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LONG BLOG

The Whole Fat Princess Thing: Belated Edition

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I realize that you are all sick to death of this topic, however I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't feel I had something different to say, so keep that in mind. This whole tempest in a teapot isn't really about sexism primarily; it's about a large, yet unacknowledged problem with language, and that's the aspect of the subject that interests me.

The STFUJPG Factor

First of all, let me say that I disagree completely with feminists who complained about the game, so you know that THAT is not where this is going. However, despite that, a lot of the backlash against feminist criticism seemed to take the form of "it's not important, stop making a big deal about it", and that seems naive to me: a cultural bias is made up of a lot of tiny things that individually seem trivial. Personally I don't feel a need to ever get righteously indignant about cultural bias, but that doesn't mean it isn't there; that doesn't mean that it doesn't influence the way people perceive the world. "It's not important" is not the answer to accusations of sexism.

However, there are reasons why "Fat Princess" happens to be a much better title for this particular game than "Fat Prince." Throughout history , princesses have been commodities: their most frequent role was that of tools in political agreements. The hand of a princess in marriage could mean a ticket to wealth, or status, or property; it could help consolidate a fractured kingdom. In all of these scenarios, it was simply possessing the princess that was desirable; the princess could be a brilliant stateswoman, or she could sit on her ass and drink mead. It didn't usually matter; it was what she represented that was important, not the woman herself. More often in fairy tales, but sometimes in reality, a princess was sought for love and happiness-- something she could only bestow passively, while someone else did the work to free her from the tower or the dragon, or whatever the flavor of the century was. While princes were sometimes commoditized as well, it was never to the same extent and never with such universality.

The fact that we now recognize these practices as sexist doesn't change the fact that they were prevalent in our history, and language forms around the ideals of our times. Whether we think it should have come about that way or not, the word "Princess" has strong a connotation of "desirable commodity, possibly to be fought over", that the word Prince does not. Feminists would like to change this; I say that to try to rewrite language in such a deliberate, unnatural way is to create a bar to effective communication. These connotations, these webs of meaning, are drilled into us from the day we're born, and blaming the language for the circumstances that bequeathed it is like blaming the baby for the sins of its parents-- like blaming the Baby Metroid for being what it is, even though it saved Samus' life. I really have to stop listening to RetroforceGo before I write these things.

Memo to the Language Police: There is No Language Police

"Fat Princess" is a better title than "Fat Prince" because it communicates more of what the game is about, and if our primary goal is to understand one another better, we want to always be able to understand more, not less. The irony of what well-meaning (well, mostly) feminists, and members of other groups who either are or view themselves as marginalized, is that by trying to sanitize aspects of the language of meaning-- no matter how inconvenient that meaning can be at times-- they're creating an obstruction to the kind of understanding that ultimately makes us all equal. One group should not want to point out to another group that a term is sexist and try to get them to stop using it that way-- that suggests that one group is qualified to be the custodians of language for another, and no one has that mandate. The fact that none of us are entitled to do that is one of the main things we all have in common.

So are we trapped to forever use terms that were coined in a sexist era? I don't think so-- I think it's possible that new terms will come into being that are just as rich in meaning, but are more reflective of our times than 500 years ago--and I can only hope that that will be a good thing. Sometimes I wonder.

Yes, It All Comes Back To Art (Shut Up)

Feminists would probably argue that my view advocates that they essentially do nothing and wait for nature to take its course, but that's not quite true; progress is being made in other ways. To take it back to games, no one thinks any less of Marle from Chrono Trigger because she's a princess; she's a character who happens to be a princess. The princess in Fat Princess is definitely seen as a commodity, however, all she is is a concept-- she isn't meant to be a full-fledged character. People understand that the traditional idea of a commoditized princess, with all its characteristics, sexist and otherwise, is different from a person who happens to be a princess, even in fiction. As I said at the beginning, little assumptions are indicative of larger trends in culture and DO matter, but you have to look at what is being assumed. The developers' assumptions concern archetypes, not people.

Rather than criticize others' use of concepts, critics of our linguistic history and current usage should use concepts the way they want-- be it through games, or prose, or music, or comics, and so on. You can't force the world that you want, but strangely enough, you can create the world that you want, and watch it spread like an opportunist virus. In other words, if you really want to change the world, you can't just take away from something else; you have to give something of yourself. And if you aren't willing to change yourself for the better, then you're not ready to be an advocate of progress.
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About GamingGoddessone of us since 12:13 AM on 08.27.2008

Links to all things Me:

My Personal Blog
Because I occasionally think about things other than games (I know-- for shame!)
Currently doing a 20-year history of Nine Inch Nails, because apparently I don't have enough projects that are HUGE TIME-SUCKING MONSTERS. Anyway, I try to keep anything that's videogames-related on Gaming Goddess, but there's a little bit of inevitable crossover.

My graphic novel, Sterling
There is some videogame-related stuff in Sterling, particularly Final Fantasy, but that's not really the focus. Meant for adults, so don't say I didn't warn you:).

My Twitter I'm very conscious of twitter-spamming, so I try to tweet only when I update one of my blogs or comics. Some people can get away with constantly tweeting charming little witticisms and it's neat, but I think if you have any interest in my twitter at all, it should be useful, never a nuisance.

About the name Gaming Goddess: No, I do not have delusions of grandeur! At least, not about games!
The origin of GG is this: My boyfriend's Mom is REALLY good at Space Invaders and games like that, leading me to dub her the "8-bit Goddess". We decided that 8-bit Goddess would be a really good name for the gaming blog that I wanted to start, except it would be false advertising since I personally suck at 8-bit games. So I changed it to the more general Gaming Goddess-- so I'm good at some type of games, I just don't have to specify which ones:).

Of course, if my boyfriend's awesome mom wants to start a blog, she can be the 8-bit Goddess, and I will bow to her in humble submission.

Favorite Games:
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy Tactics
FFTA
Azure Dreams
Ehrgeiz
Vagrant Story
Parasite Eve
Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider II
Resident Evil 2
Metal Gear Solid
Izuna: Unemployed Ninja
Disgaea
X-Men Legends
X-Men Legends II
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Ninja
Diablo II
.hack (the first batch)

Currently Playing:
I have decided to change this section to only what is in my consoles AT THE MOMENT as opposed to every game I'm technically in the middle of. Accuracy FTW.

DSi: Final Fantasy IV (It's amazing! Why did I wait so long?)
DS: ARMY OF MOOGLES, I mean, Final Fantasy VI
PS2: Odin Sphere
PSOne: Azure Dreams, Parasite Eve, Tomb Raider

Latest Fan Art:

Yeah, something new! Rydia's cool, people complain about the graphics in the new DS version of FFIV but I love the way the characters look...well, except for Rosa. The girl could use pants.

About Me:
I'm a starving artist/freelance writer/comic book artist/insert other vocation that makes very little money. If you're on Destructoid, chances are I am older than you. That kind of pisses me off.

Anyway, I'm working on some projects that I think might be of interest to some Dtoid readers, but I think I'll keep most of that stuff in my profile section, so the Cblogs won't be taken up with self-promotional posts from me. I'll add the info to my profile when I start my new comic and things like that.