• Editorial: Lightning Returns to Sexy: Why SE Risks Destroying Lightning's Strengths



    If there’s one thing the Final Fantasy VII Compilation taught us, it’s that Square-Enix knows how to beat a dead horse. Of course, this isn’t anything unusual about SE relative to other game developers (or any other business, for that matter), as businesses are designed to exploit merchandise until it stops being profitable.

    But the current way Square-Enix is exploiting Lightning risks ruining what was originally so good about her.

    Lightning has been a pretty big deal for the Final Fantasy series. She was the lead character in a main-numbered game, and Square-Enix has pushed her as the biggest thing since Cloud Strife, creating the entire Final Fantasy XIII mini-series around her, the latest and final one being Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

    She’s also been cropping up everywhere, most lately in a crossover planned with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Lightning will make an appearance in an FFXIV event and has appeared as a scantily-clad Miqo’te, a popular race from the MMO.



    Lightning will be making an appearance in a small quest event in Final Fantasy XIV

    So why is any of this a bad thing? Well, it’s not -- by itself.

    Let’s examine, for a moment, why Lightning was such a big deal to begin with. She is the lead protagonist in a Final Fantasy game. She was the first female of that stature since Terra Bradford way back in Final Fantasy VI (while Ashe is widely regarded as the real main character of Final Fantasy XII, the lead playable role was still Vaan). We first met her in Final Fantasy XIII, where she was portrayed as a strong, independent, and fiercely competent soldier, who managed to overcome incredible odds in her quest to save her sister, and later the world. In Lightning Returns, Lightning will again have to save the world, and this time the game is focused even more on her character.

    Lightning represented a positive step for the Final Fantasy series. I have previously criticized many Final Fantasy games for their reliance on sexist feminine tropes in their female characters, but I also largely praised Lighting and Square-Enix’s current trend of creating stronger and more varied female characters that are less cut-and-pasted from previous molds. She was not a weak damsel in distress, her purpose in the plot did not revolve around the male lead’s love for her, and she generally broke free from the stereotypes that have littered not only Final Fantasy, but video games and media in general. Not everyone liked Lightning, but even for those who didn’t, she still represented progress in at least this area.

    And that progress is threatened by Square-Enix’s own marketing campaigning on her behalf.

    Take a look at Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII as she appeared on the game’s cover side-by-side with her in that Miqo’te outfit, which will be making an appearance in Lightning Returns.





    Can you see a difference? The first comes off as strong and confident, and the second is designed just to be sexy. The latter suffers from the all-too common trope of over-sexualized poses by female characters, a phenomenon I have taken to calling Hawkeye Initiative syndrome, after the website that shows how truly absurd these poses are by drawing Hawkeye in the same fashion. I discussed other examples of that phenomenon here.



    When male characters are put in the same sort of poses, the absurdity is fully revealed.


    Some may say that the Lightning image was just promotional, or that it was insignificant in the larger picture. But this shows that Square-Enix’s marketing still considers one of Lightning’s most important features to be her sexuality.

    This isn’t just an isolated incident, either. In a recent Q&A session with some Lightning Returns developers, director Motomu Toriyama stated that the LR team made the conscious decision to make Lightning’s breasts bigger, and, depending on what she’s wearing, even jiggle. I can only imagine the upcoming bikini DLC to really emphasize the boob physics.

    These sorts of exploitations, if continued, risk losing what was so significant about Lightning in the first place: a strong female role model, breaking free of the most common sexist stereotypes that have littered all forms of media for decades. She’s not just a pretty face, or a set of boobs, but a character. Square-Enix should stay true to that character, and resist turning Lightning into just another sexy body to turn into fan service for horny teenagers.

    So go ahead and exploit Lightning, Square-Enix. We can’t stop you. You’re a business, and you’ll continue to do so until it’s not profitable anyway. But at least try not to do it in such a way that diminishes who Lightning is and gives us less hope for progress. Stay true to Lightning’s character and strength.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Editorial: Lightning Returns to Sexy: Why SE Risks Destroying Lightning's Strengths started by Raistlin View original post
    Comments 50 Comments
    1. Skyblade's Avatar
      Skyblade -
      I do think that the Mi'qote outfit picture shouldn't get nearly the hype it does. It's a promotional outfit taken directly from FFXIV, as is the pose she strikes in it. It's part of a crossover with the MMO, and is no different than Lightning sharing Cloud Strife's outfit and victory pose from FFVII, which is also from promotional material.

      The Mi'qote outfit and pose say far more about FFXIV than they do about Lightning Returns.

      Granted, Square could have chosen almost any pose or outfit from FFXIV to use, and this one, which is both out of character and needlessly over-sexualized, would not have been my first choice, but I still think it reflects poorer on the Mi'qote and FFXIV than it does on Lightning.


      The interview is another matter, and I don't disagree that it's not something to be worried about. However, I haven't exactly noticed jiggle physics or a plethora of scanty outfits in any of the gameplay videos or promotional items I've seen, outside the FFXIV crossover pack.

