Editorial: FFX's Iconoclastic Tale

AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#1
So I hope nobody minds that I am going nuts with Editorials like this, only I rather like writing them and I think they're good variety content. That said, here's another one.

This editorial is one of literary merit - and I hope I didn't go too wannabe English Teacher on this one but I've always been fascinated with how FFX shifted the tone of the series from Man Vs. Man to Man Vs. Society. I think it's worth delving into, but as always I want feedback. I realize this one is off the beaten path but I hope it's entertaining. If not, well tell me so. It's the only way I'll learn!

Anyways, here it is:

In Convenient Google Doc Format

It's Society's Fault: FFX's Iconoclastic Tale
by: Jason Tandro

I think it's no big reveal to say that Final Fantasy X dealt with a lot of sensitive issues: racism, class warfare, the corruption of organized religion, and the ethics of making your player dodge 200 lightning bolts in a row for an Ultimate Weapon. As such, I think most are already on board with the idea that Final Fantasy X is less a story about fighting a singular bad guy, but more a story about changing a corrupt society. All the same, I feel it is worth delving into the details as studying how this story handles this classic conflict can help us appreciate its message all the more. We may even get a glimpse into how it has affected the more modern Final Fantasy games.

First let's take a look at the four basic literary conflicts: Man Vs. Man, Man Vs. Society, Man Vs. Self and Man Vs. Nature. Most stories fall into one of these four basic categories. As a simple refresher the conflicts work as such:

    • Man Vs. Man: Your standard Hero Vs. Villain or Protagonist Vs. Antagonist. The plot centers around the protagonist's struggle to defeat or overcome a direct adversary. A literary example would be William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
    • Man Vs. Society: The protagonist vs the world in which he/she lives. Rather than a central villain, the emphasis is how the society as a whole is adversarial. A literary example would be Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
    • Man Vs. Self: The protagonist vs himself. A battle of identity, personal demons, or something of the sort. A literary example would be Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
    • Man Vs. Nature: The protagonist must overcome the wild or a natural disaster of some sort; a tale of survival. A literary example would be Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.

Given these descriptions I believe you can see how FFX exists as a prime example of Man Vs. Society. “But Jason!” I hear some of you exclaim. “Final Fantasy X has a bad guy! Several in fact!” Okay, good point. But it is important to note that stories can (and frequently do) incorporate many or even all of these archetypes in their story. Just because a story is Man Vs. Society doesn't mean there won't be singular antagonists. However, these antagonists are almost always framed as a product of the society that bore them. That in mind, let's take a look at our antagonists.

First and foremost is Yu Yevon, the architect of Sin and the central focus of the world's central religion. I don't think I need to explain that one. By the same token Sin itself as a creation of Yu Yevon exists as a constant beacon around which society is run. Cities are built with constant Sin attacks in mind. Summoners give their lives with alarming regularity in order to buy a few short years of relief. The greatest non-ordained organization on the globe exists solely with the purpose of defending the people from Sin.

Then there is Seymour, a Maester of Yevon and arguably the chief “Bad Guy”. Not only is his status and influence within the society the thing that allows him to be put in such a position, but his motivation was directly shaped by the society in which he (and everyone on Spira) lives. Losing his mother at an early age to Sin, he became obsessed with the idea of protecting the world from death. His desire to die and become the next Sin stems from a desire to destroy the world out of sheer nihilism.

Finally you have Jecht who might not at first seem to be directly influenced by the society of the world as he – like Tidus – is an outsider in this world. But it is precisely his role to be the outsider that succumbs to the corruption of the society. In his effort to “rid the world of Sin” by volunteering to be Braska's Final Aeon, he metaphorically surrenders his will to the system that has failed time and time again. You know what they say about the “road to Hell”; with the best of intentions he perpetuated a cycle that didn't work.

There are other comparatively minor antagonists as well: Yunalesca, Yuna's rival summoners, Biran and Yenke and those douchebags on the Luca Goers. However not one of them is simply evil just for the sake of being evil. Most of the ones I just mentioned are even really evil, just kind of jerks. And Yunalesca doesn't attack your party out of villainy but out of a misguided attempt at protecting a system that she believes works as best as it can.

