‘Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV’ Has A Woman Problem

Since my earliest days of playing video games, I have always loved Final Fantasy. Having played every game in the series, I mean it when I say that I love them all in their own way (even the Lightning trilogy). You see, RPGs gave me something that other video games didn’t: female characters. In any of the Final Fantasy games, you could count on at least one of the three different types of female characters:

Kind-hearted, quiet character: Aeris, Yuna, Rydia
Kickass, kind of mean character: Tifa, Celes, Lightning
Spunky, anime-esque character: Rikku, Selphie, Penelo

Of course, this is a quick over-generalization of the female characters in the series as a whole. Sure, I could lump every female character into one of those three categories and it would seem like Final Fantasy just writes stereotypes, but play any one of these female characters and I doubt you’ll feel that way after. Celes in Final Fantasy VI starts off as cold and untrusting, but by the end of the game, after letting down her guard and then participating in the opera sequence, one of the most beautiful moments in video game history, she’s a changed character. Rikku in Final Fantasy X is loud, bratty, and over-the-top ridiculous, but her character belies a darkness that you only realize halfway through the game. There’s so much more to all of these characters in the Final Fantasy universe, male and female, than meets the eye.

I highlight this long-winded character background because I need to prove that above all else, Final Fantasy is a series that has historically done great things with characters, especially female characters. Which is why I am so utterly disappointed in how female characters were treated in Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.

Kingsglaive is a movie set in the FFXV world, years prior to the start of the events of the game, and focuses on the war between the evil Empire of Niflheim and the good guys in Lucis. It’s meant to set the stage for the story within the game, giving gamers a chance to learn and explore the realm, the wars, and the history before playing. Ultimately, it’s a marketing attempt to get more people interested in FFXV. I don’t mind this move by Square-Enix. In fact, I’ve loved their previous two forays into the movie business: The Spirits Within and Advent Children. However, Kingsglaive is a mess of a film, riddled with confusing dialogue, poor pacing, and lazy writing, but its most offensive crime is its treatment of female characters.

Disclaimer: I am about to discuss major spoilers from Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. If you have yet to see the film and don’t want to be spoiled, step away now.

final fantasy kingsglaive

Final Fantasy is a series that has typically split playable characters 50/50 in terms of gender and background characters are largely divided in a similar fashion. You can usually expect there to be at least three playable female characters and four playable male characters within any Final Fantasy game (outside of X-2). In Final Fantasy XV, there are no main female playable characters, only Luna who is available as a guest.

In the movie, Kingsglaive, there are four female characters. I don’t mean four main female characters. I mean four, total. Their arcs within the film are as follows: the first is killed in the prologue; the second (who gets one speaking line as a member of the King’s court) is also killed; the third is a magic soldier who is quickly stuffed in a refrigerator (killed), and the fourth is Luna. Let me emphasize this statistic in case it isn’t clear: by the end of the movie, three of those four female characters are dead. 

In a series where we’ve seen females take up roles as commanders, soldiers, farmers, villains, summoners, and so many other roles, Kingsglaive ignores that history and is instead absolutely saturated with men. If a character has a name or a speaking role, there’s a 95% chance that character is a male. 

The first two deaths I can grumble and somewhat excuse. The first death is the Queen of Tenebrae, Luna and Ravus’s mother who is killed within the opening five minutes. Her death acts as motive for Ravus’s hatred toward King Regis. It’s refrigerator-lite and irritating in terms of writing a compelling narrative, but okay, fine. The woman on King Regis’s court is killed during an attack, along with all its other members and is the least egregious of all the deaths. 

The third death, however, the death of the orphan mage, Crowe, is absolutely inexcusable.

According to TV Tropes, the “stuffed into the fridge” trope is classified as:

“A character is killed off in a particularly gruesome manner and left to be found just to offend or insult someone, or to cause someone serious anguish. The usual victims are those who matter to the hero, specifically best buddies, love interests, and sidekicks. In some cases, the doomed character may be killed by natural forces or by a character who doesn’t have the intent to cause someone else angst—in this case, the intent comes from the writer, who wants to rouse strong emotions in another character.”

Crowe, like many of the characters in Kingsglaive, is given minimal development, as the film prefers to focus on its animation and action sequences. She’s tasked with a special mission to rescue Princess Luna from the bad Empire Niflheim and bring her back to King Regis. Why she’s chosen, we don’t know. Even main characters Nyx and Libertus are unsure why she was given the mission, but before she leaves, they make sure to remind us heavily that she is like a little sister to the two men. Off she goes on the mission but before she’s able to accomplish anything, she’s found dead on the side of the road. (We’re talking, one minute she’s alive, next sequence she’s dead; no fight, nothing.) Her death subsequently drives a wedge between best friends Nyx and Libertus, thereby spurning both into their separate actions.

