Author Topic: Why is Aeris' death so significant?  (Read 48401 times)

Kudistos Megistos

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Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« on: 2010-09-01 19:47:57 »
Why is Aeris' death so significant?

One of the most common comments one hears from less enlightened critics of FF7 is "all Sephiroth did was kill a flower girl". The critic will usually go on to say that his favourite villain did something far better and that the reaction Aeris' death has received is completely uncalled for. It goes without saying that these people have clearly missed something important, but what, exactly?

Aeris' death is a masterpiece of storytelling. To begin with, let's look at the setup: the timing and location.

Before Aeris dies, she goes missing. Cloud knows where she is and what she is doing. She has gone to the City of the Ancients to pray for Holy, the one thing that can stop Sephiroth. When they get there and see her, the party is naturally relieved. However, a danger immediately presents itself. Cloud is possessed and attacks Aeris with his sword. However, for the first time in the game, he is able to pull himself together and shake off Sephiroth's control. Once this is done, Cloud faces Aeris whilst she prays. The danger is over, it seems. They look into each other's eyes and all is at peace. Then, out of nowhere, disaster strikes. No music is playing at the time, which highlights the sudden violence of the act and the fact that is comes with no warning. The scene changes before the player realises what is going on and the player is left with a sense of helplessness and shock. What just happened? She died so quickly and so unexpectedly? Anyone who has ever lost a person, except maybe when they died after a very long and drawn-out illness, can attest to the stopping power of death. The more quickly and unexpectedly it happens, the greater the stunning effect. The timing is perfect.

It is also no accident that Sephiroth kills Aeris in a holy place whilst she is praying. It many cultures, holy places are places of sanctuary. Killing someone in a place of sanctuary is not only a crime against the murder victim, it is a crime against the gods. There are few crimes worse than killing someone in a sanctuary because it violates the one place in which people should feel safe. This adds to the feeling of helplessness created by the suddenness of her death. If one can not be safe in a place of sanctuary, where can one be safe? If she had been killed in a random town or on the world map, the effect would not have been the same, in much the same way that being attacked in an unfamiliar place tends to have less of an affect on people than being attacked in their homes. Sephiroth shows that he has no respect for any laws and is willing and able to kill anyone at any time and in any place.

In fact, it is even worse than this. She was not only in a sanctuary and praying, but she was praying for the one things that could save the world. The only hope the world has seems to be shattered at that point. Sephiroth has seen her in the middle of the only plan for victory, something Aeris' may have spent year preparing for, and has ruthlessly destroyed that hope with an overwhelming display of shock and awe. This adds even more to the helplessness. There was one plan, one thing that could stop him, and he took seconds to foil it.

We should also look at how this affects Cloud. He has been at the mercy of Sephiroth for years, and mercy is something Sephiroth lacks. It seems to be yet another item in a long line of crimes against Cloud that Sephiroth has committed. Cloud must be wondering why Sephiroth has such a grudge against him. Sephiroth burnt down Cloud's hometown, breaking all his link to the past and killing his mother. Sephiroth had used Cloud as a puppet and was already making him doubt who he was and whether he was in control of his actions. One wonders whether it was simply out of sadism that Sephiroth allowed AVALANCHE to get the black materia instead of sending a flunky to solve the puzzles for him. Perhaps Sephiroth got some joy from letting Cloud think he was saving the world and then forcing him to hand it over, leading him to think instead that he doomed the world.

This must be the greatest crime against Cloud that Sephiroth commits. As we have seen, his timing is brilliant. He lets Cloud think that everything is OK and that he has finally overcome Sephiroth's control. Then, WHAM! In an instant, Cloud's world is torn apart and for the second time, the most important person in his life is killed by Sephiroth.

Let's also look at the significance of Aeris' character. Had any of the characters been murdered in the City of the Ancients, it would have hit the player hard. But Aeris has a special significance.

Firstly, her personality is bright and cheerful, and she is innocent and well-meaning. Although she knows how to defend herself, Aeris is likely to be the character the player feels most protective towards. It is no surprise that in visual novels, the cute, kind and innocent girl who does her best to make everyone happy will nearly always be the perpetrator or the victim of some horrible crime. Usually both. We feel especially violated when these characters are involved in violence because of our image of them. Aeris was not only killed in a sanctuary; she *was* a sanctuary. Aeris is the antithesis of pain, violence and death, so it is all the more shocking when she is killed.

However, that is not the most important thing about her character that one must note. The most important thing is her role in the wider world of FF7.

Firstly, she is the last of her kind. This means that Sephiroth not only commits murder; he commits genocide. He has finished off the last Cetra in existence.

