This is one of those great and clear examples of how some people can’t be please because they don’t want to be pleased so you’re wasting your time to try to please them. A lot of folks don’t want things to be “better” (better as defined by their worldview), they just want to bitch (like that person who was dumping on Sentinels of the Multiverse because boobs and diversity or something). But it also got me thinking about how I kind of hate Link now and wonder how he got to be such a popular hero. I mean, I’d say that he’s coasting off the games where he was genuinely badass, but the N64 Link is probably the most beloved and iconic incarnation. The problem is, it sucks!
I’ve been playing Ocarina of Time on an off for a while now, and I’ve got a confession to make. I think that Link is a shit protagonist. It’s weird, too, because when I was a little kid, I thought he was pretty badass. Then again, when I was a little kid, I’d only played a few bits here and there of the first NES Zelda at a friend’s house, but I’d seen the cartoon and read the choose your own adventure books, and he seemed pretty cool to small child me.
Somehow, I’d never gotten around to playing Ocarina. Never had the system. When a friend at college got the GameCube collection I’m playing now, I was more stoked at the chance to play Zelda 2 again without the emulator bugs from the NESticle version. Zelda 2* Link was about as close as he ever got to being a “man”. Before the retcon, it was one of the later games in continuity, so we had something of a tough, brooding and battle hardened Link who was on a quest to drive the darkness from himself while stopping the evil cultists who wanted to resurrect the wizard lord who’d put a curse on his true love.
Now that I’m playing Ocarina, though, I’m seeing a Link who is kind of wuss. His silence comes across as uncertainty** rather than stoicism. He is surrounded by friends and beautiful damsels who are clearly into him, but he can’t be arsed to acknowledge them, thank them or really do anything other than briefly scowl and be on his way. I want to see Link tell the fish girl she’s crazy and needs to back off. I want to see Link tell Saria he actually appreciates her friendship. Hell, even if he didn’t tell her he loved her, it would be nice to see Link as anything but indifferent toward Malon. Nope. He just sort of scowlingly stumbles his way through the story coming across as unempathetic and extremely unlikable. I really feel like there needs to be SOME explanation for why he never says anything if he’s got all of these people opening up to him without him ever saying anything. It’s like that kid from Goodburger; in the movie when they explicitly avoided the implied involvement of copious amounts of pot, the kid goes from being a stoner to a mental defect and it’s more sad than funny. If Link doesn’t have his tongue cut out, then he’s just an asshole.
So what does this have to do with a gender-flipped Link? Having a female Link would significantly change our underlying expectations for what a good fantasy hero is. The silence becomes shyness and reserve rather than uncertainty and unconfidence. Would it make Link more likable? I don’t know, but I think it would make me hate him less.
*:Z2 has by far aged the best of any of the Zelda games, is still a ton of fun and I would probably venture to say is the best in the entire series.
**: Yeah, I know he’s supposed to be a ‘kid’, and kids are scared of stuff, stories about overcoming fear, yadda yadda yadda, but from the 2d era to the 3d era, Link goes from being something like Taran from Prydain to someone who is constantly emoting self-doubt and insecurity and grows up without really growing.
I watched this video a long time ago, before I played Ocarina and had totally forgotten about it. I watched it again today. This guy is pretty much right about everything.