Archetype I: The Perky Refugee
Archetype II: The Jaded Beauty
Archetype III: The Sad Clown
Archetype IV: The Failed Hero
Archetype V: The Pipsqueak
Archetype VI: ???
Today we have part two of the Final Fantasy Archetype series, and this time it’s about every fanboy’s (and some fangirls’) favorite Final Fantasy character: the Femme Fatale. She’s sultry, she’s gorgeous, she’s scantily clad! Every Final Fantasy in our scope has some version of this woman it, busy getting everyone hot and bothered. She is always one of the older members of the cast, flaunts her sexuality through revealing clothes and suggestive props, and is the epitome of no-nonsense. Her age also gives her a mark of maturity, and she is one of the most grounded members of the party.
But that maturity doesn’t just come from anywhere, and it goes deeper than some nicely rounded pixels: this archetypal woman has seen tragedy that has left its mark on her. However, where the Perky Refugee’s tragedy involves large-scale oppression, this character’s struggle is more personal, and her past often goes unmentioned until the story demands she reveal it. The revelation itself is nearly always the same: for all her beauty and desirability, the Jaded Beauty is also pointedly unlucky in love. Simply calling her a femme fatale doesn’t cover that sense of maturity and loss—she is the Jaded Beauty, in all her mystery and mystique, and she is here to give you a cry-boner. Characters that fall under this category are Tifa (FFVII), Quistis (FFVIII), Freya and Beatrix (FFIX), Lulu (FFX), Fran (FFXII), and Fang (FFXIII). Like the Perky Refugee, this archetype is old enough to find incarnations in the classic set: Celes from FFVI, and Rosa from FFIV.
The first thing most players (read: everyone) notice about this character is her sexualized appearance, which the developers know and use to enthusiastic effect. Though Tifa was but a mass of pixels in her original incarnation, her tight t-shirt and mini-skirt has been the subject of fan-creature fantasy for the better part of a decade. Quistis’ hot-for-teacher look is similarly renowned (with the whip adding a bit of a dominatrix touch), and the developers even parody the reaction they expect to her character by giving her a fawning fanclub in-game. While Freya largely avoids oversexualization, she is still given an attractive face (for a rat-person in particular), and Beatrix amply picks up any sex-appeal slack the game has left. Lulu, famous for her sultry “bend over” victory pose pictured above, is introduced in her character CGI with a pan-up that is wholly laser-guided. Fran is a bunny woman in a metal thong—I don’t think I need to explain that further. Even Fang, who is much more masculine than her counterparts in this archetype, exudes sexuality in a way unique amongst the FFXIII cast: she struts, she wears a barely workable sarong, and she has no problem checking out whatever party body parts she sees fit to inspect.
Remarkably, despite the ways such cheesecake aspects could (and sometimes do) go wrong, all of these women carry themselves with a distinct measure of class. While there are no noticeable trends in job class between the members of this archetype (they range from monks to blue mages, black mages to dragoons, fighters to . . . fighters), each is marked as a formidable warrior, often cool and collected in the face of difficult enemies—with Fang functioning as a gleeful exception to the latter. In terms of story, the Beauty is often the voice of reason in any given situation, and while she is not always quick to impart wisdom, she conducts herself with a sense of knowing and poise. She functions as something of an older sister figure to the other party members; this is particularly so in the later games, wherein the Perky Refugee (Rikku, Penelo, and Vanille) looks up to, and seeks to emulate, the Jaded Beauty (Lulu, Fran, and Fang).
The Beauty is almost always paired with the Sad Clown character (to be discussed at a later date) in some capacity; whether it’s by a strong bond of friendship (Barrett and Tifa, Balthier and Fran), romantic inclination (Irvine and Quistis), realized romantic inclination (Steiner and Beatrix, Wakka and Lulu), or something in between (Fang and Sazh), the two quite often come to represent an opposing, but complementary pair. The relationship between these two is often marked by irritation on the part of the Beauty toward the antics of the Clown—Quistis is annoyed by Irvine’s shameless flirting, Beatrix initially finds Steiner incompetent, Lulu sees Wakka’s bullheadedness and lack of consideration as infuriating, and Fang and finds Vanille’s interest in Sazh disconcerting while shooting him down herself. It has been suggested that their bond emerges from this love-hate dynamic; I believe it is more appropriate to say that the Clown’s ability to illicit strong emotions from the normally stoic Beauty is the greater contributor to their relationship. Ultimately, however, she behaves in a mature manner toward the Clown despite her annoyance, and as a result, comes to enjoy his bumbling humor to varying degrees.