Secondly, Aeris, as a Cetra, has a unique effect on the world of FF7. FF7 has an environmental message, and it is made clear by many characters, both good and bad, that humans are bad for the planet. They suck out its life to use as energy and they were the ones seen by Sephiroth as responsible for the near extermination of the Cetra 2000 years ago.

Aeris is the opposite of this. I couldn't help but notice just how much of a contrast there was between where Aeris lived and the rest of Midgar. Midgar is the ultimate example of the harm that humans are doing to the planet. There are only two places in Midgar where flowers grow and only two places in the slums where one sees sunlight: Aeris' house and the church in sector 5. If one runs around in the sector 5 slums, one will be conscious of the massive change in atmosphere when one goes from the seedy, dead, brown cityscape of the rest of the slum and into Aeris house. The change is huge. Aeris seems to be the one thing that can make flowers grow in the slums and, as we have seen earlier, offers respite from the gloom of day-to-day life in Midgar. Her job as flower girl is interesting because only she can be a flower girl. Without Aeris, I cannot see the flowers blooming for much longer in Midgar.

Aeris, then represents hope and life within the FF7 world. Where everything else is dangerous, she is safe. Where everywhere else is brown and dead, her places are green and blooming. As long as Aeris is around, flowers can grow in the most depressing place in the world, and hope can not die.

Therefore, Sephiroth not only killed the planet's hope by stopping her from summoning Holy, he killed it by killing its human form. He killed the one thing that made everything better. He put out the one light in a world of darkness.

Let's see Kefka top that.

Questions? Comments? inb4 "hurr, emo"

Covarr

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #1 on: 2010-09-01 20:15:19 »
Also, she's hot.

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #2 on: 2010-09-01 20:20:52 »
Very well worded, and I agree wholeheartedly.

Aali

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #3 on: 2010-09-01 20:32:47 »
her places are green and blooming

Atleast we can all agree on that.

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #4 on: 2010-09-01 20:33:50 »
her places are green and blooming

Atleast we can all agree on that.

Not as much as Tifa's places, unfortunately.

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #5 on: 2010-09-01 20:36:50 »
Still talking places they live, or places on their bodies? Hehe, if the latter, I'd personally go for Tifa, the overly innocent ones just aren't my type.

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #6 on: 2010-09-01 20:40:01 »
We've moved onto the latter.

Also, is it me, or is Aeris the only character whose design improved from FF7 to AC and CC? She was hot in CC and I wanted to do disgusting and disturbing things to her and have her do equally disgusting and disturbing things to me.

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #7 on: 2010-09-01 20:49:07 »
Tiffa looked good in AC too, though they didn't make her quite as "busty" in AC, it made her a bit more proportioned to me. I'd take them both on for some fun, at the same time ;)

nikfrozty

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #8 on: 2010-09-01 22:27:52 »
We've moved onto the latter.

Also, is it me, or is Aeris the only character whose design improved from FF7 to AC and CC? She was hot in CC and I wanted to do disgusting and disturbing things to her and have her do equally disgusting and disturbing things to me.
Is the cowgirl Tifa included? I like her design in CC when it looked high res than the original game. :)

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #9 on: 2010-09-01 22:51:28 »
Such a pedo! She was underage! Haha

Edit:
Quote from: Final Fantasy 7 Manual
Tifa Lockheart
Job:      Bar Hostess, AVALANCE member
Age:      20
Weapon:   Glove
Height:      5’4”
Birthdate:   May 3
Birthplace:   Nibelheim
Blood Type:   B
Bright and optimistic, Tifa always cheers up the others when they’re down.  But don’t let her looks fool you, she can decimate almost any enemy with her fists.  She is one of the main members of AVALANCHE.  She and Cloud were childhood friends, and although she has strong feelings for him, she would never admit it. 
CC took place five years previous so she would have been 15, just proving my point.
Edit Edit: That was just a joke, I notice from your profile you're 16, so right in your age bracket :P
« Last Edit: 2010-09-01 23:06:03 by Senti »

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #10 on: 2010-09-01 23:14:37 »
Hey, liking 15-year-olds isn't paedophilia, it's ephebophilia! It's an important distinction! ;D

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #11 on: 2010-09-01 23:15:26 »
No, epedophelia is like the animated pixels of 15 year old girls :P

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #12 on: 2010-09-01 23:17:01 »
Does anyone find it ironic that I started a serious thread and someone else turned it into a discussion about paedophilia? Usually it's the other way around ;D

battlemage210

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #13 on: 2010-09-01 23:33:41 »
Anyway... back to the topic... Had Sepiroth not killed Aeris, could she have in fact summoned Holy, or was it Sepiroth's killing of Aeris that was the lynch pin for allowing his own defeat?

