Damsel Rescuers or Tactical Advantages? Rarely debated aspect of Tropes v Women

gargantual

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Sorry for the reddit crosspost. Just been thinking about this for awhile.

I remember a friend of mine brought this point up in past conversations during the height of the first few Tropes vs. Women videos. And it'd be nice if we actually had some gamers discuss this aspect on their channels as to what the symbolic one man army protagonist is, more than a blunt instrument or damsel rescuer or avenger. I don't know if Kite Tales covered this aspect when she was responding to Tropes vs Women all those years ago, but here goes.



Anyhow, with Mario and Link, he said they were rogue elements. Now this is a guy who isn't fazed by most video game attempts at drama, but mostly looks at the metaphysics of the game's conflict and if the story shows any relevance to competitive gameplay. Other than that, couldn't give two shits about story in a video game.



He suggested that they weren't just damsel rescuers or not even essentially 'her majesty's secret service' which is how I perceive the insulted Nintendo fans REALLY regarded the relationship between Mario/Peach and Link/Zelda but moreso tactical advantages in the overall conflict.



Those familiar with Super Mario and Zelda know that Peach and Zelda's kidnapping symbolized their kingdoms pivoting into chaos, because they held the state together. Now if they could have simply defeated Ganondorf and Bowser with their own strength and hiked it all the way back home themselves, it'd take a bit more effort on their part to restore order.



We can infer, the villains knew enough about these despots to successfully kidnap them, and after these princesses take out the head villains, they've got one little bitty problem.



their kingdoms are still under siege,



and without the lead villain keeping his underlings at bay.....well we can only imagine what happens next to the precious captive citizens. So its still a hostage situation.



Now the plumber from the outside and farmer boy come into the picture. They AREN'T as much known quantities to Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom as the princesses and because of this they make perfect distractions. They take out their enemy's army gradually from the smaller opponents all the way up and freeing the land as they go. Even if they were surveyed the entire time from afar, the bigger upset they create, the more of Ganondorf and Bowser's attention they take, which is less time the villains have to absorb power, and press their captive princesses for magical or political concessions.



Even if you brought out the critique from the list of "100 things I'd do if I were a Super villain", that says; instead of leaving weaker henchmen to deter a rising protagonist, and letting them acquire more power, instead why doesn't the villain send stronger opposition to crush their ascension from the very start....



The response to that is, its still a gamble. It depends on what you have available as a villain. You have to control the environment, especially for an unknown quantity. In video games, the protagonist often manipulates or masters the environment in their favor. Thats how a one man army is able overcome so many henchmen/creatures, they're technically not doing it alone. (Unless they're bayonetta or Dante)



Lets assume you as a lead villain risk your stronger opposition, and lead them right into a trap. Now what happens? Now this rogue element whose potential is still not completely accounted for, is ultimately still at large. Now you have to compensate and gather as many of the weaker henchmen/monsters into a front to make up for the formidable ones you just wasted.



All this is distressing to a super villain of their kind. They're not some lone menace like Doomsday that only has to worry about their licking their own wounds and destroying everything in sight, but these are managers, managing resources. They're likely to leave their backs turned caught up in the pressures of failed field generalship.



So the typical roles of villain sending gradual opposition and planning traps, while the hostage bids their time waiting for the best opportunity, can also be looked at tactically. They can't play their best hands too early. The phrase "work smarter, not harder" seems to apply, and it shows there are many ways to exercise power. The protagonist appears to be the one in this case working the hardest.

But overall my point is, this is another perspective that gets completely lost when only looked at through that lens of woman=weak, man=evil (even when he's benevolent)
 

Saelune

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I think in specific regard to Mario and Legend of Zelda, its old games used old tropes and due to both relying on consistency to their style retain it. Mario doesn't really try to make any statement and is just a series focused on gameplay than plot. LoZ does try a bit harder though, and Zelda has become far more badass since her debut but also still relies on its basic established formula.
 
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Saelune said:
LoZ does try a bit harder though, and Zelda has become far more badass since her debut but also still relies on its basic established formula.
That and Skyward sword finally DOES explain why a lot of things are the way they are.

Because the curse of Demise binds the Three Triforce Holders to eternally repeat the war of light and dark, Zelda is always bound to the role of "maguffin in a dress who is only useful in the final act", which makes her moments when she finds ways AROUND it by say disguising herself as shiek (or being Tetra the whole game) all the more smart. "What's that? As long as I'm the Princess, I'm useless outside of the final battle? Well then, time to not be the Princess for a bit and voila now I can kick all kinds of ass"

I do hope they continue poking at the concept and evolving it, though. As much as I love the same old Legend, I really do appreciate a nice shakeup like Majora's Mask, which still remains my favourite.
 

