*******This is a post full of feels. If you do not want to read about my feels, abandon this post. So many feels.*******
I am 17 again. I am broken but I believe I am used to it. Years ago I played Final Fantasy VI and at the ending was so happy I smiled for days. It was full of hope and joy and the promise that all wounds could be healed. I no longer carry this delusion.
By now anyone remotely involved in the video game world who isn’t living under a rock has heard about this.
I’ve thought heavily about what I want to say, which is why it’s taken so long for me to articulate a response. It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that FFVII means a great to me. I could not explain it if I had all the words in a thousand tongues. I’ve devoted a huge amount of my time to both writing and posting a fanfiction of it, a story that itself was more than ten years in the making, and everything I have ever written hence has been inspired by the game’s epic tale.
When the HD remake was announced, I didn’t believe it because I had been let down far too often by Squeenix in the past, and then when it became apparent that it was happening, I still withheld my jubilation. It was additionally announced that it wasn’t going to be a direct adaptation; they were going to change things, which has me and many other FFVII fans worried. I actually have a remake demands list.
This concerns me as I obviously don’t want to see my favorite story not reworked in the way it deserves, but I’m trying to see it less like the 5th season of Game of Thrones (don’t get me started on how I think D&D missed so many major points with that) and more like an author rewriting/reediting a beloved story that they created years ago when they were younger and less skilled in the art of the word. James Cameron fashioned the idea for Avatar more than decade before it came to fruition, because he knew the technology of the time wouldn’t be able to render what he wanted to achieve. An even longer development hell was in store for Frozen, which Walt Disney himself conceived, but like Cameron after him, the late film mogul realized the animation technology of the time would not be able to handle the caliber of story he wanted to create. It wasn’t until decades later, after his death, that the masterpiece would ever see the screen.
I have read things I wrote more than a decade ago and I cringe at every word, but there is gold hidden beneath the grime. FFVII has outdated graphics and is plagued with poor translations, but it is the most in depth and symbolic Final Fantasy I have ever played, and I’ve played them all save for III, V, and the ones after XII. It has the most fascinating, tragic, allegorical story that rivals the plot of many books and movies. It was more than likely the first story I ever heard where the narrative “lied” to you through an unreliable narrator(Cloud was in SOLDIER) or by lying to a character within the narrative itself (Jenova is Sephiroth’s mother, an Ancient, etc.), where I first realized that what you were told and what you were shown could be two separate entities. To this day it is one of the deepest and most complex stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience; it is my favorite story and the second best one I know (the first honor goes to Martin’s masterpiece ASOIAF, which shares many of the same paradigms/tropes with FFVII, but that’s the subject of many other articles).
FFVII deserves to be brought into the light of the modern age, and if I look at the remake as a reedit, I am more at peace. I can also just try not to think about it and judge when the new offering is released. No matter what happens, the original game will stand as a foundation, and we can argue about canon and interpretation until the next meteor comes.
But this…this here, this post, this article tugged at my soul, pulled at my heart especially after I watched the beginning part of a video that showed four hours of people reacting to the announcement. The absolute pure and raw emotion pierced my empath’s skin and I couldn’t stop weeping. I remembered so deeply what FFVII meant to me and why it did, and of course that dredged up the pain I’ll always carry, but I can also never forget the inspiration I found.
In what may or may not be a coincidence, I’d already drafted a blog post where I gave away all my secrets. I was going to do this in my editing blog entry for Northern Lights’ Chapter 19, but I know not all of your are reading that story and subsequently may not read the extensive editing blog, which won’t be posted until after the story has been told, and Chapter 19 is very far down on the list as most chapters average 4-5 posts.
So I’m going to lay it bare…God help me; it hurts to think about. It twists my stomach into knots, but I’m going to try.
Let me tell you a story…
If you haven’t surmised or if I haven’t already said it, my mother died when I was young, 14 years old (yep, two sevens…didn’t think about that before). It was pretty fucking awful as can be assumed, and we still don’t really know why. At the time, my grieving father didn’t want an autopsy to desecrate her body. Years later after a particular incident, he did admit that the information would’ve been useful and last year, after I discovered I have CVI (chronic venous insufficiency) it would’ve helped me, too since my mother had serious edema before death. If you looked up CVI you’ll see that it can cause such a reaction. Yes, the universe is that cruel. Oh, I forgot to mention, she died on April Fools Day. Yeah, fuck you, too universe.
Anyway, I was very pissed off at god for a while, and this did not help the doubting of faith that begun around the age of eight. I never did and still haven’t seen anyone about my obvious issues. I just sort of disassociate and keep a plethora of random thoughts at hand in case I need to escape into them (this is probably one of the reasons I love Family Guy because it’s hella random, and I can usually think about that for a quick laugh). Because of certain childhood experiences, I doubt the validity of my feelings/emotions and don’t like to really show them around people for (real and proven) fear of ridicule. So I was an awkward teenager to begin with and of course this didn’t help.
