Apr 22 2013 10:00am

Final Fantasy 7 and the Death of Aeris Gainsborough

It is cold, and snow is falling. You run, like you always do, because time is of the essence. You’re on the Northern continent, beneath the forgotten capital of the Ancients—a long-lost culture who understood makoenergy as the Shinra Electric Power Company never will. The Ancients possessed profound wisdom about the life force of the planet... but you’re not here for ancient wisdom. You’re here for personal reasons. You’re here because of her.

She is the Flower Girl. You know her as Aeris, or Aerith, or perhaps by another name (in my version of this story, she is Flosh). She is young, beautiful, and descended from the Ancients, connected to their wisdom by a bond of the spirit. Aeris was supposed to be under your protection, but she left in the night. She might be in danger. You mean to get her back.

You enter a large, underground temple… and there she is, kneeling beside a pond, as beautiful as the day you met. Her pink dress, her stylish hair, her sweet smile, her heart full of love. Is she praying? Of course she is. What a beauty. You slowly approach, eager to reunite with her once more.

But you are not yourself today. Your hands are not your own. He is here. Trying to control you. He wants you to kill her. You know who I mean.

Sephiroth dresses in black and carries a wicked scimitar. He has awaited this moment with frightening sobriety, despite his burning madness. When you resist him, he decides to do the deed himself—and drops from the ceiling, that wicked blade in hand. What happens next will scar you for life—for the shocking crime that Sephiroth commits can never be forgiven.

If you’ve played Final Fantasy 7, you may still be reeling from the death of Aeris Gainsborough. Her murder, halfway through the game, ranks as one of the most stunning moments in video game history, a pivotal scene in what some would call the greatest RPG ever made. Even now, sixteen years later, I still get chills when I remember Aeris (well, Flosh) collapsing in my arms and dying. Her death resonates in my cells, like... well, likemako energy.


Let’s put this event in context. When FF7 hit the PlayStation in 1997, video games were nowhere near the storytelling sophistication of modern titles. (Even caring about a video game character was rare in the 1990s.) The closest thing to a Final Fantasy experience was TV—but modern serialized television had yet to be invented, and shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead—in which the deaths of main characters are standard fare—were on nobody’s radar yet.

Suddenly, Final Fantasy 7 came along. The previous game in the series had been fairly complex from a storytelling point of view, but as the first RPG with 3D graphics and an enhanced soundtrack, Final Fantasy 7 set a new bar. The game pulled you in like no game ever had. How could you not get caught up in a game this beautiful, this intricate, this long? (When I finally escaped Midgar after infiltrating Shinra headquarters, I was certain the game was over. In truth I had finished the prologue.)

Aeris was the last person I expected to lose along the way. Cloud (the game’s spikey-haired protagonist) had a number of sidekicks, but Aeris was the most special. She was an Ancient. She had powers. She and Cloud had a unique relationship. And right from the beginning of the game, she had been introduced in a way that made players fall in love with her.

Sure, Tifa was the hot one. She had the long brown hair, the generous curves, the skimpy outfit that left little to the imagination. Tifa was sexy and tough yet emotionally vulnerable—a nice role model for a growing audience of female gamers, and a drool-worthy sidekick for the inevitable fanboys.

But Aeris… Aeris was different. She was sweet and pretty, an angel made flesh. She sold flowers for a living, and went to church. Aeris wasn’t the kind of girl you pinned up on your wall. She was the kind of girl you took home and married, and spent your life holding hands with by a pond.

Aeris was the one you were supposed to love. She captured your heart one gentle word at a time. And it worked. I really did love that girl.

Until Sephiroth murdered her.


Aeris’ death occurred less than halfway through the game (though by that point it had felt like a lifetime.) In the weeks that followed, I went on to complete many important tasks: bringing down Shinra, defeating the Emerald and Ruby Weapons, saving the world from destruction. But none of these was quite as epic as my pursuit of the game’s most rare and powerful item: the piece of materia known as Knights of the Round.

For those who haven’t played the game, it’s hard to overstate the work involved in obtaining Knights of the Round. First you have to breed Chocobos. (For the uninitiated: think giant chickens.) The way this works is, you run around the planet looking for the beasts; when you find one, you chase it, capture it, feed it special food, and take it to the race track at the Gold Saucer (an amusement park.) If you win enough races, your Chocobo’s ranking improves, at which point you take it to a farm that specializes in Chocobo-raising and breeding.

Breeding Chocobos is both a science and an art. The goal is to breed a blue Chocobo with a green Chocobo to create a black Chocobo, which can then be bred (after being raced and fed and raced again) with a so-called “amazing Chocobo,” to eventually produce the coveted Golden Chocobo. Describing the process like this, it sounds like it might take an hour. If memory serves, I skipped class for nearly a week to make it happen.

Once mounted on a Golden Chocobo, you could finally reach the most remote spot on the planet: a small rugged island in the northern sea. On that island, inside a cave, awaited Knights of the Round. Equipping this materia allowed you to summon thirteen consecutive medieval knights to slash your enemy to bits, one awesome 3D graphic at a time. In an era long before YouTube, the only way to even witness this amazing feat of magic was to breed a Golden Chocobo and obtain the materia yourself.