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #14 on: 2010-09-01 23:52:14 »
Holy was summoned, but was being blocked by the original Sephiroth, the "Sephiroth" that killed Aeris was one of his lackey puppets. What did him in was underestimating how far Cloud and company would grow in power before the final showdown, if he was truly smart he would have finished them off with the puppet himself on the ship between Junon and Costa Del Sol.

battlemage210

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #15 on: 2010-09-01 23:56:27 »
Holy was summoned, but was being blocked by the original Sephiroth, the "Sephiroth" that killed Aeris was one of his lackey puppets. What did him in was underestimating how far Cloud and company would grow in power before the final showdown, if he was truly smart he would have finished them off with the puppet himself on the ship between Junon and Costa Del Sol.

indeed, but that would make for a lousy game. :P

Miseru

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #16 on: 2010-09-01 23:57:40 »
 After reading it all, concerning topic not pedo-offtop I say you must be a critic of any kind as the story was quite simple, events were simple too, yet you describe it with all hi words. It's like talking a few hours about wine taste after spitting it out, instead of finishing the bottle without wasting a drop. Soo it's considered as all high and civilized, yet it's fairly useless and no fun:P.

 Maybe I'm somewhat simple minded in opposite to being named artist, but from perspective of someone who sometimes create stuff for others I feel like buying a game in which you shoot to pro critics, as they take somebody's work and rip it all from fun trying to make it monumental adding deeper meanings to every part of it. Playing the game after over 10 years from it's release is enough as a quality mark.=]

As far as I like FFVII and characters designed for the story my answer for the topic is short - "it isn't". Aerith death was just a turn point in the story it could be anything else really, a shock in the moment game started to be repetative. Something like that was often used in plays, movies, manga/animes even some games it just happen to be first in a game that widely succeded on western market. Game is good, but trully Aerith death in it is overpriced. It rather show more bad and low things than hi and symbolic. I mean that it clearly shows that (mainly)western teens are soo far from true life, that they can fall in love with highly unrealistic game character and burn with anger through tears when she dies. Also Aerith was clearly shown smiling when she was dying, most likely like somebody wrote already, she knew she must die to summon holy, ancients had different ways of looking at life and the world, surely they weren't soo materialistic in all the meaning of it. Killing Aerith surely made an enemy for life from Cloud and eventually player in love in her, but it had not much to do with actuall thoughts about Seph. Sephiroth despise all life, more to say all human life, somewhat like that asian guy that got shoot today in Discovery studio. Even while living like one of humans for most of his life with the moment he turned his mind against all humanity, all humanity taken him as enemy. Nothing much more about that. Humans slowly destroy everything that's against their ways, kill those that want to stop them completely.

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #17 on: 2010-09-02 00:03:18 »
After reading it all, concerning topic not pedo-offtop I say you must be a critic of any kind as the story was quite simple, events were simple too, yet you describe it with all hi words. It's like talking a few hours about wine taste after spitting it out, instead of finishing the bottle without wasting a drop. Soo it's considered as all high and civilized, yet it's fairly useless and no fun:P.

 Maybe I'm somewhat simple minded in opposite to being named artist, but from perspective of someone who sometimes create stuff for others I feel like buying a game in which you shoot to pro critics, as they take somebody's work and rip it all from fun trying to make it monumental adding deeper meanings to every part of it. Playing the game after over 10 years from it's release is enough as a quality mark.=]

As far as I like FFVII and characters designed for the story my answer for the topic is short - "it isn't". Aerith death was just a turn point in the story it could be anything else really, a shock in the moment game started to be repetative. Something like that was often used in plays, movies, manga/animes even some games it just happen to be first in a game that widely succeded on western market. Game is good, but trully Aerith death in it is overpriced. It rather show more bad and low things than hi and symbolic. I mean that it clearly shows that (mainly)western teens are soo far from true life, that they can fall in love with highly unrealistic game character and burn with anger through tears when she dies. Also Aerith was clearly shown smiling when she was dying, most likely like somebody wrote already, she knew she must die to summon holy, ancients had different ways of looking at life and the world, surely they weren't soo materialistic in all the meaning of it. Killing Aerith surely made an enemy for life from Cloud and eventually player in love in her, but it had not much to do with actuall thoughts about Seph. Sephiroth despise all life, more to say all human life, somewhat like that asian guy that got shoot today in Discovery studio. Even while living like one of humans for most of his life with the moment he turned his mind against all humanity, all humanity taken him as enemy. Nothing much more about that. Humans slowly destroy everything that's against their ways, kill those that want to stop them completely.