The death of Crowe is not only a lazy use of what could have been a great female character, but it also negatively affects the male characters around her. It’s a move that says, “Nothing short of the death of a loved one could motivate these men into action.” The struggle of war, the destruction of their homeland, the threat of their livelihoods isn’t enough to drive them to action, but the death of a woman who they feel is their own is a personal attack by the enemy and they must have vengeance. For a series that has spear-headed so much equality between genders, Crowe’s death negatively affects not only that growth in the series but it’s also an unfair representation of both genders.


Finally, there’s the characterization of the character who ties FFXV and Kingsglaive together: Luna. Of all the character types that Final Fantasy as a series does well, it’s the feminine, soft-spoken ones I adore the most. Yuna, Aeris, and Garnet are some of the strongest characters Final Fantasy has to offer and because of their shared traits, I had high hopes for Luna. However, throughout the film, Luna is nothing more than a prop. It’s hinted at that she’s an oracle of sorts, but we never see any of her abilities. She has one brief moment of agency when she tells King Regis that she doesn’t want to be sent to safety with Noctis and instead wishes to be by the King’s side. After that, she does nothing with her decision. She spends the remainder of the film letting the male characters make decisions for her, letting them (sometimes literally) drag her from one place to the next.

There are flat characters in Kingsglaive. In fact, most them fell flat in my opinion, outside of Libertus and King Regis, but Nyx and Luna’s depictions are by far the most tiresome. Nyx should have been more than a man chasing after revenge for the death of the women in his life (his mother and sister at first, then Crowe) and Luna should have been more than just a symbol in a human’s body.

Many will say that someone like me is predisposed to hating FFXV and its spin-offs because it’s a game focused on four male characters. While I am upset at not having playable female characters, I won’t judge the game based solely on the gender of its characters. I wouldn’t want that done if the roles were reversed (as was the case with X-2). At the end of the day, I won’t deny that I expect better than average when it comes to the storytelling in a Final Fantasy game and I expect good treatment of its characters, especially the female ones. After Kingsglaive, I don’t hold much hope for that coming true in Final Fantasy XV.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is now showing in select theaters around the country and will be available digitally on August 30th. 

Jen Stayrook
Jen Stayrook
Don't let the fancy nerd duds deceive you; Jen’s never been described as “classy.” You can find her on Twitter where she stalks all of her favorite celebrities: @jenstayrook. Or you can find her on Steam or Xbox dying in every game she plays as "Rilna." Email: jen.stayrook@theworkprint.com

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  1. This is a horrible article….. Did you forget that final fantasy x-2 had only 3 playable female characters as the main protagonists? Now here we are in 2016 and Final Fantasy is releasing a game with 4 lead males the exact opposite and this is what you have to say? You put no thought into this article it’s extremely shallow.

    • Did you read the article? I have ZERO issue with a game with all male protagonists. My issue is the poor treatment of characters as a whole, against male and female. Poor writing is bad for both sexes. Also, X-2 still had some pretty great male characters. After Kingsglaive, I don’t have high hopes for XV doing well in the reverse.

      • This is the definition of gender bias… if we replace all the female cheaters with a male character would it have sparked the same response ? Its a movie that is designed to build hype for a game, clearly they created a movie with a set universe and a clear end point. Crowe’s death is sad point, as I would have liked to see more of her character develop but she is killed on a secret mission for the kingdom. I mean really ? Would we be saying the same crap if a guy died the exact same way? Wd wouldn’t be having the convo if a moogle or a chocobo died the same way. Its a damn promo designed to hype game, which explains the limited release. They will do what sells. If this movie gets crap all die hard movies, rambo, rocky, etc etc movies should get a f u award for how they film their movies.

      • Based on plot, if there is anything that will motivate a boy to take revenge is the death of their mother. Sure the death of a father is just as important but a son loves his mother very dearly. As a son myself I can tell you watching a mothers sacrifice is much more dear and a stab in the chest over the other. If anything Kingsglave understands their audience.