Silvanus

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aegix drakan said:
Because the curse of Demise binds the Three Triforce Holders to eternally repeat the war of light and dark, Zelda is always bound to the role of "maguffin in a dress who is only useful in the final act", which makes her moments when she finds ways AROUND it by say disguising herself as shiek (or being Tetra the whole game) all the more smart. "What's that? As long as I'm the Princess, I'm useless outside of the final battle? Well then, time to not be the Princess for a bit and voila now I can kick all kinds of ass"
It's a bit of a stretch to attribute Zelda's use of disguises to Skyward Sword; her stints as Sheik and Tetra were almost certainly conceived long before the writers came up with the curse of Demise. That'd probably be a retroactive explanation.
 

09philj

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An alternative view of Mario is that Bowser knows Mario is an unstoppable vortex of destruction in a hat, so devises plans that will take Mario the longest time to foil so he can hopefully finish in the meantime. He also knows Peach is the centre of power in the kingdom and Mario will always try to save his lady, hence the kidnapping. He sometimes does things a little differently, such as in Super Mario 64, where he tries trapping Mario.
 

FirstNameLastName

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Yeah, it's rather pointless to look for some deep statement on gender roles in games that have been using pretty much the same basic story elements over and over in the name of "franchise tradition". What's more, these early stories that later games borrow from come from a time of videogames where most games had neither the ability nor desire to have more story than you could fit on the back of a postcard.
 
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Silvanus said:
That'd probably be a retroactive explanation.
Yup. That was my thinking actually. Kind of a "Oh, hey! That explains why that happens and the competence level magically goes through the roof! Neat."
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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As others have said, it is not really worthwhile to go looking for deeper nuances in the stories of old games. But even if there was your friend is essentially missing the point. Your friend is still too zoomed in on the story and doesn't look at it from the proper meta perspective needed to do a gender analysis. Whatever Link is the Guy-Who-Saves-Zeldas or Outsider-Who-Exploits-Opportunity doesn't matter in the meta perspective, because in that perspective, stripped clean of story details as it is, his purpose is to save the Girl and win the game.
 

CritialGaming

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I think that over analyzing the basics of video games story is rather self deprecating. Why must Mario always save the princess? Why does the bad guy send the stupid easy guys at Mario first? Because it is a game. Not only that, but at it's very inception, it was a game for kids. Children do not have the moral fortitude or the mental capacity (typically) to grasp advance details or catch underlining tones of story.

When you are six or seven, you know two things. One, The dragon is the bad guy because he took the girl. Two, beating the dragon makes you the hero.

Now that we are all order and have the ability to analyze and look through the main storyline for the strings of plot underneath, I feel we add things that simply aren't there. Or at least see phantom intentions never intended by the games original creators.

Zelda as a universe is a bit more advanced than Mario's Mushroom Kingdom. I wont begin to talk about the games because I've never cared about Zelda and I have no first hand knowledge of the wacky cluster fuck of a timeline that those games have become.

What I will say is that this whole Tropes vs. Women debacle has it's roots in looking for malicious intent where none exists. When you look for hatred and bigotry in everything, you can attach it to anything, and projecting it into things does not make it true.


I mean seriously. Ask me how I can insert horrible shit into Mario. (Hint, it has to do with him severing the heads of the population and eating them to get high.)
 

Fappy

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It's never made any sense to me that Legend of Zelda still relies on this trope to establish the majority of its stories. It just feels antiquated at this point.

For Mario, sure, who really cares? It's a staple of the series and Peach getting captured by Bowser is just expected. It makes games where Peach is playable all the more special.

I am not convinced LoZ needs this, however. She's played really interesting roles throughout the series, but somehow always ends up playing the damsel in the end. Would be nice to see her take the reins for once.
 

CritialGaming

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Fappy said:
It's never made any sense to me that Legend of Zelda still relies on this trope to establish the majority of its stories. It just feels antiquated at this point.

For Mario, sure, who really cares? It's a staple of the series and Peach getting captured by Bowser is just expected. It makes games where Peach is playable all the more special.

I am not convinced LoZ needs this, however. She's played really interesting roles throughout the series, but somehow always ends up playing the damsel in the end. Would be nice to see her take the reins for once.
I would like to see a Dude in distress for once. Like a female badass has to single-handedly murder entire armies to rescue her boy-toy. Why can't we have that game?
 

Fappy

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CritialGaming said:
Fappy said:
It's never made any sense to me that Legend of Zelda still relies on this trope to establish the majority of its stories. It just feels antiquated at this point.

For Mario, sure, who really cares? It's a staple of the series and Peach getting captured by Bowser is just expected. It makes games where Peach is playable all the more special.