I’ve been obsessed with angels since the age of five, became enamored of gothic culture around the age of 16, and in December of my 17th year, my brother brought me the Eidos version of Final Fantasy VII. While I already knew about Sephiroth (and was half in love with him already), I had zero desire to play Squaresoft’s newest achievement. I thought it was too sci-fi and not enough fantasy not realizing at the time that ALL of them have elements of both. I had played FFVI prior and was only a (younger) teenager at the time, so my analysis-fu wasn’t nearly as strong. While I feel VI is more fantasy than VII, the former game does have its sci-fi elements in terms of infusing humans with magic as is the case with Celes and Kefka. VII just took it one step further with going more in depth with the eugenics themes, having the “mad scientist,” and human experimentation angle (there’s a definite Josef Mengele paradigm going on that casts a very dark pall over the narrative, but I don’t want to go into too much story analysis. Not here. Not now). While humans were the recipients of the powers in FFVI, the horrors o the experimentation mostly involved magical beings being drained of their powers. The beings already existed in a type of fairy realm (though it could be argued that this was what the Promised Land in VII referenced). In FFVII, it was straight “black lab” human experimentation that created monsters (along with what the Jenova’s “virus” did), which is far more disturbing.
Anyway, I enjoyed FFVII immensely. It was convoluted and engaging and a great impetus to steer me in the direction of more complex narratives where things are not always what they seem. It also made me rethink other seemingly “simpler” narratives to divine the deeper truth that they might hide. But in VII I remember one particular moment very vividly (and I really wish I could find a screen cap of the dialogue, because I’d just use that as a response to people who ask me what I’m doing for Mother’s Day because fuck am I sick of that question. I guess I know not to assume that everyone has a living father or mother, but, ugh, whatever. I’ll try to rein in my annoyance). It’s during Cloud’s false flashback to Nibelheim where Sephiroth brings up that that’s where Cloud is from and how he (Sephiroth) doesn’t have a hometown. Then he says something about his mother being Jenova and how she’s dead, and it was at that moment I realized I cared, and I was kind of pissed. I’d ridden out my apathy and emptiness for three fucking years and suddenly this video game had made me care about the wrong person? WTF?? Great…I definitely saw him as a sympathetic character compounding the fact of his false past and lies he’d been fed. That whole situation was just fucked from the start. I’m going to really examine this in my future Heart of Darkness essay, but I mean come on. Seph was lied to about EVERYTHING (your mom died in childbirth; her name was Jenova; she’s an Ancient. All lies…) then he discovers this horror?
After playing FFVII and seeing Advent, I started to have pretty disturbing nightmares. I…can’t talk about them, but this is reminding me of another awful situation (I really am laying it bare, aren’t I? This is cathartic though…as I’m writing it with the knowledge that I’m going to post and people will know, I feel better. That’s what this is about, n’est-ce pas?).
Seven years ago (and no I didn’t make that up…the number seven haunts me) when I was a caseworker I worked with foster kids (I was initially supposed to work in reunification. Yes…I was supposed to facilitate reunions. Again, not making this up) and was only there for nine month because I could not handle that shit. I brought it home with me every night and had several nervous breakdowns because of it. There were many, many straws, but one of the most fucked up ones came about after one of my clients died. She had five children, all daughters, and her oldest was on my caseload. My supervisor thought that because I also had a deceased mother that I would be a great person to deal with this situation by going to both the viewing and the funeral over the course of two fucking days. It needs to be noted that I avoid funerals like the plague because every one I go to I get a flashback to my own mother’s and I have the tendency to have anxiety/panic attacks and it’s a no good time for anyone. Also, let me just say that black funerals suck. It’s twenty minutes or so about the person and their life. Then it goes into how they were a good Christian so obviously in Heaven because God forgave them for the heinous sin of being fucking human and all that other lovely crap. Following this is rampant proselytizing about how you’re never going to see them again unless you accept Jesus into your heart and convert if you haven’t already, which IS A GREAT FUCKING THING TO EXPRESS TO A GRIEVING AND BROKEN FOURTEEN YEAR OLD! Just writing about this shit is making me antsy. I may need to pick up a cat to calm down. Crap…they’re really far away. S’okay, I’ll Be alright…so yeah, my supervisor thought this was a great fucking idea for me to do this, so I drove two days straight to the city to deal with the viewing and all the emotions surrounding the family’s grief.
So we go down the first day for the viewing, and I’m barely holding it together. Then we go down for the second day, and it’s then and there we’re informed that the body is going to be cremated not buried because it’s less expensive. So me and another caseworker who thank God came along have to explain to this little eight year old girl that her mom is going to be turned into ashes and she’s going to get a little trinket that she can wear. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!!! ARE YOU GODDAMN SERIOUS?! Yes…yes they were. I didn’t stay at that job long after that. I was lucky enough to find employment in a far different sector doing control accounting. Seriously…I do that by day and write by night. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
Anyway…the above was just the prelude. This is my story.