At this point I can hear you all going “So what? What is the point of all this?” Well patience, my dear reader, and I will tell you how this story is a sign that Final Fantasy is evolving how it tells a story. Because rather than this being a story of some heroes going out to save the world, this is a story of some heroes going out to change the world.

When we play Final Fantasy VI, exceedingly few of us will be able to identify with the struggle of having to match blades with an earth-shattering totem of unspeakable malignity. But most of us can identify with the struggles of the characters. If you've lost a loved one then Cyan's story will speak to you. If you've ever felt ostracized for a mistake you made in your past, then you may be able to relate to Celes. Gau will speak to anybody who has ever been so hungry they literally ate dried meat from the first person to toss them some (in short anybody who has ever eaten at McDonalds).

Final Fantasy X adds a new level to that by making the story one on a larger scale. You may identify with the individual characters, but you can also now relate to the larger societal issues. Perhaps you can identify with the racism against the Al Bhed. Perhaps you have a mistrust for organized religion. Perhaps you feel like an outsider in a world that becomes scarier the more you learn about it – like an American who just binge-watched Last Week Tonight. We are seeing the series make this shift away from traditional bad guys and more bleak outlooks on the future of our society. There are still “bad guys” - but there are also “bad societies”.

Final Fantasy XIII serves as a perfect example of this. It's a society that has become so paranoid of the relatively unknown entity of Gran Pulse that it is more than wiling to kill anybody who has come into contact with anything from it. There is a scene in one of the early chapters that shows a “televised poll” that shows overwhelming support for performing a similar Purge if one was needed. Apart from coincidentally sharing the name of one of the most mediocre horror films of the modern day, this scene of hasty “out of sight, out of mind” decision-making is something we see an awful lot of.

Fear dictates their actions because they have been bred to think like this. In Final Fantasy X the people who hated the Al Bhed were racist not because of a personal fault but because their society had banged into their heads from a young age that these people were responsible for everything wrong. Now tell me honestly that you can't see a bit of that in how racism works in this day and age.

It goes beyond racism unfortunately. The very ideas of a governmental body that controls our destinies in ways we can't really foresee goes back as far as Final Fantasy VII. And while most of us won't be crushed like a bug under a falling plate, many of us know what it is like to be brought up taught that our government, our leaders, and the people in charge of us just want what is best for all of us and learning as we grow older that they are merely continuing an imperfect system that suits them well enough and if they do care about the little man, they are ultimately powerless to do anything for them.

This is why stories like this are important. Stories the call attention to the problems we face everyday have been relevant to each era. Take my literary example of a Man Vs. Society story. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was not a cute story about an ugly duckling and singing gargoyles voiced by George Castanza. It was a damning skewer piece about the corruption of the Catholic Church and the society that allowed it to exist.

Unfortunately, only in a fantasy do the problems of society go away by slaying the final boss. In fact one of the few things I'll give credit to Final Fantasy X-2 for is that it explained that some people have a hard time letting go of the old ways and seek to rationalize large issues and isolated incidents. It's not my intention with this article to bum you out, dear reader, but to show why it matters that we are seeing Final Fantasy move away from the classic story. Moral grey areas have always been a part of their story-telling, but now we are seeing them evolve into a more global message.

In the end, we don't need a sword to be a Tidus. We don't need a wand to be Yuna. All we need to impact our world for the better is ourselves and the willingness to take action. That is the lesson we can learn from Final Fantasy X.
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#3
Let me know if it needs proof reeding. :)
I see what you did there!

And yes, please. Your services would be most appreciated if you have the time! That's part of the reason I post them here in advance is to have folks check my grammar. You should have seen the behemoth I chopped this down from. I cut out two pages of word vomit and I still think it's a touch long.
 

JechtShotMK9

The Sublimely Magnificent One
AKA
Kamiccolo9
#4
I would love to be part of a greater discussion on this. This is one of the main reasons that FFX is my favorite game of all time.

I liked how you brought up XIII too. As flawed as that game was, the worldbuilding was very successful in what it was trying to do.
 

