Final Fantasy VII features a scene where you need to collect various articles of female clothing in order to cross dress as a sexy woman to break into a pervert’s mansion to rescue your (female) friend.
There’s a scene where in order to obtain lingerie, you visit a whore house. After you collapse in your room, you’re woken up by a body builder. The scene is played for laughs as the big burly man uses double entendres with each sentence suggesting he either just raped you or just has a knack for odd speech patterns. While one much more terrifying than the other, the scene is obviously included in the game because it is supposed to be funny. It is supposed to be funny because a character is either gay or “acting gay”. Because of the inconvenience you just experienced, you’re given some underwear.
Depending on your sensibilities and your familiarity with the rest of Final Fantasy VII, these situations may sound horrifying. Seriously, they put that in the game. However, keep in mind, there is a reason why FF7 retrospectives typically don’t contain a 12 minute segment regarding whether Cloud was canonically raped within FF7. As someone who’s played the game, that sounds absurd. It’s a couple of minutes of throw-away jokes that have nothing to do with the massive game otherwise. However, it’s also very overlooked because the scenes don’t look like anything. These are 1997 graphics for a second generation PS1 game that went with a stylized deformed look to cover up the system’s shortcomings. PS1 Cloud as a woman looks almost identical to PS1 Cloud as a man. It’s all just polygonal mush.
In today’s social climate where the remake of FF7 on PS4 will look much more realistic, the scenes are going to have a very different look and feel.
When you finally break into the mansion, you finally encounter the pervert that wants to have sex with you. The rest of your team then busts in, thankfully leading to a scene that doesn’t include you giving up your body to this lecher. That’s the end of the segment.
When producer Tetsuya Nomura was asked if the cross dressing scene would remain in the game, he said “please look forward to it”.
So will this cause a commotion in the Playstation 4 remake? Let’s look at the facts:
FACT: The remake is going to look a lot more realistic, the polygons will actually look like things, and the dialog may be modified or added to. The results of this remain to be seen.
FACT: FF7 does not directly say that cross dressers are bad people. No one makes fun of Cloud or calls him lowly scum. Part of what’s interesting about this segment is that Cloud is painted as a quiet, disconnected jerk (yes, for storyline reasons). A lot of the young audience of FF7 really connected well with the character, especially at the time of the game’s release. Any awkwardness felt by the player in playing is more of a statement on the player and grounds for introspection than any kind of statement regarding the validity of cross dressing.
FACT: The cross dressing scene was ultimately most likely put into Final Fantasy VII, regardless of treatment, because someone thought it would be funny. Cross dressing has nothing to do with anything else in the game. This is right in line with typical Japanese humor you see in anime.
FACT: A character was inserted into the scenario purely to make jokes that are references to gay sex. In line with typical Japanese humor of the era, the creators likely didn’t explicitly intend to say that all gay people may be rapists, but the joke still remains. The one character who makes not-so-subtle references to gay sex also happens to imply that maybe he took advantage of the sleeping main character. The joke is that you don’t know which. The whole reason the scene exists is because it’s supposed to be comedic. If this scene remains, it’s this that could cause a commotion.
Specifically figuring out what the nature of this muscular character is supposed to represent is actually a more nuanced in Japanese culture than one might think. Extremely muscular men are definitely a gay Japanese stereotype. However, the intended joke is to skirt as closely to homoerotic behavior as possible without actually doing something explicitly gay. That is why you ultimately don’t know what happened to Cloud when he was passed out. That was the joke. You’re not supposed to know. Keeping in line with the Japanese-ness of the joke, likely nothing did happen (answering the question of whether Cloud was canonically raped in FF7), falling in line with a million other jokes that have been stuffed into countless anime, TV shows, and games, time and time again.
The joke likely makes no sense to anyone not engrossed in the more low-brow tendencies of Japanese humor.
An entire shoot-em-up series called Cho Aniki was made centering around this joke. Despite the look, nothing gay ever actually happens, but that doesn’t keep the entire cast from wearing thongs, having nipple rings, and fighting phallic imagery.
Toning it down a notch, anime and manga like Kinnikuman (Ultimate Muscle in the US) and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo make constant jokes with double speak and overly muscular men. Keep in mind that Kinnikuman ran in a young boy’s manga magazine from 1979-1987 and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo ran from 2001 to 2005. Its been a long standing comedic tradition.
Nintendo made both Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland and Captain Rainbow that made these jokes.
The question ultimately boils down to: Is this bad? If the intentions mean well, does that even matter? According to a survey conducted by Inochi Risupekuto Howaito Ribon Kyanpen, about 70 percent of sexual minorities in Japan have experienced bullying in school and 30 percent have thought about committing suicide. The survey information I found lacks a control group, stating the percentage of non-sexual minorities that experience bullying in Japan, but I would venture a guess that Japan isn’t magically a separate universe from what commonly takes place in the rest of the world.
Obviously, one scene in a nerdy RPG shouldn’t matter. The opposing argument will be that it’s just another brick in a wall that needs to be taken down.
Ultimately, I feel that freedom of expression must be valued over all else. It is up to the producers of media to keep in mind the sensitives of the fanbase but also not to limit artistic vision in order to keep people from being offended. It is required for people to be offended, at least sometimes, in order to ensure that media remains pure and not watered down. Different people have different sensibilities and it is impossible to make a product that will satisfy everyone. That’s not what you want, either.
Ultimately, I don’t think any real damage will be done by this scene. It’s low-brow, but I’m okay with it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.