Monthly Archives: July 2013

Escaping the Tower: Why Calling Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth a Damsel in Distress is Misguided and Problematic, a Rant


I get so annoyed when people call Elizabeth a damsel in distress.

There are two times in all of Bioshock Infinite where Elizabeth is in peril, alone, and Booker has to come rescue her: Continue reading Escaping the Tower: Why Calling Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth a Damsel in Distress is Misguided and Problematic, a Rant

Archetype III: The Sad Clown

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: ???

You can’t escape him. No matter where you go—what classroom full of tired students, what business meeting of bored workers, what overly-packed subway distinctly lacking in personal space—there is always that one guy who has to be funny about it. He is always ready to make a joke, never accounting for appropriateness or good taste, and no matter how serious, stressful, or focused a situation is, that joke is going to happen. You could be dangling off a cliff face together and he’d be making jokes about you leaving him hanging.

Has anybody ever told you you have a really punchable face?

In all likelihood he unwittingly got the idea from storytelling in general: the comic relief character is a trope pulled straight from the quartos of Shakespeare, where guys like this one traipse about tormenting nobles and making clever, genital-based jokes between death scenes. (Nobody likes your Conan jokes, Feste.) Different versions of this prankster thrive in pop culture to this day, from the snarky sitcom bachelor to the quick-witted class clown of cartoondom, so it comes as exactly no surprise that a version of this character appears in Final Fantasy as well. Think of any bad joke that’s made at the wrong moment, any awful and intentional pun, any moment of comedy meant to break of the seriousness of a situation by making us laugh in any Final Fantasy under consideration, and I can almost guarantee you are thinking of that guy.

Goddamnit Wakka.

However, Final Fantasy has done something interesting in making the archetype their own. While this always-male character is a jokester of the highest (or lowest) caliber throughout the entirety of the game, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize there’s something else going on. Maybe his humor becomes self-deprecating, maybe that clown-paint veneer starts to crack, maybe the party stumbles on just the wrong place at just the wrong moment and it hits him like a freight train—but eventually, it becomes clear that there’s something vulnerable about this funny man, something that turns him into a Sad Clown. Interestingly, it almost always has to do with something as close to his heart as his terrible puns: family, and how he has lost them. Characters that fit under this archetype include Barret (FFVII), Irvine (FFVIII), Wakka (FFX), Balthier (FFXII), and Sazh (FFXIII). Steiner (FFIX) is also a notably clownish character, but does not fit with the archetype on more than a superficial level; several early-entry characters, such as Locke (FFVI), Edgar (FFVI), Setzer (FFVI) and Bartz (FFV) display traits characteristic of the archetype as well, if only partially.

Continue reading Archetype III: The Sad Clown