This week Marty looks into the fop or dandy archetype in video games, to see if they are only about appearance of if some characters use their attire and demeanor to cloak their true intentions.
A fop is a man who values appearance and beauty above all else, a man of fashion who ensures his appearance implies his high social standing and gives an air of culture. Whether the fop is actually cultured and of high standing is of little importance, they fail at blending into the crowd but can succeed at doing so in higher class settings. The fop (or dandy) was used often as literature, as a stock character who used his wit, fashion sense and artistic ability to impress. Examples of this type of character are the Scarlet Pimpernel and Dorian Gray. Being a dandy can have its advantages as it allows for a character to be unassuming and nonthreatening, which gives an advantage and the element of surprise. In video games and anime there is a tendency to incorporate the androgynous pretty boys, but very few embody the fop well. The Suikoden Series seems to include at least one dandy in each of their games, the are often clothed in french fashions, feathers, lavish fabrics and ostentatious hats, these characters make a statement. Some fops are played for comic effect, and some are portrayed comically but when looking further they go beyond appearance and are useful to the story or actually very powerful.
Most fops are androgynous, but Makoto from Enchanted Arms takes it to a whole new level. With eye shadow, long blond hair, and some very flamboyant clothing, Makoto takes the idea of dandy and takes it to a whole new level. In the game Makoto uses a saxophone to damage enemies and makes a weird battle yodel.. it’s weird. At first he is seen as very effeminate, pining away for his unrequited lover Toya and being a very negative gay stereotype. He is whiny, shrill, excessively girly and lusts after a straight man all the time. *Spoilers for Enchanted Arms* After the introduction chapter Makoto is crushed to death by ice and the love of his life is brainwashed by the Ice Queen who killed Makoto.
During Atsuma’s quest to save Toya and kill the Ice Queen, he encounters a mysterious blond main with slicked back hair, stylish clothes and a manly voice, who swoops in to save the day or give extremely helpful advice. At the end of the game (if you’re a little slow, I mean it’s obvious), you find out that the Mysterious blond haired man is Makoto (!) who worked in the shadows to take down the Ice Queen, thus saving his love. This twist of the girly man into a dashing hero is quite nice, he still is the same Makoto (as evidenced by the non completely consensual smooch at the end of the game…). People underestimated Makoto for his looks and demeanor but I say you go, girl! Just… kiss people who want to be kissed next time.
An affinity toward musical instruments is something a lot of fop characters have in common, with Makoto it was the Saxophone, this is why the dandy and the bard often intersect as stock characters. In Tails in the Sky you meet a charming bard Oliver who seems quite harmless (and quite annoying to most characters). He drones on about beauty, defuses situations with his lute playing and singing and flirts with anyone of any gender, as long as they have a pulse. In battle Olivier is a well rounded ranged character, using a gun as his weapon of choice. *Spoilers for Trails in the Sky* near the end of the game you find out Oliver is actually prince Olivert from a neighboring country who has been in your party influencing and assessing the current Situation of Liberl. Underneath his laissez-faire nature lies a hawk-like mind, able to keep up the appearance of a flirtatious dandy, while at the same time he is keeping ahead of his friends and foes alike. Olivier does what he needs to for his country, he is shrewd and a little deceptive but he has a good heart. He helps save his neighboring rival country, and uses what he has learned to help diffuse the situation back at home.
Following a similar trend is Edward from Final Fantasy IV, he is also a young blond haired blond (I’m sensing a trend), who would do anything for love (and unlike Meatloaf – he would do that). *Spoilers for Final Fantasy IV* Edward falls in love with a woman named Anna. Anna’s father (the crusty sage Tellah) strong disagrees with this union and tries to put an end to it. Edward and Anna run away to Edward’s homeland, which falls under attack. Anna is wounded and killed, leaving Edward without a land to call home and the love of his life. Edward is lost and Cecil (the protagonist of the game) slaps some sense into Edward, pleading for his assistance is rescuing the love of Cecil’s life, Rosa. During their travels the party gets separated and Edward is gravely injured.
Despite this, Edward drags his broken ass to his harp to play a song that helps the party defeat the Dark Elf. In the game Edward is weak, and spends over half the game in bed. No one else is injured that long. People get eaten by large sea creatures, come back to life and still kick ass… Edward remains in bed. However, in the Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy IV Edward is playable toward the end of the game and is able to do some of the most damage to the highest level of enemies. Edwards resolve and caring help make him a strong character, help him break the mold of the self invested fop. He love knows no bounds, and goes beyond the grave. He risks increasing his injuries to help his friends. Note – I haven’t played Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, so I cannot attest if he is still in bed in that game.
Another great example of a fop is Endrance from .Hack/G.U. Endrance is a blue haired sword fighter, who dominates in the arena. He is the best fighter of the game, the only things sharper than his blade is his cool, icy stare. Endrance is depressed and doesn’t care about people or anything, the only thing that he loved was taken away from him and he is currently a shell of a human being. Haseo (the main character), is able to defeat Endrance in battle and destroy the sadness that lives inside him. It takes a while for Endrance to recover from the fight and process his thoughts and feelings, but he eventually joins the side of Haseo, professing undying devotion to him for saving him from the hell of his own depression.
In the game I was always impressed at how much respect Endrance has for Haseo, he was completely loyal to him without a question. It was very rare for his type of character to show such strong loyalty. It was really charming to see that kind of relationship develop, Endrance was a bit of a narcissist and in a very dark depression. You don’t seem games deal with this type of darkness often, and to see him come out the other side with friends and people he cares about was really touching. Endrances’ appearance was never played off as comical, he was a deadly beauty from the moment you met him. There was no twist, he was always powerful, competent and ruthless- and happened to be beautiful. His looks weren’t there to mask his power, but to enhance it.
There are many other examples of this type of character, I mentioned Suikoden earlier because they have the monopoly on that type of character. Each game has a type of person, called the narcissist, sometimes they are just there for comical relief. Each attach is a flourish of rose petals, each time they talk it’s in an affected accent whilst an accordion plays french music in the background. They may utilize the dandy character the most, but other games delve deeper than appearance. I will say that in Suikoden 3, Augustine is one of the most powerful characters if you put the work into him. However, none of his dialog is important so his character doesn’t really exist. I still use him every time though. I like when men in games focus on art, fashion and beauty. It’s not something I see often in western culture. It’s often ridiculed, so when a game celebrates the fop or dandy, I am instantly thrilled. To be effeminate does not make you weak, to be vain doesn’t mean you have to be completely self obsessed.