Zelda: the role of the female protagonist

Would Princess Zelda make a compelling and strong protagonist? Is there a video game stereotype made of female characters as weak and ‘waiting’ to be saved? Can Zelda prove this stereotype wrong?

Illustrator Aaron Diaz believes it possible, achievable through more than just ‘a simple gender swap’.

The Legend of Zelda: Clockwork Empire is the concept – his concept – in which Zelda would take the lead role. Zelda would have her own unique, dynamic gameplay; using her ancient Hylian gauntlet in conjunction with different elemental gems to solve puzzles and outwit her foes. These gems would replace Link’s trusty items like the boomerang, hookshot and bombs.

For context into the game plot: Prince Link is the heir to the throne of Calatian Empire: a kingdom build on the mountain peaks. Calatia is threatened by Ganondorf Dragmire, chief advisor to the throne. Dragmire has built his Army within Calatia using deception to turn it into a military empire.

Diaz was inspired by Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube video ‘Video Game Tropes vs Women’. Sarkeesian argues that some games use female characters as a cheap plot device, as merely (and stereotypically) the ‘Damsel in Distress’. The character becomes objectified as an something that needs to be saved. She uses Princess Zelda as one of her examples of this trope.


Personally, I have always thought of Princess Zelda to be a bit of a badass: in her forms of Sheik and Tetra, and in her appearances in the Super Smash Bros series. However, Sarkeesian puts forward some valid points in which Zelda does appear as weak, and reliant upon Link to save the day.

Nintendo may want to take notes. Clockwork Empire has had a huge amount of positive feedback and has spawned masses of fan art: from animations presenting ideas for how Zelda would move, to a battle over potential soundtracks for the game.

Reverting to what Diaz states on the post, it goes “farther than being a simple gender swap”, it provides a fresh concept that would produce an interesting and compelling story. It goes beyond gender equality. It may be able to prevent the Legend of Zelda series from becoming stale.

With that said, Clockwork Empire does produce some interesting points about female protagonists within video games. It makes me hope that game developers will work harder in the development of their female characters. After all, female characters can still be strong.

In his own way (and hopefully precedent for many more), Diaz proves that Zelda can be a strong independent character, capable of fighting her own battles in an intelligent way.

Check out Aaron Diaz’s blog for more information.

Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube Video

Article & illustrations by Tom Davison


2 thoughts on “Zelda: the role of the female protagonist

  1. I totally agree, I’ve always enjoyed playong Zelda and always saw her as a strong woman role model – she’s a badass, she fights, hold her own, run the show, basically, shes’s a positive image. i hate it when that strength and independence is made diminutive when women are currently facing enough of a struggle to be seen as equals to men. I love nerdy women in gaming, they should leave her as she is – a leader in the women of gaming!! 😀

    another great female in fantasy is Lyra Silvertongue from The Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman 🙂 my all time fave 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s