I am not convinced LoZ needs this, however. She's played really interesting roles throughout the series, but somehow always ends up playing the damsel in the end. Would be nice to see her take the reins for once.
I would like to see a Dude in distress for once. Like a female badass has to single-handedly murder entire armies to rescue her boy-toy. Why can't we have that game?
Wasn't that what Lolipop Chainsaw was? Never did play that one.

Actually, replaying Chrono Trigger right now and they kind of do that when...

Crono dies. Yeah, Crono, Lucca and Frog save Marle at the start of the game, but when Crono bites it Marle is the one who takes charge and leads the party on a quest to bring him back to life.
 

inmunitas

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CritialGaming said:
Fappy said:
It's never made any sense to me that Legend of Zelda still relies on this trope to establish the majority of its stories. It just feels antiquated at this point.

For Mario, sure, who really cares? It's a staple of the series and Peach getting captured by Bowser is just expected. It makes games where Peach is playable all the more special.

I am not convinced LoZ needs this, however. She's played really interesting roles throughout the series, but somehow always ends up playing the damsel in the end. Would be nice to see her take the reins for once.
I would like to see a Dude in distress for once. Like a female badass has to single-handedly murder entire armies to rescue her boy-toy. Why can't we have that game?
Probably because the people who would make a game like that don't make games, or haven't yet.
 

CritialGaming

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Fappy said:
Never played either of those games. I'm pretty sure in Lollipop chainsaw, the girl carried her Boyfriend's severed head with her as she battled through the game. Very heavy metal.

Crono Trigger was one of those games like FF6 that everyone praised to high heaven, but I came to the party far too late and could never get into the game properly. I can't play 16-bit games for very long anymore. I dunno why, I just can't go back, I guess I've seen enough of it growing up.
 

Fappy

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CritialGaming said:
Fappy said:
Never played either of those games. I'm pretty sure in Lollipop chainsaw, the girl carried her Boyfriend's severed head with her as she battled through the game. Very heavy metal.

Crono Trigger was one of those games like FF6 that everyone praised to high heaven, but I came to the party far too late and could never get into the game properly. I can't play 16-bit games for very long anymore. I dunno why, I just can't go back, I guess I've seen enough of it growing up.
I don't think I'll ever get sick of 8-bit or 16-bit games. I love sprites, personally.

inmunitas said:
Probably because the people who would make a game like that don't make games, or haven't yet.
They definitely exist within the indy scene, though I don't know of any offhand. I only really play the more popular indy titles.
 

ThatOtherGirl

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I am not sure how valid it is, but I love this sort of over analysis. It is really fun.

I do actually think this is where Zelda was going later on, at least from in OOT and TP (and in a different way WW). I mean, consider how the three mainline zeldas go (OOT, WW, and TP). In each of them Ganondorf has limited resources which he uses in clever ways to overthrow an established order. In both OOT and TP this is plainly shown. In TP we actually see the moment when Zelda surrenders, and in OOT we see the night Ganondorf takes the kingdom. Ganondorf is just a better warrior and general than Zelda, or at the very least he had the stronger army.

Enter Link. He basically comes in and smashes shit up until Ganondorf can no longer ignore him. I mean, Link has "plans" but they all basically boil down to systematically wrecking all of Ganondorf's stuff while Ganondorf is busy with more important things. Link is the factor Ganondorf is never really able to account for.

I think that is down to his ownership of the triforce of courage. We never actually see what the triforce of courage does. Ganon gains clear power from the trifoce of power, Zelda's magic and knowledge can be primarily attributed to the triforce of wisdom, but Link doesn't visibly gain anything from the triforce of courage. So what does it do? I think the triforce of courage would be better named the triforce of luck. Link shouldn't be able to win. Every odd is stacked against him. But for some reason it is possible and even probable for him to come out on top. Using the triforce of courage only requires "courage", or more precisely a near insane level of recklessness. Link is the sort of insane individual who doesn't hesitate to throw himself into mortal danger. And that is all the triforce of courage needs to work it's magic.

I think the entire function of the triforce of courage is to greatly amplify the "rogue element" effect you are talking about.

I don't know if as strong a case can be made for Mario. Maybe in the first few battles between him and Bowser, but by now Bowser knows exactly how it is going to go down. And really Mario doesn't become more powerful as he goes (except in the Mario RPGs, but those are a little different.) Bowsers plans seem to revolve around the idea of a final battle between him and Mario and obtaining some new power for the final showdown. I think his plans involve distracting Mario until he can secure this new power, putting up barriers so he can prepare for the battle.

In the words of 09philj, Mario is an unstoppable vortex of destruction. Bowser knows he is the only real threat and so plans accordingly. But he has yet to truly and permanently come out on top against the unstoppable Mario. He wins the occasional battle, but Mario always comes back and beats him, usually in a very short time frame.