I’m trying desperately to remember that my father’s birthday is this Friday (I think), and yet I hold the birthdays of my favourite video game characters in the back of my mind, always.
So, happy birthday Celes Chere. You are this many [holds up fingers in the shape of a question mark].
Final Fantasy VI is over twenty years old, and in my mind Celes remains a good example of an interesting female character. The industry talks a lot about “strong female characters,” but that’s not a term I like using because people have already laid out the traits that make a SFC and etched them in stone.
I remember getting into a (civil) argument with someone on a message board about whether or not Celes counts as a strong female character. Their answer: No, because she shacks up with Locke at the end of the adventure, and a strong woman ought to not throw herself at a dude.
A fair opinion, if a bit simplified. Celes warms up to Locke, yes, but only when she’s damn well certain he’s dealt with his past ghosts and isn’t going to slip up and call her “Rachel” in bed. I also don’t believe having a relationship with the opposite sex automatically weakens your character if you’re a woman, though maybe that’s subjective.
I do know Celes thaws and grows as Final Fantasy VI’s quest goes on, and she becomes an interesting human being as a consequence. We don’t know anything about her past, just that she was raised by Cid and infused with magic. She became a female general in the male-dominated Imperial army at the age of 18 and doled out some pretty rancid orders, so yeah, she starts off pretty hard and cold.
That starts to change when she joins the Returners, and her personality undergoes a massive shift in the World of Ruin. Again, some critics say that she attempts suicide because she’s pining for Locke, but that’s not it. She only loses it when Cid dies and the weight of the Apocalypse really crashes down on her. It’s not just Locke she’s missing; she’s stuck on an island full of poisoned and undead animals, and for all she knows, her friends are all gone.
If anything really nails what Celes is going through during her darkest hour, it’d be the dead dove you see on the northern cliffs before she takes her dive. That kind of subtly powerful imagery is rare in video games (modern Square games in particular).
Sure, Celes regains hope when she comes across (improbable) proof Locke is alive, but the girl is allowed to have a favourite person, and she’s allowed to be elated when she discovers that person is still functioning against all odds. C’mon.
Moreover, when you’re wandering the World of Ruin as Celes, the first characters you come across are Edgar, Sabin, and Setzer. Celes doesn’t constantly ask the team “Where’s Locke???” and commandeer the Falcon in hopes of finding him. Her first priority is getting everyone together to save the world. In fact, most first-time players won’t be strong enough to take on the Phoenix Cave and find Locke until the game’s nearly over.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Emperor Gesthal initially planned to breed Celes to Kefka in order to create a new generation of natural magic-users. Celes responded to that idea in the proper manner: She stabbed her crazy-ass clown suitor.
Not bad for an opera floozy.