Hyrule. She is from another world, but by traveling with Link, she learns to empathize with his world.
Nothing makes this more apparent than when Midna nearly dies protecting Link and must be carried across Hyrule to Princess Zelda, who heals her with her light. Honestly, the story isn't perfect, but it is moments like this that make it pretty damn good.
At the game's end, once Link has lifted the curse of darkness from the land, Midna sheds the imp shape she had been forced to take, and it is revealed that she is the Twilight Princess, not Zelda.
And . . . she's pretty hot.
"Twilight Princess" was a wasted opportunity to give Zelda her own game. Midna could have chosen Zelda to go on adventures with . . . not Link. With her magic power and those sweet arrows of light, Zelda was pretty battle-ready in this game.
Imagine a game where you are Princess Zelda. You bravely escape your imprisonment in the castle and ride around with Midna across Hyrule, solving problems and saving lives. Along the way, you and Midna become sisters . . . or lovers? Maybe there's a reason Zelda never boinks Link.
That Unfortunate Incident in "The Wind Waker"
Of course, Twilight Princess wasn't the first time Zelda was handwaved and put "back in the kitchen," so to speak. At the beginning of The Wind Waker, she was a happy, carefree pirate queen, out kicking butt and ruling the seas. Then when she finds out that she's Princess Zelda, she is slapped in a dress and sent off to a tower.
Don't misunderstand—I don't hate dresses. I like dresses just fine . . . on other women. Zelda could have kicked ass in a dress, though it would have been significantly harder than if she was wearing pants.
The point is, she was forced into the role of a damsel in distress so that Link could be the hero, regardless of the fact that she was perfectly capable. It's like game developers can't conceive of a woman being the hero in her own right so long as a man is present.
Imagine how degrading it is to be a woman gamer who has been playing games like this all your life, games in which you are depicted (repeatedly without fail) as an object waiting to be rescued.
Zelda: The Eternal Plot Device
Zelda isn't free to make her own decisions. She can't make the choice to be feminine or masculine. She can't make the choice to be a pirate queen who kicks ass—not even when it makes sense for her to stick around and help Link. She is forced to be Link's constant damsel in distress—his vague motivation—even when she is presented as being perfectly capable of leading the story.
In classic Zelda games, Princess Zelda is always, always a plot device. Wind Waker straight-up acknowledged it and then did it to her again anyway. It's like they went, "Yeah, Zelda would make an interesting protagonist but . . . no. We want a boy."
Imagine if we had been given the option to continue playing as Link or switch to Zelda at that moment. I recall the first time I played Wind Waker, I put down the controller in disgust when Zelda was sent away. She asks why, and the answer is something like, "Triforce, Triforce, you have a vagina, Triforce."
We Could Have Had Dual Protagonists
There's a constant argument that Link would have nothing to do if Zelda was the protagonist, but that's a flimsy excuse at best. The Witcher 3 had dual protagonists in Geralt and Ciri. In this game, Ciri was actually allowed to be controlled in some really cool sequences.
If Nintendo doesn't want to switch back and forth between protagonists, why not introduce a multiplayer mode where one person plays as Link and the other plays as Zelda? Nintendo missed the chance to make innovative changes to the series that would probably lead to even greater success, all because they didn't want a female protagonist.
Nintendo seems to believe that introducing a female protagonist will mess with their coins because, apparently, men don't like female protagonists, so none would play them—even though successful franchises like Mass Effect, with its alternative male and female protagonists, have proven otherwise.
Another excuse (no less rooted in misogyny) is that developers likely didn't believe that there were enough women in the audience to cash in on. We were there. And there would be more of us if video games hadn't been a sausage fest from the start.
Nintendo tried to half-ass female-inclusion with the whole "Linkle" fiasco, when really, all they had to do was give Zelda her own game. Just one game. Is that so much to ask? "Female Link" is not the answer. Why make Link into a girl when you can write a story for the awesome female character you already have?
Zelda Is the Real Legend
Nintendo deliberately not caring about their female audience is why they no longer see money from me. After a while, you get tired of seeing yourself reduced to a helpless damsel, a prize, and a goal. Maybe there aren't a lot of women gamers because of the blatant misogyny in video games. Just a thought.
The series is literally called The Legend of Zelda, and yet Zelda never gets to be a legend in her own right.
© 2018 Ash