Flare

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Flare
#5
I always noticed these points about X as well, and I'm glad you made them. There's a lot of issues the game covers and shows that you can relate to or put on our own world. Thanks for writing this! :)

Also.... bit of proofreading of my own :awesome: In this paragraph:

There are other comparatively minor antagonists as well: Yunalesca, Yuna's rival summoners, Biran and Yenke and those douchebags on the Luca Goers. However not one of them is simply evil just for the sake of being evil. Most of the ones I just mentioned are even really evil, just kind of jerks. And Yunalesca doesn't attack your party out of villainy but out of a misguided attempt at protecting a system that she believes works as best as it can.
Shouldn't this one sentence be changed from "Most of the ones I just mentioned are even really evil, just kind of jerks." to "Most of the ones I just mentioned aren't even really evil, just kind of jerks." ?
 

Mayo Master

Pro Adventurer
#6
Thanks Jason, it was a good read.

This is why stories like this are important. Stories the call attention to the problems we face everyday have been relevant to each era.

You must have meant "Stories that call attention to the problems..." ?
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#7
So I didn't know if the recent "Draw My Life" Aerith thing was gonna get a front-page article or not. If not I think I'll post this up by the end of the week.
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#9
You know buddy I don't blame you at all, for a few days I'd forgotten I wrote this. It's been a crazy week lol.
 

The Blue Bandit

Rookie Adventurer
#10
Being completely new here, I don't want to overstep myself, but I just read through it and I'm willing to send some suggestions/proofreads/minor edits if you want, Jason.
 

The Twilight Mexican

Ex-SeeD-ingly good
AKA
TresDias
#12
A good read indeed, Jason, and I thank you for it.

Minor quibble suggestion for improvement: Seymour didn't lose his mother to Sin. He lost her to the final summoning, as she became the fayth for Anima, his own final Aeon. He ran in horror from what she became, and later returned to accept her power and have her statue moved to Baaj Temple -- but he never used her to defeat Sin, even though he could have. :monster:

All of which, I think, adds more layers to the observation you were making.
 

The Blue Bandit

Rookie Adventurer
#13
All right. I went ahead and did it. As far as I can tell, I don't have the ability to send PMs as of right now, so I went ahead and copied that Google Doc and inserted suggestions.

Allow me to preface this by saying that "suggestions" is really all they are. I think I have a talent for writing and something of an innate understanding of how it's supposed to work (I can't usually remember most of the technical terms), and my only intention here is to help you put forth your work in as clear and correct a way as possible. I have edited out of respect both for you and for the content, as I find it to be a very interesting topic. I appreciate articles like this, as they help us look more deeply into things that we love and find new possible meanings to it.

I say all that because I know that, when it comes both to text-only communications and to editing someone's work, feelings can by default run hot. I really did enjoy the article, and it got me thinking about what the true central conflict of FFVII is (it has very strong aspects of all of them, I think), so I did this out of appreciation.

Anyway, here's the link to the copy with suggestions/minor corrections inserted.

Also In Convenient Google Doc Format

I think the sharing is set properly, let me know if it doesn't work!
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#14
I am unable to see any edits, possibly due to sharing issues. I sent an "edit" request which should make any suggested changes pop up for me.

I'm not against receiving feedback of any kind, which is why I posted it here. This isn't a prose piece, this is an article which will represent the site, ergo it's important that I get as much as possible, regardless from whom, so I thank you for taking the time.

Will probably still want to go with Flint's proofread however simply because I know from experience his skills as an editor but I will take these suggestions under advisement in the re-write.
 

The Blue Bandit

Rookie Adventurer
#15
Looks like you're up and running now :D

I understand that trust is a big factor in the reception of suggestions like that. That's why I was a little apprehensive about making them to begin with - I'm no one to you, we've never communicated in any way, so who the hell am I to tell you what needs to be changed?

If any of it is useful to you or helps you achieve a stronger, truer voice, my mission is accomplished. I look forward to reading the finalized version when it gets posted.
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#16
Trust me I'm not one of those guys lol.

Your edits were actually very solid and helped me structure the piece much better. I overruled you on a couple of wording choices but for the most part implemented both yours and Flint's suggestions in the final product.

I'll be putting that up shortly. Thanks all for the suggestions .
 