      • I absolutely agree with you Jen. I was aghast after seeing the film.
        In one moment Crowe is summoning a firestorm and in the next she is just a cold hand sticking out of some rubble on the side of the road…wtf??

        and Luna. my god. yes she tries to commit suicide several times in the film, jumping out of flying vehicles and like you said, literally letting herself be dragged from place to place.

        in the game she actually restrains the hydrean’s wrath!

        in the film she has zero consequence and is utterly uninteresting and that is a fault.

        especially coming from a developer that has made my favourite female characters of all time regardless of storytelling medium…

        i am shocked. disgusted. sad. bleh…

        allthough i do think the death of queen Sylva is very powerfull.
        it always gives me goosebumps the way she steps into the inferno to shield her son. the opening is in fact very powerfull in my oppinion, but it all goes downhill from there…

        what a waste. but Aranea. she’s nice. i only wish we could learn more about her. her past. and i wish she was playable more. but anyway.

        let’s hope FF XVI is the redeemer 😀

  2. Luna’s mother died doing what a mother does, protecting her child. I thought Crowe died nobly. She died a soldier lost in the line of duty. I agree, Luna’s character is a hell of a mess. We never know what her true ‘destiny’ is even after the movie ended. Probably a deliberate decision by Square Enix for the viewers to know more about her and her mission they have to play the game.
    The real deal here Ms Stayrook, is that all of the characters in Kingsglaive are flat. None had any proper development. The males and the females.
    So for you to pick out the mother of Luna and Ravus, who mind you SACRIFICED herself to PROTECT her son and Crowe who died DOING HER JOB is just flat out unnecessary and disrespectful to the said characters.
    So no, Kingsglaive does not have a ‘woman problem’. Kingsglaive has a ‘character problem’.

    • “There are flat characters in Kingsglaive. In fact, most them fell flat in my opinion, outside of Libertus and King Regis, but Nyx and Luna’s depictions are by far the most tiresome.”

      Phil, I agree with you. This poor characterization affects both genders. As for Luna and Ravus’ mother, OF COURSE she did what any mother would do in that situation. OF COURSE. What bothers me the MOST about that sacrifice is how her death then forces Ravus to be a stereotype. Do you see what I’m saying here? They kill the women and then the male characters are treated like brutes who can ONLY be depicted as vengeful, hateful characters. It hurts both genders.

      • Great contradiction and flimsy argument. You’re upset that Ravus becomes a stereotype because “they kill the women and then the male characters are treated like brutes who can ONLY be depicted as vengeful, hateful characters”, but in the article complain about Nyx because he doesn’t fall into this same mindset. But you are right, the movie does have a female problem, and it’s people like you. You think that there needs to be a forced prominence of female characters in the movie, regardless of the impact. Shoehorning a character in just appease a SI group not only makes for bad work, but also destroys the ability for a creator to create. I’ve played games like FFX-2, Bayonetta, Tomb Raider, Parasite Eve, etc. where the only choice was a female protagonist and not once did it bother me or make me feel like I couldn’t relate to the characters because they were a different gender. I also didn’t get upset and think that it would be so much better if they made these characters male. I’m a minority and I also don’t feel like entertainment needs more Latino characters so I feel like I’m being represented. I’m perfectly fine with leaving a creator to create (as long as it’s not offensive, and this perceiveday, imaginary offense you are taking is in fact, not offensive) and show me what vision they have, what story they want to create, and how they want to depict said story. I don’t feel like I need to have my interests or background forced into a piece of entertainment. You’re complaining about equality but I also don’t see you questioning why there are so few black or Asian characters in the movie. The answer: because equality doesn’t actually matter to you, you just wanted to complain (and even more importantly, the races and genders of the characters don’t actually matter).

        Your issue with the existing female characters is also without merit. First, there are more than 4 females in the movie. Second, if we’re talking speaking roles, 9 of 13 are male, but in a movie centered around the king and the military that makes for a realistic average. Third, Luna and Crowe were developed fairly well (given that the characters were secondary to the plot). Crowe, like many other characters, was given much individual development, but rather was developed as a group with Liber us and Nyx. She was featured prominently and it was obvious that she was strong and skilled, which should have been the obvious reason why she was chosen for the mission. Luna was also shown to be strong, witty, and brave. She threw herself into danger for the sake of the greater good and used wits to beat that soldier. What more are you expecting? You’re not pointing out a problem, you are the problem.

  3. I agree with Phil. Also, did you forget or dismiss that earlier in the movie, all males were in the front line of the assault and only females stayed at the back of the line to conjure a powerful magic summon? It wasn’t to show the females are weak but rather they have strong spiritual power to summon such powerful magic to begin with. Even one of fall and Crowe stayed stronger than ever to accomplish the mission and help Nyx and Libertus whom she deemed as family.

    Luna was also a strong female character in the movie, she puts her duty first despite every else because she had faith to the king and to the future of the world. She knows her role as a support rather than the main front line character and she knows the importance of her aid can bring Noctis strength for whatever perils lies ahead.

