In need of a Heroine: Angela Washko's "Heroines with Baggage (How Final Fantasy Shaped My Unrealistic Demands for Love and Tragedy)"

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Heroines with Baggage (How Final Fantasy Shaped My Unrealistic Demands for Love and Tragedy)

 


 

Heroines with Baggage is a video essay using footage taken directly from the famous early 90s role-playing SNES video game Final Fantasy III. The video deconstructs the game, creating a non-linear narrative that follows the trajectories of two of the three playable female characters in the fourteen-character game. Washko describes that she was interested in the female characters that she used to play as a child not because of their sparsity in the game, which can be explained by the fact that reportedly, far fewer females than males played these games in the early 90s, but rather, due to the way these characters were presented.

Washko's video reveals a game where the characters show a certain teenage sentimentality with no real emotional depth, where a princess sings "Oh my hero / So far away now. / Will I ever see your smile?" And another female character gasps at the sight of a male character, "You…saved me?" According to Washko, the female characters constantly mention their desire to experience love, unlike the male characters who do not mention the concept of love at all, resulting in the fact that even though these characters are playable, meaning, have strengths and plot focus, they remain projections of archetypal powerful-yet-victimized women. 

Featuring the game's fantastic original soundtrack and the old-school video game aesthetics, the video cuts out the battle and search scenes, usually the game's focal point, in order to look at the game's background story and draw attention to the way it portrays femininity and the model this had served to women like Washko herself, who played the game as young girls. Not that the result was their ultimate subjection to heroes who would save them, but looking back at this kind of game with a critical eye and through a more critical practice is still quite refreshing.