Why did I invest so much time in this mind-numbing quest? The answer is simple: because I loathed Sephiroth. He had killed my Flower Girl, and I was going to do whatever it took to kick his heartless ass. Even if it meant getting up early. Even if it meant skipping a few meals. Raising those Chocobos wasn’t easy, but love never is. Such was the strange allure of Final Fantasy 7.

Eventually, I descended into the Northern Cave and unleashed my medieval knights on the evil man-in-black, and he was destroyed. Sephiroth died, vengeance was mine, and the game was over.

But in the final moments of the final sequence, Aeris returned. Not in the flesh, but in the spirit, watching over my characters as if her life force had merged with the life stream of the planet itself. In this moment—witnessing the gorgeous ending to a perfect game—I finally cried. And as the credits rolled, I uttered the words that millions of other gamers uttered that year:

“That was the best video game I’ve ever played.”

Brad Kane works in the entertainment industry, and is a story consultant on Universal’s upcoming adaptation of “The Wheel of Time.” Brad has worked at Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation, and as a member of the video game press, where he focused on the intersection of storytelling and interactivity. Get in touch with any questions, comments, or awesome jokes.

1. Blend
I very much agree with this whole article. This was the most epic RPG to ever be released, and remains one of, if not the best Final Fantasy stories that exists! Aeris, nOooo!!!!
Chris Long
2. radynski
You didn't mention that the Chocobo breeding didn't always work the way you wanted. Even when you had the right colors, you had to race each one of them to get them better, and then sometimes they still didn't produce what you needed. That Chocobo stuff took me forever.

That was a GREAT game though. I remember that my roommate basically watched me play the entire game, all 60+ hours of it. You mentioned it was more like TV and I agree.
Matt Marquez
3. mmarquez
I have to admit that I spent more than a little while searching for ways to revive Aeris. Every now and then I still pour out some Megalixer for my homie.
4. Tumas
I didn't have the privilege of playing Final Fantasy VII when it first came out, but (having played it fairly recently) I was amazed at how emotionally invested I became even after all these years. “That was the best video game I’ve ever played” indeed.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
I never could defeat Emerald Weapon, even with KotR.

That was an awesome game. If only all the ones that came after had been as good. I was really disappointed with the railroad that was 13, I've never even finished it.
6. DanX
The article let me reminisce, the byline let me hope.

"Brad Kane is a story consultant on Universal’s upcoming adaptation of 'The Wheel of Time.'"
7. Eric Saveau
I am one of those rare gamers who has never even brushed up against the Final Fantasy series... but I know exactly what you mean. I was completely caught up in Homeworld, and cried with relief and joy when the people I had carefully shepherded across the galaxy made it home. Half-Life 2 tied me up in knots, and I raged helplessly at the end as time was frozen with all my friends at the moment of their apparent doom; the subsequent Episodes drew me in even further. The Dragon Age and Mass Effect series thoroughly emotionally invested me in whole worlds and a cast of characters who felt like real people to me and who mattered to me. And who still do.
8. Jayms
This was the first game that I followed before it was released. I eagerly anticipated the demo, played through the demo like a dozen times, and waited for a game store to open in order to buy it.

They say the first time you get high is the most potent, and that holds true for me with this game.

Being a 17 year-old with girl trouble, this game came out at a junction in my life where I was full of hormones and desperately needed an emotional connection. I found that connection in this game.

I played this game religiously, but instead of feeling like I wasted my time, it felt like I was on an emotional journey with Cloud. The sudden loss of Aeris left me shocked - she was the seed of Cloud's emotion, she healed him when he was injured. Then she was gone. GONE. Murdered.

It may not be the greatest game ever made to a lot of people, but it was probably the greatest game for me. Part of what makes a game great is when it comes out and what your life is like at the time. This game spoke to me at a time when I was looking for guidance and meaning, and I feel a better person for having experienced that.

I really can't think of a more powerfully influencial game. Coming in a close second was Star Wars Galaxies (the first MMO I've played - made lots of friends), then Oblivion, Fallout, L4D, and Skyrim.
treebee72 _
9. treebee72
KotR followed by someone with the Mime materia was the best thing in the world.
Joel Cunningham
10. jec81
I never used Aeris in my party, preferring Tifa instead. Her death didn't really impact me that much because I felt little connection to her character.
Sean Dowell
11. qbe_64
You want wasted time and energy. Breed Chocobos for speed. 176 speed (if I recall correctly) and 999 stamina. There's a few websites that show the calculation of how that's the max speed possible. Wish I had known that at the time. I could've stopped when I got my first one at that speed.

Sephiroth is awesome! I believe that gamespot that did a march madness style bracket of existing video game characters (this is going back at least a decade). out of 64, top two - Cloud and Sephiroth. That's when you know you've made a good game.
Alan Courchene
12. Majicou
Scimitar? Well, not so much. It's a nodachi (field sword.)

It took me probably dozens of hours to obtain Knights of the Round. Of course, in most Final Fantasy games, if you're grinding to beat the bonus bosses, the story bosses end up being kind of a joke. That was doubly true in X, where on a whim I decided to monkey around with the Sphere Grid to max out everyone's stats. That also took dozens of hours, but when you're a gamer in college it's the kind of thing you do.
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
@13, In X all I needed was Auron's Ultimate weapon. Killed Jovan in one hit.
Marc Gioglio
14. Fuzzix
All you youngins’ and your fancy “Play Stations”…bah humbug!