Flintlock

Pro Adventurer
#17
BB (can I call you that?), I can only agree with Yop - everyone is welcome to contribute, so feel free to get stuck in wherever you can. :)
 
#19
Enjoyable editorial by Jason Tandro was enjoyable, as expected. :monster: Great justice. As always I look forward to whenever you write another editorial.
 
#20
A good read indeed, Jason, and I thank you for it.

Minor quibble suggestion for improvement: Seymour didn't lose his mother to Sin. He lost her to the final summoning, as she became the fayth for Anima, his own final Aeon. He ran in horror from what she became, and later returned to accept her power and have her statue moved to Baaj Temple -- but he never used her to defeat Sin, even though he could have. :monster:

All of which, I think, adds more layers to the observation you were making.
Does that mean Yuna could have used Anima to beat Sin too?
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#21
A good read indeed, Jason, and I thank you for it.

Minor quibble suggestion for improvement: Seymour didn't lose his mother to Sin. He lost her to the final summoning, as she became the fayth for Anima, his own final Aeon. He ran in horror from what she became, and later returned to accept her power and have her statue moved to Baaj Temple -- but he never used her to defeat Sin, even though he could have. :monster:

All of which, I think, adds more layers to the observation you were making.
Does that mean Yuna could have used Anima to beat Sin too?
No. What gives the Final Aeon its power is the bond between the person who becomes the Final Aeon and the Summoner (this is explained by Yunalesca). Yuna would have had no bond whatsoever to Seymour's mother.

Edit: Something I never considered until now - Donna only had one bodyguard, Barthello. Fellow fanfic writers somebody needs to write the story of what would have happened if Donna had become High Summoner and had to turn her only friend / love/ Guardian into the Final Aeon and was forced to fight Sin alone. This is a story that needs to be told.

Edit 2: Holy crap I be thinking about all kinds of things that never clicked. Imagine how horrible the life of the Fayth are. They don't exist in the Farplane but are immortalized in statues and exist forever, coming when called upon. Meanwhile the one they love - the Summoner they guarded - dies. As tragic as the death is, the spirit lives on in the Farplane. What this means is that by becoming a Final Aeon you are not just agreeing to die, YOU ARE AGREEING TO NEVER SEE YOUR LOVED ONE AGAIN FOR ALL ETERNITY.

EDIT 3:
WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENED TO TIDUS AND YUNA AT THE END OF FFX ANYWAYS!!!

Holy crap I need to go cry into a pillow.
 
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The Twilight Mexican

Ex-SeeD-ingly good
AKA
TresDias
#22
Well, the fayth of the final aeons who defeat Sin burn out when they're possessed by Yu Yevon afterward. The spirit is then no longer trapped in the statue, but within Sin, like Jecht was.

They can probably still go to the Farplane once freed (by destroying Sin and forcing Yu Yevon to take a new host again), but that can take hundreds of years. There were only four High Summoners between Yunalesca and Yuna after all.
 
AKA
Jason Tandro, Doc Brown, Santa Christ, FearAddict, Thibault Stormrunner, RN: Micah Rodney
#23
Well, the fayth of the final aeons who defeat Sin burn out when they're possessed by Yu Yevon afterward. The spirit is then no longer trapped in the statue, but within Sin, like Jecht was.

They can probably still go to the Farplane once freed (by destroying Sin and forcing Yu Yevon to take a new host again), but that can take hundreds of years. There were only four High Summoners between Yunalesca and Yuna after all.
So in short, only the LOSERS are separated from their loved ones forever. That's... arguably even worse, considering you don't even have the satisfaction of having defeated Sin (or arguably better since you never became Sin...)

Edit:
For those wondering, as I didn't realize there were that few.

Yunalesca (not referred to as High Summoner)
High Summoner Gandof (which sounds suspiciously like Gandolf)
High Summoner Ohalland (who played for the Kilika Beasts)
High Summoner Yocun (I just noticed every female High Summoner has a name beginning with Y)
High Summoner Braska (Yuna's father)
High Summoner Yuna
 
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Lex

Administrator
#24
Man, Yuna's generation had it easy. Two calms in the space of a generation, the other three spaced out over a thousand years :monster:

You have to wonder how many summoners made it to Zanarkand then nope'd out after finding out about the price. D'you think Yunalesca killed them?
 
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