Symbolism, the Love Triangle, and its True Meaning
By The Chronicle Weaver
Before I get to the love aspects of FFVII, I'll talk about it's religious themes. FFVII religious themes you say? Yes, FFVII had religious themes, and although they were different than those found in, let's say, Xenogears (an incredible game I'll be comparing FFVII to throughout this essay), they had the same effect on me. Take Bugenhagen for example. He was a very scientific man who had high morals and strong beliefs. He sort of represented a sacraligious, warped priest. He focused on the afterlife a lot, and how everything returned to the Lifestream. Afterlife. That was the religious component FFVII dealt with. Xenogears dealt with Creation; FFVII dealt with the Afterlife. Which is another comparison I'll get to later... Anyway, to get back on subject, Nanaki's species (along with Bugenhagen) were very staunch when it came to religion, another thing humanity had lost respect for. You can see this by how Nanaki's species is nearly extinct, as with religion. And between Bugenhagen and Nanaki, they were the only two on the Planet that knew (or cared) about religious matters. This showed again how humanity had its priorities all wrong. In the end, Bugenhagen passed away and his prophecy came true. Humanity joins the Lifestream for somewhat of a cleansing of mind and spirit. A baptism, if you will. And the comparison I was talking about earlier was that Xenogears conveyed "happy" emotions, and it dealt with Creation. FFVII dealt with "sad" emotions, and dealt with the Afterlife. I'm sure you can put two and two together.
Now on to love...
FFVII's purpose was to show the gamer how vile society had become. It's whole atmosphere was meant to convey depressing, longing, bittersweet feelings. And although Love wasn't a direct theme FFVII was focusing on, Love was used to help carry across the emotions stated above.
Cloud was a young man looking for his past. He was dark, moody, and critical, but set on getting his life together. When it came to love, he was pretty much indifferent, or so he thought. He viewed love as something that can be used and disused without a care or notice. Not only did this develop his character better than most think, but it also carried across another message FFVII executed. Love didnt mean anything in the world of FFVII. No one valued human emotions anymore, especially love. And through examples like Cloud's indifference, the death of Aeris, and Don Corneo's womanizing, FFVII further proved it's point that mankind had thrown away all that truly meant something.
Next on the list you have Aeris. The naive, young, innocent flower girl from the Sector 5 church. She represented all that humanity
had lost in FFVII. Innocence, compassion, hope, and endearment. This the gamer could associate her with in the way she dressed, acted, and spoke. When Sephiroth killed Aeris, that was representing the downfall of mankind. As Aeris was impaled, so was innocence, compassion, hope, and endearment. Aeris's death was the true ending of the game. It represented that it was already to late for humanity. It represented the murder of all that humanity needed most. Aeris wasn't killed for shock value or cheap tears, she was killed as a sort of symbolic sacrifice to what the world of FFVII had lost. And the reason the other characters did nothing was because they knew it was over. They realized Aeris was dead for good, and at the same time, the gamer realizes that mankind is pretty much dead also. When you think of Aeris, you think of a cute, naive little girl. And unfortunately, a lot of gamers passed off her symbolism as poor development. This was not the case.
That brings up Tifa, the lost romantic. Through her past with Cloud and the other AVALANCHE members, she was the sort of glue that held everyone together towards the end. She tried so hard to get Cloud to open up to her, and to some degree she suceeded, but not before it was too late. Tifa was a tragic character. She was a lonely character. Despite her happy go lucky image on the outside, you could tell she was reeling with depression and lonliness on the inside. All she really cared about was Cloud, and she continually showed this by her continued efforts to help him and the times she even risked her life for him (the Mideel Lifestream burst). But because of Cloud's demeanor with love and relationships, he never opened up to her, yet another symbol to what FFVII was trying to convey. As stated above, Cloud was very dark and indifferent when it came to love. Tifa, on the other hand, wanted only to be loved, and if everything fell to ashes around her, she would still have love, and that's all she needed. This showed how humanity was too caught up in it's own problems to confide and love one another. Cloud rejected Tifa's love, and humanity did the same to itself. And before Cloud realized his mistakes, it was already too late, the same with humanity.
To tie the three together, Square did a masterful job. First I'm going too explain what actually happened, then I'll explain my take on what it meant.
Cloud thought he loved Aeris, when he really felt the love radiating off of Tifa. Instead of pursuing Aeris though, Cloud tried to sway even greater from love. Eventually, it became to much for him and he decided to go after Aeris. But do to his procrastination, Aeris was murdered at the hands of Sephiroth before Cloud could express his feelings. This changed Cloud for the better, and he realized he actually loved Tifa all along. But because of certain circumstances and Cloud again questioning what and who he loved, that relationship was never fufilled.
What this love triangle was trying to get across was that you don't need a reason to love someone. Cloud debated with himself on his love for Aeris and Tifa and that delay ended up ruining all chances with both of them. Humanity was too selfish and cynical to love anyone, and if they did, it had to be for a damn good reason. Through the ending scene, FFVII leaves us all with a feeling of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Through the bittersweet love triangle of Cloud, Aeris, and Tifa (and among other things) FFVII showed how mankind had warped their opinions on such matters as love and compassion. And through the love triangle, FFVII was able to convey it's dark, depressing, bittersweet atmosphere that so many of us love today. Although the relationship of Fei and Elly in Xenogears was developed better, FFVII's was trying to hit home a different message altogether than that of XG's. Xenogears left us with a sense of hope and new era. FFVII left us with a sense of hopelessness and finality. Unfortunately, many gamers view these themes as unresolved and ambiguous. But like I've said so many times before, that was the whole point. Xenogears and FFVII's love stories differed greatly from each other, but as far as conveying messages and evoking emotion in the gamer, I'll take FFVII anyday.
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