Link Is Apparently Not A Girl, But He Should Be


In a world where the most unlikely of heroes steps forward to save the day, what’s to stop that hero from being a woman?

So it’s a good while after E3 and one of the things that got me thinking the most, and has kept me thinking, was the preview for the upcoming Legend of Zelda title. And even though the possibility of Link being a woman has been quite disproved, I still believe that it would be fitting and excellent for the franchise.

Over the past three decades, The Legend of Zelda as a series has made a name for itself by following a few major tenets. The first being “have traps that excite and arouse creativity and other things from the player” and the second being quite often “saving Princess Zelda” but barring that saving Hyrule in one form or another.

Now, there are some games where she takes care of herself and that’s lovely, but it’s not quite the same as sharing space as your main character with women. I don’t want to discount how important it is to have her challenging sexist tropes, but there’s only so much a person can do trying to drive from the back seat. Get rid of the damseling, by all means, but also give us a lady hero.

The pirate captain Tetra, from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, waves at the reader with her left hand on her hip.

Tetra was a really good Link analogue so it’s not as if Nintendo doesn’t have it in them.

“Why a female Link instead of just playing as Zelda?” Well, hmm, I dunno. I think to that, I’d have to take both. But on their own, Link is an important character. In A Link to the Past, you’re just a punk kid who happens to take up the role of their uncle after he gets defeated by some extremely easy monsters and… uh, glad he wasn’t the hero of time, no offense uncle. In most Zelda games, even, you start by playing the audience avatar, some random, boring person who isn’t necessarily good at stuff.

See, women aren’t really afforded such personality. Either we’re hyper competent (which is a bit too complicated to address here, but I’ll get to that in the future, pinkie swear) or we’re total messes. We seldom get to see ourselves actually being human and growing into a role that we may not have planned for ourselves (Tomb Raider could be brought up, but for reasons I will not), and Link represents that completely. I mean, look at what you do. You’re a jerk who goes around smashing pottery, assaulting (and being assaulted by) angry poultry, and collecting all kinds of cool toys. But what you do with your jerkishness is awesome.

And yeah, I bet some people would whinge about how a Link who was female and otherwise identical personality-wise wouldn’t be realistic, but I know plenty of women like Link, and plenty of them play and enjoy greatly the franchise. Unfortunately for them (read: us, I’m totally a huge jerk), we as women are expected to relate with male characters and very seldom vice versa.

This means that the series isn’t trying to appeal to its actual audience, just a subset of it, and that’s really bizarre for a series with messages about unlikely heroes and perseverance through adversity and feminine strength. Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciative of a series that has several really well written women (who are only occasionally damseled, but I digress), but I want more for myself and women in general.

Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time prepares to smash a ceramic pot in someone's house. The pot is not his.

I mean, people keep the ashes of loved ones in urns just like these… Kids these days have no respect!

And, the thing is, it wouldn’t be hard to have a Zelda title where the protagonist is female or at least non-male. I mean, there are so many different Links throughout the game universe’s continuities. Everything is connected but that doesn’t mean everything is the same. Regardless of whether or not Link is an adult or child, human or wolf, Link does what Link does best. Being a jerk, getting rich, bombing dodongos, and killing bad guys.

A female Link would not detract from any of these things. She could drive a train, be a wolf, or whatever just as well as male Link does and the only thing that would really be different would be animations and sound. It’s that easy.

Of course, some folks are clamoring to bring up what that would mean for other characters, especially the women who are considered romantic interests for our intrepid jerk savior. It would mean, drumroll please, absolutely nothing! Heteronormativity is an occasional hang-up here for some people, thinking that they’d have to genderbend everyone and that would make matters worse.

I mean, I wouldn’t want to lose all those female characters and that means, oh horror of horrors, the potential for homoromantic subtext given The Legend of Zelda‘s general avoidance of actual mushy romantic stuff. Having a gay Link shouldn’t be any more controversial than them being female because Link is just an avatar for the audience of bumbling youth trying to find its way in the world. That’s not exclusive to any one group, so Link could be anyone and everyone ultimately, if Nintendo decided to take the plunge.

The player character atop a horse stands in the middle of a picturesque field with boulders strewn about.

And, honestly, this game is going to be a sandbox so we’ve already departed from the tried and true formula if people are going to be that picky.

Would Nintendo? Given their recent turnaround on their words about excluding gay relationships in Tomodachi Life, I’d say that I’m not entirely pessimistic about them. But, staying true to form, it would be so muted and subtle that it wouldn’t be any different than normal. Just imagine anything that happened in Ocarina of Time with a female Link. Was that a drastic departure from the direction of the series?

Much like it makes absolutely no sense for The Doctor to spawn each incarnation as a white British dude, it seems odd to me that in all the possible Hyrulian histories there are no female Links. Link is a hero for the people, of the people, and the people aren’t all dudes. Why, then, would Link always necessarily be one?

About Savannah Winter

White, bisexual transwoman with a passion for commentary, critique, and action on all forms of consumer media, but especially film and video games. I've been gaming extensively for about 13 years and am more than willing to make people uncomfortable by reading them the uncomfortable truths about the things they enjoy. Accountability matters. Identifying problematic tropes and decrying them matters. I want gaming to be an experience myself and others can enjoy without having to brace for inevitable aggression and micro aggression after another.

There are 3 comments

  1. Nick Verboon

    Well exuuuuuuuuuse me, princess! You’re scaring the children, Savannah. Quit it. Actually I just realized that I always kind of assumed Link was gay or possibly asexual. Maybe it’s the feminine appearance or the years of seeing mostly ladies cosplay as him along with the fact that I haven’t played a Zelda game since Ocarina of TIme and don’t recall any romantic subtexts in the older games at all. Bring on fem-Link. I don’t see any downside.

    Like

  2. goseebananafish (@goseebananafish)

    Great ideas. I think I’d rather see a game where Zelda gets kidnapped at the beginning of the game and then breaks herself out, saves Hyrule and finds her way back to the village to find Link still fishing, or breaking pots, or chasing bugs. He is typically pretty clueless.

    Like

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