Quotes like this “in which the deaths of main characters are standard fare—were on nobody’s radar yet.” get on my nostalgic nerves.

Tellah died saving the entire party in FF2 on the SNES.
Palom and Porom sacrifice themselves by turning irreconcilably to stone.
Yang and Cid both leave the party in circumstances that one is lead to believe are deaths.
Not to mention the horrible scene of Anna’s death. While Tellah’s eventual forgiveness of one "spoony bard" was quite dramatic.

And trying to get the hidden summons in FF2 was immensely hard because they were monster drops that you just had to fight and hope dropped. I spent about forty hours just to collect the various (crazy LOW powered) summons and killing other things in hopes that they would drop one. (NoGamefaqs or web to help out with these drops either.)

But I am glad FF7 did for you what FF2 did for me. :)
15. PhoebeSF
I LOVE FF7, but these two paragraphs are awful and really sexist:
Sure, Tifa was the hot one. She had the long brown hair, the generous curves, the skimpy outfit that left little to the imagination. Tifa was sexy and tough yet emotionally vulnerable—a nice role model for a growing audience of female gamers, and a drool-worthy sidekick for the inevitable fanboys.

But Aeris… Aeris was different. She was sweet and pretty, an angel made flesh. She sold flowers for a living, and went tochurch. Aeris wasn’t the kind of girl you pinned up on your wall. She was the kind of girl you took home and married, and spent your life holding hands with by a pond.
Madonna/whore much? Way to affirm the sexist values an already unfortunately sexist narrative. :(
16. Andrea K
PhoebeSF captures my reaction.

Aerith's death is shocking because she and Tifa are "horror movie coded" as "the confident sexual girl who is expendible because sexual" and "the good girl who gets to be the last girl because virgin".

FF7 reversed this ingrained and extremely tedious expectation not to make you think it's wrong, but because the writers were well aware that it would hit straight to the White Knight core and bring emotional investment in spades.

Aerith's death was just another refrigerator.
Jenny Creed
17. JennyCreed
It's funny, I always liked Tifa better as Cloud's love interest. I saw her and Aeris' competition for Cloud's affections in the terms of the unflinchingly loyal childhood friend versus the mysterious stranger who shows up and tries to take him away from her for what appears to be at best a slight, random infuatuation and possibly using him for some scheme involving the other mysterious strangers she runs around with.

(There's some great echoes of this in the Scott Pilgrim comic which I think has a scene on top of a playground slide where young Scott tells young Kim he's leaving that's almost identical to a scene with young Cloud and young Tifa.)

Yeah, I got that we were supposed to root for Aeris romantically, but it seemed to me that she had bigger and better things to do than taking Cloud's flower. (Like saving the world twice while dead.) My fear was that she would ruin everything between Cloud and Tifa and it would be nothing more than a bump in the road to her.

I was sad that she died, sure, but not as much as when Jessie did cause a) I kind of figured that being dead would not be a big inconvencience to her plan and b) I thought now maybe Cloud would notice Tifa.
Robert Dickinson
18. ChocolateRob
Like many people Aeris' death had been spoilered for me before I got to it so when it happened I was very meh about it ...

...until I got to the scene where bugenhagen activates a replay of it wherein they discover that she had activated the White Materia, cue waterworks.

FFVII was my first Final Fantasy game but I really enjoyed all of the rereleases of the earlier ones when they came out but for a long while I was despairing that they weren't releasing FFIII.
Why won't they let me play it? It finally came out on the DS so I bought it for my niece to see what it was like ( I wasn't buying a DS just for one game, I do have limits). She was never that interested in it though and it wasn't until last year that it finally found its way to the PSN.

WOO HOO collection complete!

PS. Of the first 6 games I loved 5 & 6 the most but was not too fond of 4 and found 2 to be annoying. I'd also quite like to see a full HD remake of FFVI and a 16 bit remake of FFX (just imagine the Lulu/Wakka/Auron sprites fighting a giant pixelated drawing of Sin, woo!).
19. farzon
You was Cloud that killed Aeris. All of a sudden he forgets about Phoenix Downs? And then just drops her in the pool so she can, like mafia squealers, sleep with the fishes.

That said, when I played through FF7 that death did annoy me. I even spent time grinding in that temple area right before, with Aeris in my party, just so I could get her last limit break.
Chris Nelly
20. Aeryl
@19, I KNOW! That was the main reason the death ticked me off so much, was I had made her the most badass member in my party. Took me forever to get everyone up to a level that I could continue the game.

The only other gaming thing that was as bad, was when I ignorantly let Loghain join my party after the Landsmeet, losing Alistair who I had romanced in that first playthrough(and that only becase Leliana was taking TOO LONG). I was so invested, I ended having to replay the Landsmeet SO MANY TIMES just so I could get him back.
Nathan Martin
21. lerris
Not true. Nobody dies in combat in a Final Fantasy game. They're just knocked out.
Alan Courchene
22. Majicou
@14: Psst! Hey, old timer. We don't use those fakey numbers any more.

