For my first proper personal post, I wanted to talk about a videogame character who has had such an impact on my life, as well as how she has changed my way of thinking over the past few years. Final Fantasy VII is a game full of famous characters that have become icons in the medium; Cloud Strife, practically the poster child of the Final Fantasy series, is an incredibly beloved character; Sephiroth, who had a tough act to follow after Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, is considered one of the most famous villains ever; and then there’s Aerith Gainsborough, the tragically innocent flowergirl who has gone down in history for her shocking death scene. All of these characters are great for their own reasons but there’s one particular girl that took my attention about midway through the game. Tifa Lockhart, the tough yet kind heroine of Final Fantasy VII, has always held a very special place in my heart that not very many characters, from any kind of art form, have come close to achieving.
Tifa’s just as famous as all of the others mentioned before, but her notoriety stems from the character’s more superficial attributes. Most Final Fantasy women are known for their sex appeal but Tifa is in a league of her own when it comes to popularity in this field. Her clothing is incredibly revealing whilst her physical features are heavily exaggerated, in what seemed to be a conscious effort to cash in on the popularity of Lara Croft and her own brand of girl power. This would explain why Tifa has become so loved in regards to her physical strength which comes from her proficiency in hand to hand combat, a striking contrast to the magic wielding fragile love interests that came before her. These are all really important elements of the character, but I grew to admire Tifa for a very different reason; one that is often overlooked.
If you pay attention to Tifa throughout the game, you’ll notice that although she’s very strong physically, she is just as weak mentally. She latches onto a promise of protection that Cloud made to her as a child and stays true to that in the future, actually needing to be rescued numerous times during the course of the story. What’s also interesting about Tifa is that for the first half of the game she doesn’t actually have much relevance to the storyline, other than a childhood connection to Cloud and a love triangle that quickly emerges between herself, Cloud and Aerith. Tifa always seems as if she’s got more to say on certain matters but once the bigger and bolder characters join the mix, she begins to blend into the background with only the odd line of dialogue.
This is where I resonate with Tifa so much, because I too have the bad habit of blending into the background in pretty much every facet of my life. In my group of friends I’ve never been entirely sure what I bring to the conversation. I’m not a leader, I’m not a joker, I’m not a party animal, and I’m certainly not the eye candy… in a sense I’ve always just kinda been there, as if making up the numbers. Whenever I’m with them, there’s always so much more that I want to say or contribute, but I can never bring myself to raise my voice above the bigger personalities. Inevitably it always ends with me sitting and listening, perhaps I’ll throw the odd line here and there, but eventually I’ll just leave much like I arrived; without much fuss.
At my family’s parties, I’m even worse at trying to speak; I always find a small group I feel comfortable with and keep myself to myself for as long as I can. I’ve always been worried that I look ignorant to my family; when I don’t go up and dance or strike up a conversation I get scared that they think I’m boring and dismissive. At one point I did think I was just plain ignorant, then I began to resign myself to the fact I was just helplessly shy, but as time has passed I’ve discovered that it’s neither of those things. The problem’s pretty simple, and it’s one that fades away very quickly if a person should talk to me one on one. My problem is that my voice simply isn’t as big as other people’s; a difficulty I’m sure quite a few people can relate to. I genuinely did feel like I was starting to make a serious break through after I met Glenn, who represented the yin to my yang, but ever since he passed away I’ve started to regress back to my previously hushed tone and reserved body language.
When I saw Tifa in my teens, I felt a strong emotional resonance with her; I felt her plight and wanted to see her shining moment of narrative glory. She’s not as mystic or important a heroine as Aerith, she doesn’t have the extravagant hair or impossible weapons of Cloud and Sephiroth, she isn’t smart or witty, she isn’t unique and colourful, and there’s definitely a stigma attached to her that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface her character. This is where Tifa gives me hope for the future though, because if you take her out of the game, you lose one of the most rich characters the story has to offer.
Tifa is easily the most human character in the game; her fears regarding love, death, failure and friendship are things that any normal person would feel; her desire for Cloud is all consuming, often fogging her judgement at pivotal moments; and her friendship with Aerith has an obvious layer of both jealousy and admiration, mostly because of Aerith’s more outgoing nature. All of these qualities are special in fictional people, especially videogame characters who represent a larger than life representation of ourselves.
None of this means to say that Tifa never earns her moment of glory, as she actually begins to emerge from her temperate cocoon with some truly spectacular characterization. Tifa eventually finds her place in the world of Final Fantasy and it’s not as defined a role as you might think, mostly because she isn’t just one thing; she isn’t simply a one dimensional character. Tifa’s a motherly figure to the children she adopts, she’s the girl next door to her many male admirers, a love interest and emotional crutch for Cloud, an equal in combat, and a warm presence that the bleak world of Final Fantasy VII needs.
I empathize with Tifa so much because I too can’t describe myself in a simple couple of words, I’m still growing as a person every day. I don’t have the biggest voice or the best stories to tell; I’m not outgoing, I’m not insanely attractive, or even overly smart; I’m a terrible singer, and an awkward dancer; I’m tall and extremely skinny; my drawing quality is quite good and my writing skill is coming along pretty nicely. I still have a lot of life lessons to learn and a great deal of confidence to gain…and yet despite all this, for the first time in my life, I’m actually okay with that. Tifa showed me that even though I don’t have the biggest voice, that’s actually okay, it can still be heard in a variety of different ways. I hope that this blog can be one of those ways.
Oh and did I mention Tifa can piledrive the final boss of the game…just saying.