Thomas Yee (University of Texas and The University of Texas San Antonio)
Feminine Themings: The Construction of Musical Gendering in the Final Fantasy Franchise
In 2015, outranged Star Wars fans met the paucity of Rey toys with the hashtag #wheresrey. In 2019, Marvel’s female-starring blockbuster Captain Marvel received a barrage of targeted negative feedback prior to release. Gender representation in media matters, both as a symptom of societal view on gender and as a force teaching what gendered characteristics are culturally acceptable. Analysis of film music-such as Princess Leia’s and Rey’s themes in Star Wars– reveals how musical signification shapes perceptions of a character’s gender.
However, ludomusicological research of gender representation remains nascent, and the seminal Final Fantasy franchise constitutes promising ground, featuring landmark titles throughout video game history. “Feminine Themings: The Construction of Musical Gendering in the Final Fantasy Franchise” explores topical-stylistic strategies for constructing gender in character themes from across the twenty-three-year-old series.
By invoking scholarship in feminist musicology (McClary 1991, Laing 2007), gender studies (Suzanne Scott 2017, Kishonna Gray et al. 2018, Messerschmidt 2018, Frühstück 2011), and musical agency (Hatten 2018, Cumming 2000, Larson 2012), I argue that although the musical themes of protagonists in earlier Final Fantasy titles reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, two recent entries present alternative gender archetypes that promise nuance in future representation.
Characters studied range from Rosa, Cecil (Final Fantasy IV), Rinoa, Squall (Final Fantasy VIII)—whose themes utilize conventionally-gendered musical characteristics—to Lightning (Final Fantasy XIII) and Noctis (Final Fantasy XVB), whose themes musically encode alternative femininity and masculinity. As in Star Wars, music simultaneously reflects and drives the construction of gender in video games.
Source: Bardic Knowledge