      If they leave this sort of thing to promotional items or, as you suggested, bikini DLCs, I really won't mind. It'll be easy enough to ignore. I'm already pretty sure I'm not going to use the Mi'qote outfit. As long as, in the game, she's still who she is, I don't really mind the extraneous bonus material they produce.

      It is nice to see you're clearly enjoying the Hawkeye Initiative's works.
    1. Jinx's Avatar
      Jinx -
      I agree with what you're saying. I think it's a big ridiculously they made the conscious decision to make her breasts larger. Lightning was fine as-is. I don't really care for her much, and I'm annoyed with all of the attention she gets, but I recognize what she means for the gaming industry, and on a much smaller scale, the Final Fantasy Franchise.

      I'm really disappointed in what Square Enix has done, and I hope that enough fans are outraged or upset enough that Square Enix will listen.
    1. Goldenboko's Avatar
      Goldenboko -
      I'll be honest, if FFXIII: LR isn't the crap that FFXIII-2 was, I don't care. Game companies do way worse fan service on a seemingly daily basis.
    1. ShinGundam's Avatar
      ShinGundam -
      Nothing strike me as big deal so far. Most of outfits aren't revealing or that skimpy and there is like just one T&A interviews compared dozens of interviews discuss the main game.
    1. DMKA's Avatar
      DMKA -
      The hullabaloo over this is so dumb. I swear people just look for things to get bent over anymore.



      It's like people really think cleavage and sexy, revealing, absurd outfits are somehow new to the Final Fantasy franchise.
    1. Raistlin's Avatar
      Raistlin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Skyblade View Post
      I do think that the Mi'qote outfit picture shouldn't get nearly the hype it does. It's a promotional outfit taken directly from FFXIV, as is the pose she strikes in it. It's part of a crossover with the MMO, and is no different than Lightning sharing Cloud Strife's outfit and victory pose from FFVII, which is also from promotional material.

      The Mi'qote outfit and pose say far more about FFXIV than they do about Lightning Returns.
      It's true that the pose and outfit was originally designed by the FFXIV team (though that still justifies the SE criticism). But they still made the conscious decision to shove Lightning into it, and not any other picture of a Miqo'te, regardless of how that fit into Lightning's character. Cloud's SOLDIER outfit was consistent with Lightning; the FFXIV outfit was not. That was my only point.

      Quote Originally Posted by Goldenboko View Post
      I'll be honest, if FFXIII: LR isn't the crap that FFXIII-2 was, I don't care. Game companies do way worse fan service on a seemingly daily basis.
      I can understand this perspective. When I judge a game as a whole, I value a number of things much more highly than positive portrayals of women. Some of my favorite FF games were some of the worst offenders in my Final Fantasy Sexism series. But I still think the issue is worthy of note and criticism -- as it's never going to change unless more people acknowledge that it's a legitimate concern.

      Quote Originally Posted by ShinGundam View Post
      Nothing strike me as big deal so far. Most of outfits aren't revealing or that skimpy and there is like just one T&A interviews compared dozens of interviews discuss the main game.
      It's not a massive deal. Yet. The editorial was asking SE not to make it a bigger deal, as what has been done so far has simply been a cause for concern about future marketing choices.

      Quote Originally Posted by DMKA View Post
      The hullabaloo over this is so dumb. I swear people just look for things to get bent over anymore.

      It's like people really think cleavage and sexy, revealing, absurd outfits are somehow new to the Final Fantasy franchise.
      It's not new at all. In fact, that's the entire point. Lightning was supposed to be different from Rikku and Tifa and the other scantily-clad girls used for fan service and token love interests/spunky teens. The concern is that Lightning will instead be turned into more of the same.
    1. Goldenboko's Avatar
      Goldenboko -
      Although I understand the concern, FFXIII: LR itself doesn't look like it's going to change much of Lightning's formula of a strong independent woman who don't need no man and will somehow save the world all by her lonesome.
    1. Freya's Avatar
      Freya -
      I don't think it's so much about there being absurd outfits and more that they are dramatically changing a character to appeal to what's "sexy". Lightning didn't need bigger breasts, what's the point of that? What does that have anything to with her character or character development? It doesn't.

      As of 2012, in a study by the ESA, 47% of gamers are now women. While many of these women are playing social games or puzzle games, they are actually playing them. Now if the industry would like to get more women playing AAA titles then they should probably stop enlarging breasts and adding jiggle affects just cause.

      Honestly it's not a hard market to sell to if they'd just stop doing things like this sexualization of lightning.
    1. shion's Avatar
      shion -
      Quote Originally Posted by Raistlin View Post



      Attachment 45404
      When male characters are put in the same sort of poses, the absurdity is fully revealed.
      Whatever, that looks pretty hot to me
    1. Mahad's Avatar
      Mahad -
      After trying to type a long reply and failing, I'll just summarize my thoughts as follows:

      I hate this. All of this. I just can't stand it.
    1. CimminyCricket's Avatar
      CimminyCricket -
      Quote Originally Posted by shion View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Raistlin View Post



      Attachment 45404
      When male characters are put in the same sort of poses, the absurdity is fully revealed.
      Whatever, that looks pretty hot to me
      I'm enjoying it, too.
    1. Jiro's Avatar
      Jiro -
      It's just frustrating to see SE undermine one of the better received characters, and one of the most positive female characters in their entire series. I know I'm a part of the machine that helps to propagate this, but even with all my red blooded maleness, I still would prefer to see a strong and confident and still sexy in her own way Lightning than the "Look at me now, I'm a cat girl meow!" that we have now. Increasing her breast size is just stupid.
    1. maybee's Avatar
      maybee -
      It's stupid because Lightning is popular and well liked by many Final Fantasy fans Male and Female because she's tough and not a damsel in distress type female character or even a sex object. So they are completely destroying the reasons why Lightning was so loved in the first place.

