Breath of the Wild’s Zelda broke the mold — and helped me do the same
When it comes to The Legend of Zelda franchise, the Princess of Hyrule has a specific role in life that she must play. Not only does she embody the goddess of wisdom, but she’s also royalty, so she’s expected to be clever, poised, and traditionally feminine. Rarely does she want something different for herself. But in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Zelda struggles with the role she was born into. Unable to unlock her inner sealing power and meet her father’s lofty expectations, the world seems to be against her at every turn. Despite these pressures, she finds sanctuary in her chosen family and her inner strength. That’s why I relate to her as a bisexual woman. She helped me see my own worth and value.
In the old games, Zelda was more like your stereotypical princess. Usually, you’d find her dressed to the nines inside Hyrule Castle or trapped in some dungeon. In Breath of the Wild, Zelda’s often outside in the fields, nerding out about a frog or rare flower. As someone who loves to talk incessantly about some mind-boggling video game or thought-provoking book, I totally get it. I love sharing my passions with close friends and the world at large. Whether she’s learning about the local flora and fauna or the ancient Guardians, knowledge is the thing that drives her and fills her with purpose. The more excited she gets about a new discovery, the faster she talks. But Zelda doesn’t always feel comfortable expressing her authentic self.
Breath of the Wild includes a heartbreaking cutscene in which the King of Hyrule confronts and berates his daughter. He digs into her about what the gossip-mongers say about her, how she’s wasting her time studying the Guardians, and so on. In her father’s eyes, her true identity matters little. According to him, she has a part to play and she’s absolutely rubbish at it. As Zelda balls her hands into fists out of frustration, it’s like a scene taken from my own life. Her anger is almost palpable. It’s something I can deeply relate to. There’s nothing more disheartening than being chastised for not meeting expectations or not fulfilling a role someone else wants you to play, especially if it’s coming from a loved one.
Like Zelda, I was expected to be someone I’m not. When I was a kid, I loved video games because they expanded my imagination and quieted my anxious mind. However, they were deemed “boy things” and dismissed by my peers and family. In my early twenties, I was forced to come out of the closet during a car ride. My relatives told me that I needed to go to church because I was dating a woman, as if divine intervention would somehow fix me. When I was a bit older, I was advised to hide my bisexuality from the guy I was seeing. For many years, I couldn’t cope with the pain. I crumbled like a shoddily built sandcastle under the weight of those expectations. Nothing strips you of your autonomy quite like feeling like you don’t have a voice.
My loved ones believed bisexuality wasn’t a real thing. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that a person could be attracted to both men and women. They could only see the world in black-and-white terms. The backlash I received was cruel, unfair, and unwarranted. But I learned a lot from it. I realized I couldn’t live my life according to someone else’s plan. Up until that point, I was trying to be the perfect daughter and friend. But the box others put me in kept getting smaller with each passing day. To live a more authentic life, I needed to turn to my friends for help.
Unable to live up to her father’s expectations (a maddening thing to deal with), Zelda turns to the champions for support. They’re her chosen family and they accept her for who she is. They foster a safe space where she can freely express herself, whether she’s napping on Urbosa’s shoulder or sobbing in Link’s arms. It’s so important to have a strong support network, especially if you’re dealing with bigoted attitudes from loved ones. Everybody deserves to feel loved and validated. Zelda’s champions made me think about my own chosen family and how they lifted me up during a really dark time in my life.
In college, my relationship with my actual family was strained. I couldn’t talk to them about my sexuality without getting pummeled with a million questions. Everything seemed bleak and hopeless; I felt like I was drowning. But my friends, a group of wonderful misfits with open minds and hearts, often took me out for car rides around our hometown. They’d let me express my worries and fears as they whizzed up and down the busy highway that cut through our town like an arrow. It was cathartic. The gratitude I still have for them is immense and immeasurable. They were beacons of hope and light during those tougher times. They helped me find my own strength when I was at my lowest.
Zelda also finds her own strength when she’s at her lowest point. In one of the last cutscenes, a throng of aggressive Guardians are closing in on her and a weakened Link. When she raises her hand to stop a Guardian from killing Link, her sealing power blasts out of her in the form of a bright yellow light. After the light dissipates, a pair of Sheikah guards approach her and Link. The power in Zelda’s voice is undeniable as she gives the guards clear instructions to rush an incapacitated Link to the shrine of resurrection. Despite everything she went through, she carried on. While Link is praised for his physical prowess on the battlefield, I always believed the real hero of Hyrule was Zelda. She took control of her destiny and found her inner voice.
I found my voice, too. When I came out to my husband in my thirties, I was petrified. I had actually written myself a script because I was worried I’d freeze up and choke on my own words. Although he’s one of the kindest and most open-minded people I know, I was still afraid he’d reject me. My anxiety likely stemmed from those earlier traumatic experiences. Fortunately, he was totally fine with it. He was just sad that I had missed Pride month by a few weeks, as he wanted to celebrate it with me. He’s a great life partner, and I’m so lucky to have him in my corner. It took me a long time to get to this point in life, but I’m so glad I did.
Zelda taught me a lot about finding my inner strength. Giving up on myself just wasn’t an option. Zelda had to overcome her father’s doubts and find her voice. I had to overcome the ingrained bigotry from the people I loved. I’m not defined by those experiences, but I’m certainly shaped by them. It’s not just about finding your inner strength, but also realizing that people can be wrong. Nobody gets to decide which role you’re meant to play. I’m valid and deserving of love and respect and nobody can take that away.
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