    Your article not only did unjustice to the said characters but also bring shame to female characters in general. Only you, yourself sees them as weak and helpless.

  4. Enough of this nonsense. Grow up, not every game has to cater to you. I play games with various lead characters, male or female, black or white, etc. Finally a game comes with just bros and it has to be picked apart by petty people because it’s not enough for them. Guys are allowed to have RPGs too. Final Fantasy X-2, the whole 13 series had all women, guys didn’t bitch they just enjoyed them. Now a game comes with some guys involved and you whine. This is why you won’t be taken seriously. Everything’s about gender with you fools.

  5. ”Kingsglaive is a movie set in the FFXV world, years prior to the start of the events of the game”

    This is when I knew this article is farce.

    If you actually followed FFXV in for it’s story, you would know that Kingsglaive and the start of FFXV is set within the same day. Not ‘years’ prior.

    Get your facts straight woman.

  6. Although I am reluctant to judge FFXV before its release, this article brings up so many important points. Women will not support gaming if they can’t see themselves in it, and we need women to support gaming to keep it from being too male-centric. I sincerely hope the FFXV game can do better than the film in this regard. Thanks for the heads up/writeup Jen.

    • lazy writing, poorly executed, boring. And that’s just this review

      I get you want more out of the female leads but how invested did you really want to get with a movie about a game to be released later…..

      Lazy white feminism is rampant around these parts I see :/ and I’m just here to say it’s boring

      Didn’t even bother to catch any of the other obvious problems with this movie but chose to copy and paste a bio of the movie and then gripe about the lesser problematic parts

      Choose another passion/hobby

      • Jesus, so many manbabies around this part. Your mind melts whenever you see anyone mention the word ‘sexism’ don’t you?

        Get over it, go wank off in your mommy’s basement being a misogynistic asshole then wondering why no woman will touch your fat ass.

        Fact is this movie is trash, its characters are trash and its treatment of female characters is even more laughable than usual.

        But if you get off on shit storytelling and characterization and that makes you a M-M-M-MAN then go for it asswipe.

        • You kiss your mother with that mouth Brandon? You should clean that mouth. You are letting the women win, you should be on our side, the men side.

          [Caution to reader: this is sarcasm in case you are an idiot]

  7. I liked the movie, but totally agree with you. It could have been so much better with character development. Nearly everyone seemed bland and motivation was muddy especially with women. It would have been nice to see why their was only one woman Kingsglaive and what she had to get there. Furthermore if she had to be the one to die first they should have made it clear why..
    From what I understand the game is kind of a road trip / bachelor party. It seems probable that it starts out as a guys only trip at first & then changes when everything goes to hell. We’ll have to wait and see.

  8. Great article. Definitely a lot to think about. When you have a story with few female characters, you have to make sure each one counts. Crow(whos death is so convoluted) and Luna’s mother were only character development points for male characters. A shame. Luna’s unwavering devotion to Noctis is also borderline inhuman, though I think the game could eventually justify that.

    Thank you for writing this. It isnt your fault the gaming community cant handle critques regarding gender.

  9. I don’t remember Aerith being quiet. She was a huge contrat to Tifa’s shyness, she was super outspoken and asked the guy she crushed on on dates. Tifa was also super kind, often seen as the mom friend. I don’t know, some female characters are often perceived as nothing besides their look. Aerith can be seen as a quiet character because she wears a long dress, while Tifa can be seen as “kind of mean” because of the way she dresses, too, so… I don’t know, I know your articles was besides that point, but that really bugged me. I hope you can go back on that game and see who those characters really were. They were supposed to break the stereotype of feminine girl is quiet and tomboyish girl is loud. And as time is passing by and the game’s almost turning 20 years old, it looks like it’s their looks that we remember, and not who they really were.

  10. Aerith was absolutely not quiet and I can’t think of a single time Tifa was mean to the people she cared about. In fact, Aerith was incredibly overconfident to the point of near pushiness, and Tifa was far, far more quiet, especially when it came to her feelings. The entire point of FF7 is taking characters and making you assume one thing about them based off of their design and role, and then completely turning that on its head. Tifa is a monk and dresses like a tomboy, but she’s the most stereotypically feminine, personality wise, out of the three girls. Aerith is a white mage and wears a long, flowing dress, but she constantly pushes for what she wants and doesn’t back down from a challenge. I wouldn’t characterize Rydia as quiet, either, or Celes as “mean”.

