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 my cousins introduced me to it. I saw them playing Mario Kart and thought, "I need this in my life!" Shortly after, I discovered The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which were originally released on this console.
Twilight Princess is the thirteenth installment in the franchise. It is, in my opinion, the last great Zelda game, and it will always have a special place in my geeky heart. It has an amazing story, great characters, decent combat, and really fun mini-games.
Despite its cartoonish style, I also thoroughly enjoyed The Wind Waker, the tenth installment in the franchise. It includes similar creative touches and a well-written story, with plenty of side quests and challenges.
Why Zelda Deserves to Be a Protagonist
Looking back, I really wish Zelda was the protagonist of the series, not Link—especially in these two games. She's a reincarnated goddess for goodness sake, so why does she still need the Hero of Time to protect her?
In this article, I will analyze both Twilight Princess and Wind Waker, point out what opportunities for innovation were missed, and discuss why this series is still such a boys' club, all to prove why these games deserve a protagonist such as Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
We already had a great female sidekick in Twilight Princess, which set up an opportunity to utilize Zelda as a protagonist. But of course, we never got to see her use her light to repel the twilight.
Midna: A Strong Female Character
Midna is a great example of what women are talking about when they say they want a strong female character.
She is not an object whose sole purpose is to help the male protagonist. She has her own goals and business to take care of. She is not there to serve and worship Link, nor does her life revolve around him.
A Well-Rounded Personality
Midna is a person (or an imp, if we're being technical here) with a well-developed personality. Being female does not encompass her entire being. Throughout the story, she does not mention children and her inability to have them due to her form, nor does she act as a mother figure for Link. They are a boy and a girl on equal footing, and they are just friends.
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.
A Wasted Opportunity
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.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Of course, Twilight Princess wasn't the first time Zelda was handwaved and put "back in the kitchen," so to speak. Remember the beginning of Wind Waker when 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's slapped into a dress and promptly sent off to a tower. Ugh.
The Fierce Pirate Queen Turned Into a Damsel in a Dress
Don't misunderstand—I don't hate dresses and I don't believe women shouldn't express their femininity. But there's a difference between appreciating female characters with feminine traits and oppressing these characters the moment they put on heels and some makeup.
So just to reiterate: I don't care if women wear dresses.
In Wind Waker, the second Tetra becomes Zelda, she is considered to be an infant that can do nothing to save herself. Imagine how degrading it is to be a girl gamer who has been playing games like this all your life in which you are depicted as an object with a bow and light arrows, waiting to be rescued.
Zelda Should Be More Than a Plot Device
My problem here is that 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 has demonstrated the ability to be perfectly capable of leading the story.
In classic Zelda games, Princess Zelda is always, always a plot device. The Wind Waker straight-up acknowledges 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 Link."
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 The 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 are a woman, Triforce."
Link and Zelda Should Be 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.
Why The Legend of Zelda Is a Boys' Club
Nintendo thinks that introducing a female protagonist will mess with their coin because apparently, girls don't like gaming—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 don't believe that there are enough girls and women in the audience to cash in on. But believe me, we have always been there. Maybe there would be even more of us if video games hadn't been created for and marketed to boys 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 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 girl 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. Hopefully Nintendo will get a clue and give her the adventure she truly deserves.
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© 2018 Ash