NO U! 8)

Senti

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #18 on: 2010-09-02 00:43:40 »
Oh, I love the game, and what I'm talking about is based on a third person perspective using hind sight as I've beaten the game more times then I can count and have almost memorized everything in the game, but it's still fun to play for me and is a lot like watching a favorite movie again and again when you already have it memorized word for word, scene for scene (I'm guilty of that as well).

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #19 on: 2010-09-03 10:02:03 »
Oh, I love the game, and what I'm talking about is based on a third person perspective using hind sight as I've beaten the game more times then I can count and have almost memorized everything in the game, but it's still fun to play for me and is a lot like watching a favorite movie again and again when you already have it memorized word for word, scene for scene (I'm guilty of that as well).

FF7 would have been better if it'd had several "routes" like a VN.

The Seer of Shadows

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #20 on: 2010-09-03 12:03:14 »
Having read the OP (took a long time >:( at least it was intelligent)...

You've convinced me that there was some thought put into her character, the fact that the character dies, with a specific timing and location.  Thinking about it that way, there was a special impact to her being killed in the Forgotten Capitol, in a very... tranquil scene, I want to say.  (No music, quiet sound effects... and then the sick fact that you have Aerith's joyful theme playing throughout the moments that follow.  That, in particular, defined the "pathos" of the scene.)

To me, it would've been more obvious to make Cloud kill her at the Northern Crater after giving Sephiroth the Black Materia, but even that wouldn't have been dramatic enough.  The way they did it was nearly perfect.

However, the stereotypical Sephiroth-haters (the ones that say, "He killed a flower girl, Kefka killed Cyan's family, hurr durr!") would never come to truly appreciate what the scene is about.  I mean, no one really cared when Cyan's family died.  No one really cared about anyone Kefka successfully killed.  Please catch me out if I'm wrong there.

Kefka is just about global disaster - if we really cared about that, we'd actually try to stop global warming :P No, for us to really react, we need an emotional attachment to whatever's destroyed, and the Aerith-killing scene played on that very effectively.

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #21 on: 2010-09-03 12:11:52 »
However, the stereotypical Sephiroth-haters (the ones that say, "He killed a flower girl, Kefka killed Cyan's family, hurr durr!") would never come to truly appreciate what the scene is about.  I mean, no one really cared when Cyan's family died.  No one really cared about anyone Kefka successfully killed.  Please catch me out if I'm wrong there.

Kefka is just about global disaster - if we really cared about that, we'd actually try to stop global warming :P No, for us to really react, we need an emotional attachment to whatever's destroyed, and the Aerith-killing scene played on that very effectively.

Yes, this is what they don't understand. You can't judge the villainousness of a deed by just looking at the number of people someone kills; that's childish. If someone kills one person that you care about, you'll hate them more than someone who drops a nuclear bomb on a city half way across the world, and a villain killing one person in a profoundly significant way is more effective than a villain killing a million nobodies.

I think this illustrates the general transition between FF6 and FF7. The latter took much from the former, but everything was so much more refined and mature. Somewhere between 1994 and 1997, Squaresoft's writers grew up. Sadly, more mature storytelling is much easier to misunderstand.

DLPB_

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #22 on: 2010-09-03 13:58:15 »
Because it was well written story and we actually gave a shit.  because the direction, the story, the music all came together. 

That's why.  Cut out the baloney :)

The Seer of Shadows

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #23 on: 2010-09-03 14:07:17 »
Very succinct :)

From a graphical perspective, it also helps that FF7 was in 3D.  If it were made in a similar style to FF6, Aerith's death would've been much less dramatic.

The significance of the moment wouldn't even be obtainable with 2D sprites.  The more moving moments in earlier Final Fantasy games were due to effective dialogue.  The Aerith Death Scene takes a very different approach.

Kudistos Megistos

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Re: Why is Aeris' death so significant?
« Reply #24 on: 2010-09-03 14:21:09 »
Because it was well written story and we actually gave a sh*t.  because the direction, the story, the music all came together. 

That's why.  Cut out the baloney :)

Pfft, Northerners ::)

Very succinct :)

From a graphical perspective, it also helps that FF7 was in 3D.  If it were made in a similar style to FF6, Aerith's death would've been much less dramatic.

The significance of the moment wouldn't even be obtainable with 2D sprites.  The more moving moments in earlier Final Fantasy games were due to effective dialogue.  The Aerith Death Scene takes a very different approach.

You'd be surprised what you can do with meagre resources. I doubt there'd have been a huge difference. Only a small part of what made it dramatic was the visual setup, anyway.