FF7 Remake Trailer and the Role of Women

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Submitted by SuperSayu on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 11:41

There is a thing you see a lot in anime where the protagonist is looking down and a woman pushes her face into his field of vision. This is aggressively theatrical; a physical representation of a metaphor where a woman being able and willing to save someone from depression, despair, isolation, and/or loneliness, who won't save themselves. As an introvert, I understand the appeal of this idea... in theory. In practice, it's stupid.

Just drawing back the camera and looking at the theatrics from another angle makes it obvious that the theatrics are weird. Every cinematic (non-combat) shot in the FF7 Remake Trailer that includes Aeris shows a person who exists to be a piece in a play. She looks at peace with everything going on when realistically she can't be.

Aeris' history is dark. She watched her mother die. She is tailed by creepy men who want to abduct her. She had a boyfriend who just up and disappeared on her, after making empty promises about helping her achieve her dream. She can hear the souls of the dead as they return to the planet, and she lives in a city where the soul of the planet--made from the souls of the dead--is being sucked up and turned into power. If nothing else, she has lived in a slum for almost all of her life. She is surrounded by misery and poverty and crime and monsters, even if her adoptive mother does clearly have the most beautiful, warm, safe house in all the slums. She still knows the dark side of life.

But when she sits next to a small mako fountain she smiles and looks completely at peace as though... what should I read into her face? Maybe that all she needs is a boyfriend and her life will be complete? Is that what they were trying to write on her face? Because that kind of seems like what they put there. There is no darkness in that face, no "I hope my adoptive mother isn't murdered by the creeps who are trying to kidnap me", no "I hope my mother's soul is at rest", no "I wonder if Zack is okay out there, somewhere", no "This city feels like it's dying". The look on her face basically says "I hope I get a boyfriend!" and not a lot else.

Sure she may just be covering it all up. People do that. But in my experience the people who are covering up their darkness and forcing themselves to be a cheerful, positive force in other's lives, they don't have an innocent--naive--look on their face. They have a lot more strain and stress. They don't have resting a resting angel face, they have a resting bitch face, and just smile all the time to cover it up. And that's okay.

To summarize it better, the look on your face isn't just about your personality, it's about what the world has done to you. You can decide a lot about your appearance. You can choose your expression, you can choose your clothes, you can choose your actions. But some things are unconscious. Your face gets new features that show exhaustion, stress, worry, pain, fear. Those aren't unattractive, and a angel face like the one they put on Aeris is not attractive if it shouldn't be there. A stress-free face on a person surrounded by hell indicates shows that you are an idiot who doesn't understand what is going on around you, or possibly that you're secretly evil and happy with the state of awful around you.

I didn't fall in love with Aeris the first time I played Final Fantasy VII because she was beautiful. I didn't fall in love with her looks one way or another. She was grounded, reasonable, and still managed to be confident and even optimistic, and even when she wasn't optimistic or confident she kept going. Maybe she was a little crazy--nobody sane does what she did in Wall Market--but she was the kind of crazy that exists because the world requires a little bit of crazy to survive and keep your friends safe.

Plastering an innocent look on your face doesn't keep anyone safe. That look exists for one reason: because the people designing her character put her role above her character. In the trailer if nothing else, her role is to look pretty. In the game, she will have an active combat and story role, but she--like all women in the game--will also have the "role" of keeping male fans "interested".

I worry that they think like that (and to be fair, it is a very Japanese stereotype). I worry that they will look at her and say, "Showing her stressed (or conflicted, confused, arrogant, selfish, or any number of other emotions) here interferes with her role as fan-service." Maybe they won't. But the trailer has her lean down to insert herself in the field of view of someone who is looking down. In reality, you would raise your voice, or wave your hand in front of their face, or something. Bending down is an awkward vulnerable position, and the sort of woman raised in a slum and stalked by professional hitmen would probably not develop that habit. Even if nothing ...untoward happened to her as a result, there would be kids running around who would push you when you were off balance and laugh at you. There would be pickpockets and people who don't give you enough space, knocking you over on accident. And there would be monsters yelling while you were off balance, making you fall over surprised, which is enough to cause them to sneak attack you. For a single woman walking around alone, that could easily mean death, even if you were a good fighter.

Neither women nor men exist only to fill their role. Aeris can be everything she needs to be while still being her own person. Given how much characterization happens to her over the course of the game, I'm sure she will be her own person, but a trailer like this gives me pause, makes me wonder about the priorities of the creators. Unfair of me? Perhaps. But they will make whatever game they make, and even if I see a flaw in their writing, characterization, or staging that they legitimately, innocently missed, I am powerless to stop it. So I can't do more than worry.

Here's hoping they are more perceptive than I give them credit for, but so far I feel like I have every reason to worry.