This maturity, of course, is the result of experience, and the personal tragedy the Beauty has suffered. Specifically, there is one type of overarching hardship that all of the characters in this category experience: at some time prior to the events of the game in which she appears, the Beauty either lost a romantic partner, or was otherwise rejected in some capacity. Both ring with a sense of the Jaded Beauty being forgotten or otherwise discarded. Tifa, for instance, loses Cloud when he leaves to join SOLDIER and returns without any memory of her. A similar circumstance reoccurs in Advent Children: Cloud, fraught with guilt over his past failings, goes missing for weeks at a time, leaving Tifa alone to manage their home and businesses. Scenario and script writer Kazushige Nojima highlights this aspect of the Jaded Beauty in Tifa, describing her as “very much like any woman who’s been left behind by a man.”
Later games in the series repeat this dynamic, with slight differences in its expression. Quistis feels personal loss at her lack of family and companionship when her adoptive parents don’t accept her, and those feelings are exacerbated when she is romantically rejected by Squall.
Freya spends years searching for her lost love, Sir Fratley, only to be crushed when she meets him again and discovers that he has forgotten her. Lulu begins a slight change in the trend, in that her love has not forgotten or rejected her, but has perished and left her a widow. Meanwhile, she suffers another loss which affects her deeply for many years: the death of her first summoner charge, Lady Ginnem.
Fran and Fang depart further from this framework, but still display noticeable parallels of love and loss. While Fran does not lose a romantic partner, she loses her family and culture when she leaves for the freedom of the Humes’ world. There still exists a sense of being forgotten or rejected, but it is not a romantic partner that does the deed: rather, it is the Wood itself, as it does not recognize Fran as a member of the Viera clan and allow her passage through it. Fran, as a result, fears that the Wood has come to hate her. Fang, meanwhile, sees something of a reversal of typical circumstances—rather than being forgotten, she forgets critical past events, and rather than dealing with the effects of losing a loved one, she struggles against time to prevent Vanille’s transformation into a Cie’th. In the end, the results are similar: Fang still bears the weight of lost love, but it is an impending loss rather than a past one. It is this personal struggle which informs the Beauty’s stoic attitude, jading her to the world through, one way or another, the loss of her love.
Despite the importance of this adversity to her character, the party will be largely unaware of it until the object of the Beauty’s loss is directly confronted. In some instances, a section of the game will be devoted to facing these struggles, such as Freya’s reunion with Sir Fratley in Cleyra, Lulu’s confrontation with Ginnem in the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth, and Fran’s return to Eruyt Village. In all cases, the revelation of her past tragedies is new to the player, as well as the majority of the party (with the Sad Clown being the most likely to have prior knowledge of the situation, such as in the cases of Irvine, Wakka and Balthier).
As opposed to the Perky Refugee and the Sad Clown, whose personal struggles are faced by repairing the situations that have caused them, the Beauty’s catharsis comes in confronting the source of her pain and moving past it. While the Beauty can’t erase the damage done, or ever return to her previous circumstances, she can move on with her life once she no longer bears the weight of lost love. Tifa, for instance, is shown Cloud’s subconscious and comes to understand the circumstances which led to his memory loss, allowing her to move forward with her life. Meanwhile, in Advent Children, she must understand why Cloud has become neglectful and confront him about the situation to move past her sense of abandonment. Quistis, while forever changed by her childhood loss and romantic failure, uses her renewed relationships with her orphanage siblings to counteract the negative effects of her past experiences. Freya, unable to restore Sir Fratley’s lost memory, chooses to begin a new relationship with him rather than lose him entirely. Lulu confronts the loss of Lady Ginnem quite literally, by facing her wayward spirit and assuring she is put to rest. She also deals with the loss of her late fiancé by beginning a new (and to some players, bizarre) relationship with Wakka.
Fran speaks to her family for the first time in fifty years, and learns that while she will not be welcomed back into the village, she is nonetheless missed—knowing that, her sense of loss going forward is lessened. Fang’s catharsis, perhaps the most unique of the archetype, comes in hitting rock bottom: after betraying the party to save Vanille, seeing its members turned to Cie’th, and being brutalized by Orphan, she finds that to truly escape her burden, she must share it. Letting go of her feelings of exclusive responsibility for Vanille’s fate, she is able to move forward with the help of the party, and partially circumvent the loss she feared would come to pass.
In the end, this lady is best known as a double-D—desirable, and damaged. This beautiful and stoic warrior lives with persistent personal tragedy, and only through confronting it can she move on. Her struggles are what ultimately make her strong enough to push forward, and re-evaluate the way she sees her life—Lulu finds love again; Quistis gains acceptance from a decidedly motley band; Freya re-evaluates her concept of happiness; Fang comes to understand the value of unity; Fran understands that love is not so easily lost; and Tifa finally contextualizes her past, as she moves toward an imperfect future with an imperfect, but kind hero. Their struggles are great and quiet, and the path is long. But with the help of their more optimistic, foolhardy associates, for the Beauty, the struggle is also a means to heal.