Welcome to Feminism in Gaming with Jackie! I know, this is my first time covering the topic, however I have quite a bit to say. Today, I’ll be discussing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ve completed the game and played for roughly 40 hours, and as such I have some legitimate means to review it. I’m not going to have any pomp and frill here, I’m going to dive right in.
As always, I’ll start with the bad. SPOILER ALERT: I will be referencing plot relevant topics so if you do not want anything spoiled, please turn your attention elsewhere.
Unfortunately, our dear Princess Zelda is not handled in the best way yet again. Well, in a sense. In the game, you hunt down 13 memories of yourself and Zelda to try and regain Link’s memory and power. In the first half of these memories, Zelda clearly has qualms about the idea of being protected by Link and defended by him, clearly upset that he has the Master Sword, while she struggles to master her magic. It adds depth, as does the first half of her diary when she discusses the loss of her mother. However, after Link (of course) saves her from a giant bokoblin horde. After Zelda spurns him consistently, suddenly everything is fine.
The change is sudden and feels forced, as if they forgot that they had to make Zelda attached to Link. She doesn’t suddenly fall head over heels in love for him, but it is implied she develops feelings for him. Another issue I have is with Mipha, the Zora champion. Supposedly, she and Link knew one another as children and were in love, so she made special armor as a sort of “engagement ring.” However, we see no history or development of the two, Mipha rarely shows any personality, especially in comparison to the other three champions. It feels as though her existence and her “love” for Link is only a plot point.
As such, I cannot wholly call Zelda a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in this game, as she drags Link around on her goals, and scientific queries, but they forced the love angle far too quickly. However, Mipha is what I might call waifu bait for self insets. All of her goals are focused around Link or her father, she shows very little actual personality, and we are told to accept and understand, with absolutely minimal context that she and Link were in love.
Now for the good part: The Gerudo. The most difficult Divine Beast in the game is captained by a Gerudo woman. In fact, there are many gerudo women who are old, young, muscular, and thin; the body types vary, and I adore that. In fact Urbosa, the Gerudo Champion, has a moment with Zelda, empathizing with her struggle to master her power. Link shows up after they speak.
Urbosa, as well as the other gerudo women, frequently call into question the idea that men are required for combat success. You’ll find gerudo women around Hyrule, who are secret spies and warriors ready to defend themselves and traveling merchants! The gerudo characters are interesting and have depth, like Riju. Riju talks about the struggle of being a minor and yet the queen of her people, struggling to reach the goals of her ancestors, and it adds a great layer to the character. And, whether or not people want to believe it, there is a canon gay gerudo male in the game. When Link wears Gerudo clothes to sneak into the town, a gerudo man also wearing “women’s” clothes not only gives them to Link, but asks him out.
Beedle also makes references, if you speak to him enough, that you two might have been married in a past life. The game is surprisingly LGBT friendly. While I have issue with Mipha’s character portrayal and Zelda’s personality development without enough context, this game is leagues ahead of others in regards to a feminist approach, being LGBTQA+ friendly, as well as going out of their way to make sure Zelda didn’t just have goals involving Link. She was a tech nerd, she was bad at magic, she felt like she deserved better, she lost her mother, King Rhoam was intense and demanding of her, her character had so much depth.
I have a few little issues about the game, however, as a whole, it is pretty damn feminist. This has been Feminism in Gaming with Jacqueline, see you later, guys!