Gender-Bending in Legend of Zelda

Recently there’s been a lot of video game media coverage on the subject of Linkle. If you’re not familiar with this individual, she is a new character coming to the 3DS game Hyrule Warriors: Legends. She wears a green cloak, has blonde hair, and her name has an odd resemblance to the hero of the franchise. Turns out that Linkle is a gender-bend of the wielder of the Triforce of Courage.

No, fans, gender-bending is not a really weird martial art from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Gender-bending is the practice of keeping most of the pertinent details of a character – the personality, the abilities, the aesthetic – similar or even identical, and simply changing the character’s gender. So a male character with brown hair and green eyes that is brave, strong, and funny would become a female character with brown hair and green eyes that is brave, strong, and funny. Get the idea? The essence of the character stays the same, but the design changes because the gender changes.

This phenomenon is most popular in fan art. It isn’t difficult to find fan art of gender-bent Disney princes and princesses, or of gender-bent main characters of popular television and video game series. A really strong example of gender-bending is the television show Adventure Time, which has quite a few episodes designed around it. These episodes follow two lovely ladies Fionna and Cake (modeled after the show’s male protagonists, Finn and Jake) as Fionna romances Prince Gumball (instead of Princess Bubblegum) and battles the Ice Queen (instead of the Ice King). Those episodes are incredibly well-received, particularly in the internet community. Gender-bending is a quick and easy way to get a big ole approval sticker from fans.

As you can imagine, a lot of folks are really excited about Linkle, the gender-bend of the Hero of Time (and Winds, and Twilight, and…you get the idea).

Now a lot of people have criticized the name. And it is pretty criticize-able. I mean, Linkle? Really? This has prompted many people to joke that Tingle (another well-known Zelda character) should have a gender-bend named Ting. However, I would argue that Tingle already as a gender-bend. I mean, the core of the character stays the same, it’s just a gender change, right? So think about it. A middle-aged creepy person in a poorly-fitted fairy costume that helps Link on his adventures…Tingle’s gender-bend is the Great Fairy!

Back to the topic at hand, though. Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of a lady Link. And that’s not out of some masculine “women can’t be heroic and brave and yada yada” thing. Rather, I just think that if the game wants to showcase a strong female character, they should utilize the woman they already have: Zelda. Zelda is a cool character that appears to be a strong woman, but we rarely see much of her. If the series wants to showcase a female in the protagonist role, I think it would be far more interesting to feature the TITLE CHARACTER as the main character of the game. Instead of just taking the male hero and making him into a woman. As a side character in a game that isn’t even canon.

Think about it. Zelda is intellectual, cool-headed, and tactical – rather than rushing headlong into anything, she plays the long game, carefully planning and even remaining in disguise for SEVEN YEARS until the time came to make her move in Ocarina of Time. She can sword-fight, sure, but she’s also a talented archer and most of all a powerful magician, something that would be a really nice change of pace combat-wise and could have some really cool applications in the game’s puzzles. Making her the protagonist of a Zelda game would be a really cool example to the young women who are drawn to the series, particularly since a lot of fans already admire her.

So I pass the topic to you, readers. What do you think of Linkle, the female Link appearing in Hyrule Warriors: Legends? What do you think of having Zelda as the player character in a Legend of Zelda game? What do you think of gender-bending in general? Discuss it in the comments and let me know your thoughts!

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