@18: You found FF2 to be "annoying"? Wow, that is by far the nicest thing I've heard anyone say about that game, myself included.
23. helbel
"Sure, Tifa was the hot one. She had the long brown hair, the generous curves, the skimpy outfit that left little to the imagination. ... a nice role model for a growing audience of female gamers"

You do see the problem there don't you? I've never even played Final Fantasy 7 and yet I feel the need to comment on the sexism in the article.
24. Corlanthis
Babylon 5 would like to have a word with you re: the lack of serialized television and deaths of beloved characters in the mid-90's.
Alexander Gieg
25. alexgieg
@15 and @23: No, it isn't "sexism". Men feel strong emotional connection to three basic female archetypes: the Mother, the Lover and the Daughter. From that doesn't follow that men think women must fit them, specially because everyone is aware that the real world doesn't work in idealized ways and people are complex. But it does follow that in fiction those archetypes are highlighted, as are those of the Hero, the Martyr, the Adversary etc.

Feminism is at its best when it calls attention to the fact women aren't objects, they're real people with real subjectivity, real problems (many of which indeed caused by men), real virtues and real vices, but all in need of respect and opportunity. And it's at its worst when it moves beyond reality into the depths of psychobiological reactions, attempting to accuse men of evildoings where nothing malignant is going on.

Perspective. Try developing some.
Luke M
26. lmelior
@Fuzzix #14


Silly old dumbed-down Final Fantasy 2US was my first, and its later un-dumbed-down incarnations remain my favorite of all its brethren. Cecil's story-spanning quest for redemption. Tellah's all-consuming grief from losing his daughter, compounded by the sacrifice of Palom and Porom, and his unyielding thirst for revenge that became his undoing. His forgiveness of Edward, who overcomes his lack of self-worth and saves the entire group from certain death. Rydia's dramatic return to rescue the man who unwittingly killed her mother. The heartbreaking sacrifices of Cid and Yang. The horror of Prince Edge witnessing his mother and father turned to monsters and forced to fight him. The discovery of the Lunar Whale and Fusoya and the secret of Cecil's and Golbez's lineage and power.

The villians are often just as fascinating: Kain's unwitting betrayal, not once, but twice, fueled by his unrequited love for Rosa. Rubicante, the undeniably evil and most powerful elemental fiend who heals Cecil and his allies before every fight. Golbez, the Darth Vader of Final Fantasy.

My nostalgia is so great that no pixelated opera scenes or flying, one-winged angels of death or badass undead samurai could ever usurp that position. There were no flashy button combination-driven special attacks, no uber-powerful limit breaks, no epic cutscenes...just an incredibly deep story (especially for my then-twelve-year-old self) that fueled my love of RPGs for a long time. It was a full decade later before I would be convinced that good stories exist outside of RPGs.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
Putting women into three specific archetypes is misogynistic and perpetuates objectifying women. That men "identify" most with those archetypes is not a natural development, but is instead an artifact of the patriarchy, (these women are solely identified by their relationship to men I might add, whereas the male archetypes you describe are seperate from their relationships as individuals and are instead classified by their relationship to society, but no sexism here!) are the only ones considered "pure enough" for male attention and affection, is perpetuating sexism.

That men can also be classified does not exclude it from these critiques.

Perspective. You have none.
Alexander Gieg
28. alexgieg
@27: Yeah, sure. The mother goddesses of female-centered tribal cultures with which men identified to the point of worship were all most certainly reverse-causality effects of the patriarchy that'd develop a few centuries down the line.

Keep trying. I'm sure at some point you'll manage to develop a drug or brain surgery to rewire neuronal paths to fix all these "cultural" "artifacts". Then you'll bring about the end of "patriarchy" and... the world will continue being as flawed as ever, sorry.
Alexander Gieg
29. alexgieg
PS.: Of the three archetypes, only the Lover is about how women (exclusively) relate to men (exclusively), and even so only in those cultures in which homoerotic relationships are frowned upon, whereas in those where it's accepted or even encouraged it's in fact more of a same/same relationship. As for the other two archetypes, the Mother is such of both men and women, and the Daughter is such of both a man and a woman, or even of the whole tribe in non-nuclear-family and/or polyamorous societies. In short: where you see a marxist divide men vs. women giving birth to a dychotomy "men/women archetypes" vs. "men/society archetypes", it's actually one "individual/individual archetype" plus several "individual/society archetypes". Your dichotomies are illusory.
30. kimikimi
So you don't see sexim in the fact that (acording to you) females play three roles in fiction, all of which are roles that relate to a man? (lover, mother,daughter) And that male roles don't fit that pattern? (hero, martyr, adversary) Men get to act for themselves and others, and women exist as foils for them. To tell the truth, this article left me felling a little creeped out, and I also love FFVII the best.

Perhaps you should try gaining some perspective, look at this article from a woman's point of view before telling the girls that they're doing feminism "wrong".
31. kimikimi
Whoops, late comment is late. I see you coverd this already.

However, I think that Aeryl has the right of it. Roles for women relate to who they are in relation to others, and roles to men relate to what they do themselves. That really is a problem, and it leaves women historically without a voice.
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
Yes, the Lover is only one "exclusively" about women's relationships to men, but when the topic under discussion is how men relate to women, to nitpick over the archetypal relationshipsin regards to men not being exclusively about that, is disingenious.

