Thursday, July 6, 2017

Zelda and its traditional values

The Legend of Zelda, to me, always has been a pure Hero's Journey fantasy epic of a young boy living out the path destined for him: becoming a hero of good, destroying the evil that plagues humanity. In this quest, a boy becomes a man, and this is so very inspiring to me as a young man myself.

Stories these days have had this perception that with humanity, things can never be black and white (evil and good); that idealistic hero figures are boring and unrealistic. But that's something I find cool about Zelda; Link is, without a doubt, pure heroism. People say that Link isn't a character, and they'd be partially right. He hasn't had much personality throughout the years, and I personlly think that Nintendo should step it up and give him more personality-- however, that doesn't destroy what he is: he's a symbol of courage, of hope, of everything I want to be as a man. When it comes down to it, Link is a symbol of masculinity (more on that in a bit). Someone who puts his fear aside and follows the righteous path set out by the wise Princess and the holy goddesses.

That's something very prevalent throughout Zelda: spirituality. In Zelda 1 and 2, Link has had a cross on his shield to symbolize that he's a warrior for good. But when Ocarina of Time truly delved into the "religion" of the Triforce and the Goddesses that created it, that is when spirituality can truly be felt throughout the Zelda franchise. Whatever you believe of religion, and of all the bad that it has most certainly caused throughout history, the base principals of the most prominent religion that shaped the values of Western culture-- Christianity-- is the opposite of nihilism and believing that humanity is a carnal, worthless existence; in other words, of all the faults of Christianity, it has some valuable ideals of morality at the root of it all. And I say that as a highly agnostic individual.
Christianity, and Christ himself above all else in the Bible, is something that was symbolized in the first two Zeldas, and is a religion and a belief that emphasizes selflessness, something that has been featured in many, if not all Zeldas throughout the franchise's history. The noble, courageous hero that helps citizens across his journey to defeat the evil villain-- that is selflessness, something that Link undeniably embodies.

What I'm getting at, is that Zelda is one of the few franchises that consistently upholds its pure and its 'conservative' values, while not being preachy about it. Some may say that Zelda is very boring and repetitive with its story and that its morality only comes out of its story being a generic Hero's Journey plot, but that's part of its charm. It doesn't let the cynical nature of modern society change it. There hasn't been a Man of Steel installment in the Zelda franchise that turns Link into an edgy, depressed hero. Zelda is and always will be a pure Hero's Journey story that houses spiritual themes and morals, and that is something I can definitely appreciate.

Now, something I also find intriguing is the portrayal of masculinity and femininity in Zelda. To the dismay of some, Zelda is also quite consistent with its portrayals of males and females. I will try my hardest to explain why this is a good thing. For starters, Zelda doesn't portray females as weak-- not at all. But it doesn't take the stance that women and men are interchangeable.

Let's look at the Triforce for starters: courage and power are both held by males, while wisdom is held by a female. And Aonuma made it clear that he did not want that to change; he didn't think it would be natural for that to change (hence the statement that Link will always be a guy).

But why do the males hold the courage and power, while the female holds the wisdom? This is something I find fascinating; power is male out of the thought that masculinity in a psychological sense is the urge to become more powerful and compete with others. And throughout history, what else men needed along with power was courage in order to hunt big game and to explore uncharted lands to expand territory (which directly correlates with power). These are things that come to mind when I think 'masculinity'. I think of Hercules and of mythological heroes, and of the classic hero archetype in general who is strong and who fights the dragon to obtain the treasure and save the princess. Obviously, a female can be these things too, but if you want to talk about the average, the average male is more likely to be 'masculine' than a female is, and is most certainly going to be physically stronger. I think this is the mind process of Aonuma when he said he thinks there need to be two men to balance out the Triforce together with the wisdom piece.

Also to be noted is that power and courage show masculinity at its darkest versus at its lightest. Link and Ganon are almost like the two extremes of Christ and Satan. It's black and white, but they embody extremes of what humanity is capable of-- what a man can become determined by the path they follow.

So why is wisdom female? After all, there were plenty of wise male philosophers throughout history, and there still are. But to answer that, we must establish: what's the biggest difference between a man and a woman, biologically? A woman births children and raises them as a mother. So for wisdom to be female, I think it's because wisdom is more maternal in a sense. A mother raises her child; when it comes to a more traditional family (and as I've mentioned, Zelda is quite traditional with its stories and themes), a mother will be more protective and will look over her child more than the father (traditionally, the father was out of the house working more). Because of this, the mother will pass her teachings of wisdom over to the child. Another thing relating to motherhood as portrayed in Zelda: look at the gods of the Zelda universe. They are all women; therefore, they are always referred to as goddesses. It's almost as if they're symbolizing how women are the creators of life. These goddesses are the mothers of existence. It's really interesting and honestly beautiful how the females are almost always the spiritual beings in the Zelda universe; it symbolizes how important femininity and motherhood is in a happy, functional society. A society of which a courageous hero would want to protect against a powerful tyrant.

Another reason I think wisdom is female is because wisdom does not correlate with the typical traits of masculinity. You look at modern society, and men have the more physical, laborious jobs (which require power and courage to properly do their job. Remember, these jobs are very dangerous). The same could be said throughout history, that men had these jobs (aside from war time when women had to work in factories, which is not common these days). However, there's an interesting development in modern Western society that has opened up due to women having more rights than they did in the past: women are getting better grades and perform better in college. When it comes to the number of college graduates, women far outnumber men. Modern men are highly likely to drop out of college, even. I doubt Nintendo really looked at these statistics in deciding that wisdom is more applicable to femininity, but it's interesting how society is even showing how masculinity and femininity generally lead to very different life paths, and how the Triforce kind of represents these roles.

What's cool about Zelda is that it doesn't show any of these sides as more valid than the other. They are three equal pieces for a reason. It also shows women being powerful (Gerudo) and courageous (I'd say that Zelda herself is very courageous), so women aren't necessarily outnumbered in the Triforce. But as an idea of masculinity and femininity, I love how the Triforce symbolizes the yin and the yang of these two sexes. Masculinity is the powerful, courageous hero that protects society. Femininity is the graceful, wise creator and nurturer of society.

The Legend of Zelda shows the balance of good and evil, of men and women; and for young boys, it is an epic journey into manhood. For young girls, it's an epic journey that teaches them a lot about life and their inner wisdom in general. I think that's part of the reason why this series is as timeless as it is, even from a story standpoint.

No comments:

Post a Comment