      It was like Lightning was in a role that you would usually place for a male character, expect she wasn't.

      It's just so much stupid.

      " How to destroy a well loved Final Fantasy Character " A Book written by Square-Enix.
    1. Jinx's Avatar
      Jinx -
      But what if she really IS pregnant guys?

      And what if that is why Hope is a child again?

      Because since the FFXIII world has time travel, she actually turns out to be Nora, and goes back in time and gives birth to Hope?
    1. Karifean's Avatar
      Karifean -
      I don't take this nearly as hard as many people in this thread seem to. For one, they didn't seem to be too proud to announce it, more like a guilty pleasure. And I can't really fault someone for a guilty pleasure of theirs. Second, this doesn't mean they're going to oversexualize Lightning. I'll stand corrected if they do, but I doubt they will. They still know who Lightning is.

      Saying they "made the conscious decision" makes it sound worse than it actually is IMO, because they probably didn't think it was such a big deal. Now if they had come out and proudly announced "LIGHTNING NOW HAS BIGGER BOOBS!" it would be a different story.
    1. Freya's Avatar
      Freya -
      Actions speak louder than words.
    1. FifthDream's Avatar
      FifthDream -
      When i first saw this, i did think it was a bit uncool, and does undermine Lightning as a character a little, but then i wondered if it was intended to be sort of a silly, one-shot sort of thing, being playful with a character that is not known to be very playful. It might be the same sort of thing if they had a costume that made Lightning chibi. It wouldn't be undermining her, really, if it was portrayed as so obviously out-of-character for her that it was laughable. A mild joke, like "hah! Look at how silly this is, Lightning would never be this way!" I'm just waiting to see if there will be more treating Lightning's character this way, or if this is just a one-time deal. I don't take it too seriously - yet, but if more things like this pop up, it will probably bug me more.

      That said, am i the only one who doesn't care much about Lightning either way? She's a competent character, and a hero, but she's never been a character i particularly liked. Though i don't hate her at all, either. She's just kinda there. I'm hoping LR makes me feel like she has a bit more personality, that it gives me something to *like*. I want to like her, i just don't feel i know her very well, yet.
    1. Jiro's Avatar
      Jiro -
      Quote Originally Posted by Karifean View Post
      Second, this doesn't mean they're going to oversexualize Lightning.


      This does not look like Lightning. I realise that being sexy like this can be a sign of confidence, but come on; Lightning got a knife for her birthday. That doesn't scream "on weekends I dress up like a cat, meow." The rest of the game might portray her as usual, but these changes already undermine the good work Lightning has done.
    1. LadyJuxtaposition's Avatar
      LadyJuxtaposition -
      As far I am concerned, I see two differents Lightnings, and I highly perfer the Lightning who is the strong independent beautiful woman rather than the oversexualized kitty hooker. I mean really, the Final Fantasy series had enough of those stereotypes already, and Lightning should not get on that bandwagon if you know what I'm saying. I understand SE is trying to make profits from every single game they make, but they need to stay true to Lightning's character and not to change anything on her that would make people misjudged her.

      This may bring an uproar when I said this suggestion... due to possible sexism in LR and changes in Lightning's character by outfit changing to make her more sexy than she needs to be, should we boycott the game and argue about those points?
    1. Skyblade's Avatar
      Skyblade -
      Quote Originally Posted by LadyJuxtaposition View Post
      As far I am concerned, I see two differents Lightnings, and I highly perfer the Lightning who is the strong independent beautiful woman rather than the oversexualized kitty hooker. I mean really, the Final Fantasy series had enough of those stereotypes already, and Lightning should not get on that bandwagon if you know what I'm saying. I understand SE is trying to make profits from every single game they make, but they need to stay true to Lightning's character and not to change anything on her that would make people misjudged her.

      This may bring an uproar when I said this suggestion... due to possible sexism in LR and changes in Lightning's character by outfit changing to make her more sexy than she needs to be, should we boycott the game and argue about those points?
      If I saw anything even remotely like that from the game's standard material, perhaps. But I've seen nothing of the sort. That pose and outfit are taken from FFXIV. It may have been a poor choice, but that promotional tie-in does not seem to have influenced the rest of the game at all.

      There are plenty of screenshots and promo vids out there now, and none of them show Lightning in any sort of overly sexualized pose or outfit.



      And, while we're discussing the promotional outfits, I do admit that Cloud's is extremely in character for Lightning (which is hardly surprising, since Lightning was designed as a female Cloud), but I don't think Yuna's summoner garb is at all in character for Lightning, yet no one has complained about it either.
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