And most ancient tribal cultures were never female centered, there was dualistic worship of the feminine and the masculine, women centered religious cultures were rare. And even those that were, do not escape the reality that only certain roles for women are considered to have worth, and that this is damaging to women. Especially, as I've already pointed, as these archetypes center women for their individual relationships, not on what women can provide to their communities, such as the archetypes you list for men.

Valuing women as women is what feminism is all about, critiquing ideas that women must fulfill archetypes to be considered of worth is a huge part of that.
Alexander Gieg
33. alexgieg
@30: No, as I don't see sexism in Boy Love mangas, which present wildly different male and female archetypes specially crafted to the tastes of their core audience of female fans of idealized male homoeroticism.

A piece of fiction giving equal space to all archetypes would be an unreadable mess. Extremely boring and emotionally unfulfilling to almost everyone attempting to read it.

For whatever it's worth, I personally enjoy role reversals in general and the Hero archetype in female shape in particular. But then there's no going around the fact men psyche is what it is, and hence that even a female that's purely a Hero will most of the time end up connected in our minds to the Lover archetype, no matter whether the author didn't intend this to happen or even if (s)he specifically intended it to not happen.

@32: And only "certain" roles are considered to have worth for men, and both such "considerations" usually derive from physical ability to complete specific tasks on specific contexts. As I said, I don't see a problem criticizing real issues, and this is one of them: when the context changes the roles should change accordingly or, as is the case in modernity with all these technological slaves doing our physically demanding jobs for us, basically erased. What's damaging it enforcing irrational restrictions, on both "sides". Other than that the criticism is undeserved.
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
@33, Yes, the patriarchy hurts men too, tell us something we don't know.

This sentence here:
But then there's no going around the fact men psyche is what it is,

Is what makes your argument sexist, because YES THERE IS!! Men are not a monolith, anymore than women, and plenty of men are able to overcome their cultural and societal programming to value women and men as individuals, not how well the fulfill their assigned roles.

That women Heroes are not acceptable unless they also fulfill other womenly archetypes is a problem to be solved, by challenging it when it appears, NOT a reality to be accepted.
Brad Kane
35. bradkane
Thanks everyone for the comments.

As a longtime feminist -- not of the 20th century variety, but of the old-school type that believes women are not just equal to, but potentially greater than men, in terms of innate intelligence, spiritual capacity, and social relevance -- I actually felt Final Fantasy 7 was a fairly balanced game.

Certainly the game skewed toward men, with some latent social sexism (i.e. skinny shorts, male leads) showing up throughout, as it still does in most videogames. But the overall message -- that we should protect the earth, value the wisdom of our elders, and prioritize life energy over technology -- is ultimately quite feminine. That closing image of Aeris almost seems to imply that she has become a kind of Earth goddess, watching over the planet.

For me, Final Fantasy 7 was at its best when standing up for that kind of earth-centric feminist value system, and I think it's a great thing that people on this thread are attempting to do the same.
B. Dowdle
36. Lancer
What he didnt put down (Either because he didnt know or forgot) was that at the End Game Fight w/ Seph, If you didnt have the Knights it took FOREVER to beat...My first time through it took 45mins to beat the game w/ my heroes.

Once I got Knights...After 1 use of the Materia...DEATH!

Very Anti-Climatic after going 45mins w/o it.
Alexander Gieg
37. alexgieg
@34: No, you're not getting my point. I don't think "patriarchy" hurts anyone because "patriarchy" doesn't exist. What exists are adaptations to concrete circumstances and (now) cultural leftovers from extinct circumstances. In fact for the most part men are/were rulers not because of their status as men, but because of their strength. This alone is what always mattered, and when it happened that a strong enough woman appeared she too became a ruler, establishing what those weaker than her (both men and women) should and shouldn't do or else... Now, if it so happens that absent firearms women in general are weaker than men in general, no surprise women rarely ruled. That's how our species is shapped. Other species are shapped differently and are socially structured accordingly. And no, we aren't special. Biology comes first, society and culture a distant second.

Regarding your "yes, there is", that's not what I've seen evolutionary psychology conclude. Yes, we do have enough individualism to change how we act in response to our instinctual impulses, and that's were culture trumps biology, but not to change our instincts themselves unless temporarily, by way of psychiatric medication. For example, a typical heterosexual man who goes for enough time without releasing his sexual impulse (alone or with company, it doesn't matter) starts having erotic dreams. Those dreams include either a generic Lover character or this character takes the shape of some woman he knows, and who still will be the dream Lover. More: a fully objectified Lover at that, who matter only because of her shape. Now, want men to overcome their inner reliance on archetypes? Try to solve this "problem" first. Good luck with that...

And there's nothing in terms of "acceptable" or "not acceptable" on all of this when it comes to fiction. The link happens automatically unless the author makes a point of describing the female Hero as very ugly and/or old, thus overcoming the sexual atraction. But then what you get? The Hero archetype linked instead to the Mother archetype. The workaround is to make the character androginous or indeterminate such as with original Metroid's Samus Aran. With that it comes as a "surprise" that the character was female in the end, but after the surprise, what? Simple: following the revelation the Hero-Lover link happens all over again.