  11. I was specifically looking for an article that highlighted the “female problem” of the movie because that was literally my take-away from it all. So thanks for the good read Jen!
    In addition of course to bad characterization throughout, what irked me the most was that a lot of agency and power was taken from its (few!) female characters.
    Crowe, who was shown to be a quite a powerful mage, just gets killed off easily, thereby leaving a huge vacuum for powerful female characters.
    I had hoped Luna would come to fill that gap, but she just got “moved” around the chess board a lot. Sure, she got *some* moments of agency, but nothing truly major.
    And then she got the ring! I couldn’t wait for her to use it, they kept stalling and stalling. She’s of royal blood and of noble heart, so she should be able to wield that power just fine! But then, to my utter disbelief, right when she was about to (finally) put on the ring, Nyx just SNATCHES it out of her hand with the line “besides…didn’t anyone tell you? I’M the hero around here”. 0_0
    It would have been such a great moment of her coming into her own and realizing just how powerful she could be. But noo, of course not. The main male protagonist *has* to be the hero through and through, no room for no dainty lil’ girl.
    Pff, obvious sausage party is obvious.

  12. I can see that male players as usual are perfectly fine with women being ejected from that game , or from the movie . As usual . I’m not , I ‘m so fu*** disapointed I wont buy it , they made it all men to conquer the american public, because studies say that american young men are sexist . The all world has to put up with it . Final fantasy was one of the few games were you coud see women and men work together and accomplish things together (I know , horrible huh) , they are making it the same as every other game in order to please you all , with all your comments , all your stupid hate , intolerance and immaturity .

  13. Couldn’t have formulated a better review of the movie. You addressed everything I noticed watching the movie and thought was badly written / directed / transmitted to the viewer.

    It’s very sad to see men (yet again) hate on an article solely because it’s written by a woman and she pointed out some facts that they didn’t like being pointed out. Sexism is very real but nobody wants to hear that they are, in fact, sexist.

    All I can say is: Good job, Jen! The hateful comments are sexist humans who advocate harrassment of females online and can’t deal with the fact that they’re being exposed — so just ignore them 😉 Cheers!

    • I loved Crow also. But if we want true equality. Can we also talk about the sheer number of males murdered in comparison? I see you didn’t read all the comments also. About how Crowe isn’t the sole female of four. There were female characters throughout, including on the Glaive. The movie had some lazy writing, but was a generic promo movie. It’s odd when women want to shut down a conversation when men bring up valid points when not directly attacking. Yes some of us will be a-hats, but others bring up good points and are shot down, because they have a different opinion.

      Not everyone who disagrees with a woman is a sexist. If a woman disagrees with her is she also a mysandrist? We need differing opinions without people like you calling the valid ones manbabies or sexist. Some do need to be called out for it, but others such as yourself can also be called out for it on the other side.
      I write 90% of my stories about women, weak and strong. But since my opinion is different, I guess i’m sexist.

  14. Crowe is an interesting character, certainly more interesting than Cidney, and her background gives her an interesting contrast with many of the other Glaive’s. The mission she is sent on makes no sense. Why send a mage on a rescue mission, especially one that ends up being pointless?

    I found KingsGlaive’s set-pieces drowned out characterisation, with the last fight being weirdly centres on two characters…and a bunch of CGI giants we feel nothing for.

    FFXV’s focus on male friendship IMHO is interesting, but the lack of engaging female characters to contrast or bounce off that is disappointing. The game is strongest when the four males (who all fit archetypes; Gladiolus is the strong man, Ignis is the nerdy smart guy, Promotion is the comedy relief) are the focus…it falls apart outside of that.

  15. Hey Jen! I just saw this movie this past weekend, and one of my strongest reactions was “did they really just blatantly fridge one of the few female characters, and none of the characters could even tell you why?” My SO and I assumed it was a setup, but there was literally n I searched for “fridge”, found your article, and am very happy that you so very eloquently expressed how I felt about it.

    I gave Luna a tad more credit – as frustrating as I find the placid martyr archetype, she was also a little.. robotically unstoppable. She made two rather reckless jumps that could’ve resulted in her pancaking with no apparent trepidation – I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m glad she wasn’t totally meek.

    Started the game this weekend also – so far enjoying it, only noticed a few female characters however. The majority seem to be in service positioms and all hunters seem to be male so far, which is a little disappointing, but I’m only a couple chapters in so who knows. The only thing I’m really balking at is getting gas from Cindy – she wipes the car down in a way that purposely highlights her chest, and while I was “whatever” about it the first time…. she does it every time and it doesn’t seem to be skippable. I’m not much a fan of her design (really out of place?) or the way the camera treats Cindy (a stellar example of designing for male gaze), but the game still has plenty of time to even out.

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