Recognition Matters: Why Linkle Is Still Important & Valid
I’m happy right now. In my first article for FemHype, I nerded out about how awesome having a girl Link would be, and as of November 12th’s Nintendo Direct, we know that she’s gonna be in Hyrule Warriors Legends … sort of. Linkle is officially recognized as a separate character, existing alongside the original Link. In fact, some criticize the inclusion of Linkle as an example of the terribly named “Ms. Male Character” trope and not the actual spirit of the hero reborn as a girl. For the unfamiliar, according to Zelda lore, Link isn’t always assumed to be the same exact character from game to game, but different incarnations of the hero.
It’s pretty obvious that Linkle is meant to be girl Link in the real-world context the game exists in, not to mention the Timey Wimey plot of Hyrule Warriors would certainly make the simultaneous existence of multiple Links possible. Young Link is already in the Hyrule Warriors DLC, and Toon Link is joining the party along with Linkle in Hyrule Warriors Legends.
I admit, I wish Linkle had been called Link, since it would fit in super nicely with my personal interpretation of Zelda’s main character, but overall, my response to that criticism is a shrug. Right now, I want to focus on the positives. A few months ago, we didn’t have Linkle except in the form of concept art for a character dropped from the original Hyrule Warriors, and we didn’t have Link wearing the Legendary Dress and Cheer Outfit in Triforce Heroes. I couldn’t have imagined we’d be this close to actually canonical girl Link this soon, so I’m celebrating.
In the midst of my celebration, though, I was reminded of another reason Linkle is not canon girl Link: Hyrule Warriors is not considered to be canon, but the distinction of a licensed Nintendo game that takes place within the Zelda timeline. A licensed Nintendo game that doesn’t hardly seems significant to me. Hyrule Warriors isn’t one of the CD-i Zelda games released on an obscure system without any input from Nintendo—it is a well-established and soon-to-be its own spin-off franchise. If Hyrule Warriors is not a part of Zelda canon, it is certainly part of the wider Nintendo canon along with Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8.
Also, canon doesn’t matter. Recognition does. A couple months ago when The Mary Sue released this article about Samus Aran from Metroid being trans, much of the conversation involved nerds coming to defend canon, and why, according to that, Samus was canonically a cisgender girl. Don’t do things like that. If you see any marginalized group interpreting a character as a representation of themselves—even if they’re using canon to support their interpretation—don’t try to argue against it.
I think everyone has a good idea that the higher ups at Nintendo probably don’t mean for Samus to be a trans character, just like they still use masculine pronouns for every incarnation of Link so far. But as I’ve said before, these interpretations are important to us, and arguing them away just makes you out to be a schoolyard bully trying to take away the other kids’ toys.
There are already examples of minor and supporting characters from the Nintendoverse being trans, but Nintendo’s handling of such characters is less than stellar. In the original translation of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, the game makes transphobic jokes at trans character Vivian’s expense, and in the American release, her trans status is completely erased. Similarly, a mini-boss in Super Mario Bros 2 was described as a trans woman in the original instruction booklet, but in an ignorant, offensive way. Nintendo’s way of dealing with this was erasing her status as a trans girl altogether, presenting her as a cis girl, and calling her “Birdo” despite the previously mentioned instruction booklet stating her preference for “Birdetta.”
I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s interpretation of these characters in the name of canon by bringing these things up. As far as I’m concerned, canon and headcanon are equally valid. Canon only has value in these scenarios as a way for Nintendo (or your corporation or creative team of choice) to acknowledge the audience. In the instances of Vivian and Birdetta, the canon is there, but not the positive recognition we need.
This is why it would still be important for Nintendo to announce that a major character like Samus or Link is canonically trans. Simply, it would provide recognition—acknowledgement of a group of fans that need that acknowledgement because they’ve been experiencing a shortage not just from Nintendo, but from all games and media. I also realize it was recently revealed that the toads from Super Mario are agender. I don’t feel comfortable commenting on whether it was done in a positive way or not since I’m not agender, but I wanted to mention it.
Basically, canon can be important. Just don’t be a fundamentalist about it. Hyrule Warriors Legends releases on March 25th in North America, bringing us one step closer to canon trans girl Link, even if she’s not here yet. I’ve got hopes for Zelda U, though.