As I said, Feminism is mostly fine. What's better is Feminism plus Science. Alas, that last bit is usually missing.
Alexander Gieg
38. alexgieg
@35: Yep. And those are all Shinto values. Currently Shinto is a religion with a mostly male priesthood (there are several female priests, but still far fewer than male ones), but way back it was all about female shamans in communnion with the forces of nature, so it shows both in the religion itself as well as in much of Japanese media. FF7 is a particularly good example of it. Even its concept of the dead remaining not as individuals but as a non-individualized life force of sorts is basically Shinto-y.

Disclaimer: I'm a Shintoist. :-)
Chris Nelly
39. Aeryl
Nevermind. Evo psych is NOT science. You cannot extrapolate ancient beliefs using modern value systems, it is complete conjecture, usually brought into situations where man's innate sexism is being pointlessly defended.

Yes human, heterosexuals and homosexuals, men and women will begin to have erotic dreams during periods of sexual deprivation. That is irrelevant to the discussion whether perpetuating harmful stereotypes of acceptable womanhood is a good thing.

The fact that you are ignorant of the power structures, that use psuedo academia subjects like E/P to perpetuate harmful ideas about men and women, is unsurprising. But no, sorry to disappoint you, but yes there has been a concerted effort throughout history for existing male dominated power structures, like the church, actively worked to undermine the power of women, and those efforts continued to this day, although not as blantantly today.

Since you say you accept feminism, might I recommend reading Echidne. She spends a lot of time dissecting popularized studies about evo psych, and points out the many flaws it has, as well has the historical evidence it contradicts, and how these ideas are the same old "Men: uncontrollable beasts, Women; beastamer through sexual manipulation" crap that has poinsoned our world for centuries.
Alexander Gieg
40. alexgieg
It isn't that man are beasts and women are tamers, although several fiction written by women for reading by women do show both as such -- it seems a popular set of archetypes. It's more like both are beasts, and both are tamers and tamable. But I don't see how that might go against what I wrote, specially because you do accept that there innate somethings to men, which was my point from the beginning. You cannot have it both ways: either there are innates, or there aren't. If there are, those must be taken into account.

Let me put it another way. What I see in most vocal feminists is that they have a set of deeply held beliefs. Those beliefs aren't based on scientific research, they're based on abstract political theories (usually Marxism with additional influences). And as happens with most such politically-motivated belief systems, several times it reaches the point of being aggressive towards proper research results and inferences, as if the natural world cared for human beliefs.

So, here's what I think is good about feminism: it's courageous and asks polemic and relevant questions about anythings and anyone, no limits. And here's what I think is bad: sometimes the answer clashes with the implicit belief system that motivated the question, and thus gets rejected. In other fields that's seen as characteristic pseudo-scientific behavior. Proper science doesn't care about the previous hypothesis, once research shows something in it was wrong it's changed accordingly.

In any case thanks for the link. I'll look into it.
Chris Nelly
41. Aeryl
Just to clarify, I do not believe that there are any innate features in any particular gender. There are innate features to humanity.
42. WDH
Chocobo nightmares for months after that.
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
I used to run that damn race in my sleep.
Cynthia Ahmar
44. tenkuu
The supposedly "feminist" arguments here are a bit childish. Fiction depicts people's fantasies, not reality, and last I checked, everyone is entitled to fantasize whatever they want as long as they don't act it out. It's unrealistic to not expect stereotypes to represent those fantasies, and to some extent, every character is some type of stereotype in fiction. There's really no reason to make a big deal about something that really isn't.

Putting all of that aside though, children of my mother's friend who we hung out with a lot as kids were avid gamers and definitely played FFVII, maybe more than once, and I have only ever read a very detailed game walkthrough, most of which I admit I really don't remember. However, I do remember watching them play the game and I specifically remember the cutscene with Aerith's death, and yes, it was impactful. One time at their house I did try to start playing the game, but there wasn't much time and I didn't know much about it or its actual gameplay so I didn't get too far. However, judging by its plot, FFVII is the only one that's really made me interested in it, and I've seen the OAV that serves as a prequel to the game, the one with Zack.
Jenny Creed
45. JennyCreed
Except that a story doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Cynthia Ahmar
46. tenkuu
Of course it does, that's the whole point of it being fantasy.
Chris Nelly
47. Aeryl
That is a very shallow view.

Thing is, almost ALL the FF games are lousy with this virgin/whore dichotomy. X has Yuna and Lulu. XIII has more women than any, but they range from virginal innocent,(Sara) cold closed off asexual(Lightning), sexualized immature schoolgirl(Vanille) and butch lesbian(Fang). Stereotypes are just bad because the perpetuate negatives ideas about women and minorities(don't get me started of Sazh), it's also that they are BORING.

When I want fantasy, I want shit I DON'T have to deal with every fucking day.
Jenny Creed
48. JennyCreed
Fantasy as a genre is not exempt from being stories told in a context where humans exist and are influenced by them. It's highly disingenious to pretend otherwise.