I was in college and some friends of mine convinced me to visit my mother’s grave using the power of guilt, which I’m very susceptible to. Now, in my family, we don’t do that because the belief is that the whatever the person was is no longer there. Though my religious-fu was super weak by that point, I held to that tenet. Whatever had been my mother was gone, but I was young and impressionable with a great desire to fit in and not feel alone. So one Easter Sunday I went. The graveyard was right down the street from my house, right across from the church I’d gone to all the days of my youth. I remember I wore yellow flip-flops. It’s funny what sticks to your memory. I walked the length of a myriad graves, but I never found anything, and eventually I was too blinded by tears to continue, so I gave myself up for a failure and went back home. Since it was Sunday, the caretaker house was closed, meaning there was no way I could’ve asked.
Fast forward to last year on Father’s Day. I, my brothers, and possibly my sister-in-law went out to lunch at Bahama Breeze to treat my dad. I don’t know how the conversation started, but my dad started talking about my mom and the grave thing came up. Almost casually he mentioned that he didn’t even think there was a marker there, and I just sat back and sipped my coffee, keeping my mouth shut. It took probably a decade to realize that my heartbreaking quest was an exercise in futility. I kept that shit in, and I’m pretty proud of myself for that. Close friends know the first half, but no one in my family knows I went searching…unless they’re reading it right now in which case…
“Some say the world will end in fire,”
“Is also great
And would suffice.”
You want to hear a coda to this story? I can’t really call it that…you have to understand nearly every story I love has this paradigm. I understand why because it’s something people can relate to. FFVII is filled with missing mothers (so is ASOIAF but again those comparisons will be dealt with in later posts) because Hironobu Sakaguchi’s mother died in the midst of production. Yeeeaaaaaaah….I didn’t find that out until years later, but it made sense why VII spoke so deeply to me. This is also the reason that he had a main and beloved character killed off, because he wanted to players to experience that type of pain. This should be nothing to anyone who reads/watches ASOIAF/GoT respectively. I think GRRM is around 450 kills. FFVII has way less than that, but there are no mothers…except for the false/dark one, but getting back to the pseudo-coda.
The drunkest and most embarrassing point of my life was at a 4th of July party in 2013; it was July 6th to be exact. I decided to make drinks from the Drunken Moogle, FFVII themed of course (ugh, just going to the page again is making me nauseated). One of those drinks was the One-Winged Angel shot.
I don’t know what “hot and sweet” was (or is) so I just used SoCo. It also has dark rum and grenadine. I…lost count of how many I had. Maybe 7, maybe 10, maybe 11. Who knows? I remember the crying, though. God knows I remember that. Somehow hidden inside of me is a TON of fucking guilt and I truly believed I was a terrible person. I just kept apologizing to everyone, saying how awful I was, and I convinced myself in this drunken haze that my mother had died to get away from me. Being sober right now it makes no goddamn sense, but it’s clearly there, and that drink sheered through all of my layers and it was laid bare. It was terribly embarrassing, and the first and only time alcohol has made me throw up. It is also more proof that the universe hates me, because…come the fuck on, the One Winged Angel shot? Crying about mommy? Are you fucking serious??! To this day ,I cannot imbibe any drink with grenadine in it nor do I over indulge. There is only one situation where I would ever do this shot again. When I go to Otakon in 2016 I intend to cosplay Sephiroth; then I will definitely do the One Winged Angel shot, because if I start crying about my mother, I can just say I’m getting into character. See this conversation between me and Andrew. We had it in person so I had to write it down in my Note app.
I never want to lose control of my emotions like that ever again. I pretty much go with the “conceal don’t feel” mentality, at least not in front of people who will use your emotions to hurt you…which is everyone.
These are my secrets, sandwiched in between things already known. I had drafted this post last Friday, but was too tired to finish. That night I had a dream where someone was asking over and over again “Where’s my mother?” and/or “Who’s my mother?” I couldn’t tell which one they were saying, but I spent the entirety of this years 4th of July as melancholy as a mire, and this post just weighed me down. I have a very strong sense of obligation and it was like there was a geis over my heart calling me to finish this, to let it be known, to let it be done.
I’ve never written or talked about this so extensively. Most of my friends know that FFVII is my favorite thing ever, but I don’t think they fully understand. I don’t know if they can. Hopefully, this will lift the veil a little, but no one should ever fully see what’s rotting beneath. Even with all these words, which are far less than a thousand tongues, it doesn’t begin to explain it, because I can’t. There is a sorrow and a malaise to the atmosphere of VII that I just understand. The emptiness of fate, the tragedy of untruth, the morass of unbroken lies. The only other story that not only compares but surpasses this is George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire where the futility is even more profound. FFVII at least has an ambiguously happy/bittersweet ending though with ASOIAF we have been promised the same.
The narrative of the seventh Final Fantasy found me at the time when I needed something to cling to, and though it is dark and though it is desolate, despair can resonate between story and psyche, and while what shines forth may not be light, there is a silent solace to be found amongst shadows.