Mod Loser here to discuss, arguably, the best Final Fantasy title to be released. Now don’t get me wrong; I still adore FF1 for the Game Boy Advance, and Final Fantasy 7 revolutionized JRPG’s. However, I want to talk about the Final Fantasy game that I felt like also made the most ground from a feminist standpoint, and to me it all begins with the message. Final Fantasy X’s story heavily revolves around a metaphor for religious extremism that places blame on another culture, the Al Bhed. Supposedly, because the Al Bhed used Machina (Machines), for war and their daily lives, the Gods created a monster known as Sin to smite them. This, of course, ended up being false.
This content is a heavy metaphor for the Islamaphobia and the Dark Ages perpetrated by mainstream Christianity, especially in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States. One of the main party members, Wakka, is a blatant racist and has to unlearn these falsehoods and realizes that blind faith in a religious institution lead to the entire world being manipulated. That sounds like the game must be very friendly to People of Color, right? Well, not quite.
As great as the message is, most of the POC are meaningless side characters, or worse, made out to be terrible people. For example, one summoner who absolutely despises Yuna is clearly a person of color, and shamelessly antagonizes Yuna throughout the game. This wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that many of the enemies and summoners you face (mind you only minor ones) are POC. What is very odd is that Yuna is of mixed racial descent, but completely white. From a backstory perspective, her mother was Al Bhed, but she has no characteristics of it, meaning that they had a main party member supposedly as a POC, but was unashamedly white-washed. Even Rikku, allegedly Al Bhed, has almost no physical Al Bhed characteristics.
What irked me further is that the specific summoner I mentioned is highly sexualized, and this marks a trend you’ll notice throughout Final Fantasy X. Every single female enemy, or “bitchy” female character, is overtly sexual. This is demonization of feminine sexuality, and while intentional or not, places the idea in people’s minds that a woman’s sexuality is an inherent signifier of her being a cold individual, or just flat out a terrible person. Even in Zanarkand, when the creepy demon-like boss could have been anything, they chose to make it an over sexualized woman. This trend isn’t new, though, especially if you played Final Fantasy 8. I could go even further and discuss Final Fantasy X-2, but I’ll save that for perhaps another time.
I know I harped on the negativity early on for the game, but there is an overwhelming amount of positivity as well. If you know me in my personal life, or follow my work, you know that I am transgender; designated male at birth. That means I have some experience with the concept of “Father/Son” relationships, as difficult as it may be to discuss. However, Final Fantasy X explores abuse and the after effects in a very meaningful way. Tidus is, in no uncertain terms, verbally abused and neglected by his parents, Especially Jecht. And yet, he feels as though he has to live up to Jecht’s legacy, and out do him at every single turn.
This fostered a hatred of Jecht within Tidus, and the memories you find throughout the entire game reaffirm the abuse Tidus suffered, while also showing Jecht not only as a monster but as a human being. Not once is Tidus told to stop hating Jecht or to forgive him. Even in the final bossfight, Tidus looks Jecht in the eye and says “I hate you.” Jecht’s response? “I know.” Jecht recognizes his alcoholism and abuse, and does not demand forgiveness. No, Jecht instead understands and supports his son’s feelings.
The game shows Tidus having emotion, crying, it displays the toxic masculinity in Tidus’ early memories, as well as Tidus unlearning some horrible habits and thoughts with the help of his new friends; especially Yuna. Yuna also had some damn good growth in this game. She’s trying to make herself save the world because she’s told she has to (because her father did), and she realizes she doesn’t have to be what her father was. Yuna had very good growth, but not nearly as much as Tidus, and unfortunately it was mostly because of Tidus.
Even worse, in one segment Yuna is captured by Seymour so he can marry her and Tidus and gang must save her! This was shoehorned in so Square could reinforce the romance between Yuna and Tidus, when in reality she was the most powerful character in the entire fucking party. Yuna literally could have bitch slapped Seymour, saved herself, and almost ended the game in that very moment, but Squeenix had to force the love connection in a rather boring, played out way.
These are the major thoughts I have on Final Fantasy X, and the great things represented there are amazing, but it is nowhere near perfect. It’s important that we critique these games, so that we know how to improve them and what to look for in the future.
Thanks for reading guys, this is Mod Loser, signing off!