And if you think there's no problems with the stories being told or that they are not important to society as a whole, here is a starting point for your education.
Rich Bennett
49. Neuralnet
Great article. I was one of the lucky ones to play FF7 when it came out and hadnt been spoiled before hand. I remember being very shocked that they had killed such a major character it definitly left a lasting impression on me. I was so happy when I finally killed seph, the game did a good job of making you hate him. This game was so good... one of the all time best... and I think you can see its influence on a lot of later games.
Cynthia Ahmar
50. tenkuu
You're free to watch whatever shows you want, read whatever books you want, and see whatever you want in them. To some the stereotypes are bad, to others they're not. It's up to you how you interpret a portrayal and whether you choose to be offended by it. If you don't like a certain portrayal that others like and/or is generally popular, you're also free to avoid those shows/books. Myself, for instance, I don't like what I call the "bitch" and "wimp" stereotypes in women in anime. Women who either have a tendency to hit people or yell excessively, and women who are whiny, useless and cowardly and are always treated as bait. So I avoid shows predominantly featuring such characters.
Alexander Gieg
51. alexgieg
The thing is, as much feminists dislike stereotypes (or, how I prefer to refer to them, archetypes), they themselves apply them all the time, in the same indiscriminate, objectifying way disregarding of individual's individuality they accuse others of doing. Here's a small list of archetypes I notice as recurrent in feminist "real world" narrative: in regards to men, the Evil King, the Henchman, the Dark Knight, the Fool, the Oppressor, the Oppressed, the Ally, the Beast, the Tamed; in regards to women, the Hero, the Revolutionary, the Victim, the Oppressed, the Fool, the Ally, the Betrayer, the Tamer. In the end, it's as much of an arbitrary preference selection as the alternatives.
Alexander Gieg
52. alexgieg
About the post proper: the one thing I disliked about the death scene was that it wasn't well integrated with the game mechanics. In battle you can use Phonix Downs to revive character, in cut scene you cannot.

This could have been solved by the creative team if they had done this small change: in the cutscene, show Cloud trying to ressurrect Aeris with a Phoenix Down (or a series of them) with it not working. Afterwards, in the game itself, show the characters as both mournful and confused by this, and make them discover that Sephiroth somehow had gained the power to block the effects of ressurrection magic, what explains why he managed to kill Aeris for good. Then add a quest so that you must obtain an item or something to disable Sephirotz anti-ressurrection trick before battling him, or add an upgraded, hard to obtain set of equivalents to the "standard" Phoenix Down, Elixir and Megaelixir that aren't affected by it, so that going into the final battle without this would make the fight all but impossible to win. And just for fun, add a village or something somewhere where people were addicted at super-radical Phonix Down-powered sports, with dying and being ressurrected several times in a row due to the hazardous nature of the games a regular part of atletes activities, then some explanation of why the entire world wasn't like that (it's culturally frowned upon; there's some kind of side effect on intense usage; the potions are too expensive for regular folk to use in this way; it really does causes literal addiction; whatever really).

These small changes would have made the game that much more believable since the divide cutscene-reality/gameplay-reality so common in so many games wouldn't be there, truly turning FF7 into an integral and coherent whole.
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
@51, I would say it's necessary to delineate between feminine and feminist here. I can think of plenty of women authors who's work make use of the stereotypes you described, but just because a story is woman centered doesn't make it feminist narrative. I know this is treading The base idea of feminism is expanding the idea of womanhood beyond the current strict markers, and playing into archetypes of proper womanhood is not how you do that.
J Dwan
54. LandRoamer
I too played Final Fantasy 7 when it was released and I can still recall the awe before the opening CGs. I fell in love with Aeris as so many others, including getting a date with her at the Golden Saucer that first time I played. Maybe that is why her death affected me so hard. I still have a memory of the game with her alive in my memory card.
55. VervainGirl
I'm an avid she gamer, and I, honestly don't remember how many times I have played FF7. Among the most memorable incidents of FF7, Aerith's death was most shocking and repelling, one extreme melodramatic event that made iron hearted gamers cry.
I couldn't help but pointing out the line -"Sephiroth dresses in black and carries a wicked scimitar."
It was actually a Masamune, a rare type of Katana with nearly 6 ft long blade that matches perfectly with Sephiroth's 6'1" height and one of the most powerful sword that was ever used in entire FF line (let's not forget Cloud's/Zack's/Angeal's Buster Sword or Cloud's Fusion Sword in Advent Children, or Lightning gunblade in FF 13).
Chris Nelly
59. Aeryl
I don't remember how powerful Sephiroth's weapon was, but Auron's Ulitmate Weapon did 999,999 damage when maxed.
61. dootsie
Before I got my hands on an FF7 game I already knew (from watching friends play and rant and rave about it) that Aeris would die. I thought it would not affect me anymore. But I was wrong. Aeris' character captivates you the moment Cloud first meets her. I couldn't help but love Aeris' quirkiness. When the moment I expected/dreaded came, knowing beforehand didn't prepare me. I cried. I threw a fit. I swore to kill Sepiroth. I never cared for any other game like this.
62. Tesh
It's been nice to see Aeris in the other FFVII spinoffs. She's still an angel in Crisis Core, and she offers some more heart-rending moments in Advent Children. Good stuff.
63. BillyDoxa
True, I remember hating Sephiroth through the last halfway of the game, Aerith death draw tears from my eyes and really define my gaming moment, an experience only can be compared by watching Game Of Thrones season 3 episode 9 'The Rain of Castamare', but overall speaking, Aerith death scene is the one that leave a big blue mark in my memory lane

This game is so powerful not only visually and the ancient religion references ridden in the plot and story, but also the musical that are so catchy and memorable, from peaceful, eerie, uplifting to creepy

I remember the first time I played the Cave of Gi I couldn't sleep for a night, and Gi Nattak remains as one of the best boss/villain name in all of my gaming experiences
Chris Nelly
64. Aeryl
Just noticed detail from Wreck-It Ralph. On the station walls as he leaves from Pac-Man, is the graffitti, Aerith Lives.
65. A Nonny Mouse
of course she does, sonic tells you that your fine if you die in your own game! lol
67. kennedy
it wasn't even an active church
Cynthia Ahmar
68. tenkuu
alexgieg @ 52: I'm really late with this, but regarding Aerith's death (and yes, that is the proper official spelling of her name), the Phoenix Down likely only "revives" your "dead" party members because it's a game item. In the actual reality of the FF7 universe, it's highly unlikely that death is not final. Therefore, the Phoenix Down is likely more of an item to revive an unconscious comrade. In other words, if they were unconscious, a simple potion wouldn't work because they wouldn't simply be weak from being low on health. In every FF7 media other than this game, death has been portrayed as final, such as in Crisis Core, where Zack fights alone. When he dies, it's game over. As such, you can assume that in FF7, Cloud knew very well that he can't revive the dead, and so did not bother to try using an item not made for that purpose.

HP, Hit Points, reflects your character's ability to take damage. Put more succintly, it's essentially your character's defense. When knocked out, your character has no more ability to defend themselves, and can also not replenish their strength through the normal means of a potion. So think of the Phoenix Down as a smelling salts type of item. If you take the analogy to a game party, when all of the characters are knocked out, there is no one left to defend against attacks, as well as no one left to reawaken the party members, so of course the enemy/monster will kill everyone.

Going back to the case of Aerith, she was not merely knocked out in her death scene; she took a sword through the chest (and most likely the heart). She would have bled out far too quickly to be healed, and going by the cutscene, she seemed to be dead before she even hit the floor. That gives no one any time to react due to not only shock, but also the speed and suddenness of both Sephiroth's attack and her death.
69. Tifa defender on the go
I loved Aerith. But here is the thing, no matter how undeserving you think Tifa is to gain the attention and affection of the protagonist based on her 'hot' appearance of long brown hair and skimpy clothing, it just doesn't work that way. The funny thing is that Cloud ended up moving in with her, pursuing a romantic relationship with her and raising foster children with her (yes that hot little skimpy brat was loved by him from childhood). Men don't just do that with someone who they consider - a no offense a 'whore'. I feel that you were trying to categorize Tifa into being that type of girl you 'screw' versus the type of 'girl you marry' aka Aerith in your opinion.

Wearing a pink dress, being magical, acting cute and selling flowers does not make you any more marriage worthy. Now I certainly agree that Tifa's fashion sense leaves much to be improved but her personal qualities; that is affection, devotion, loyalty, respect, commitment and optimisim is what won Cloud over to her - not her boobs or her tank top. She is a committed in a monogamist way to Cloud having never dated, hooked up or pursued anyone else. She does not play into the casual hook up girl stereotype and is definitely marriage and mother material. Like Aerith she is definitely someone you take home, marry, hold hands or cuddle with - under the stars (or the Highwind teehee).

I agree with your points about Aerith being sweet, endearing and romantic, no issues. I just don't understand why you felt the need to bring Tifa into this essay and portray her negatively just to prop Aerith up. I think Tifa is just as endearing and cute as Aerith but bringing her up at all when commending Aerith's qualities is still irrelevant. They are both separate characters. Yes Aerith was 'different' from Tifa but not in the disparing tone used in your essay to make it seem like Tifa is bleh or slutty or something. They are different because they are both separate characters deserving of respect.

TLDR: Aerith is AWESOME on her own, you do NOT need to bring Tifa into this and subtly attempt to talk her down just to make Aerith look cuter in contrast. It's not necessary because Aerith stands strong on her own. Just like Tifa does. And Aerith.

okay im going now bye.
70. tdoyle1
You've got to give credit where it's due; aerith was/is an awesome character, one you get invested in probably because what she represents and is.
Ff7 is so deep; love, identity, cloning, medical science and its ethics, environment vs technology, extinction vs expansion (she was the last of the cetra after all), never seen that in a game at all.
Aeris is an amazing character, and I'm definitely team A. The debate on sexism is interesting, but it mars what this article is about; a tribute to brilliant storylines, a fantastic character and beautiful music and the effect it has even now 20 years later almost as a hallmark on how to make an awesome game, and I'm looking forward to slaughtering sephiroth in revenge :)
Best. Character. Ever
71. The Truth Dammit!
Damn, #38 owned the entire sexism debate in a single paragraph. 39 was a wasted argument filled with neanderthalic content, typical of the overly sensitive mindset. Ancient beliefs are often more evolved than modern ones, and here's the proof. This was fun to read!

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