In honor of Princess week, Ashley and Jennifer will be debating the merits of various princesses. They decided to begin with a pair they appear to know nearly nothing about.
Jennifer: All I remember about Princess Toadstool is a graphic of her riding Yoshi out of a castle. On that basis alone – princess dinosaur riding – she is my favorite.
Ashley: Do we both have the wikis open of the respective characters we’re arguing? Should I get Princess Peach? I at least played Mario. Like, a lot. I played Mario Kart all the time and sometimes played Yoshi, which is like being Peach, if you think about it.
Jennifer: No! No, I’m ready. I have a t-shirt with Yoshi on it. And I see from my wiki that Princess Toadstool, who is originally named Toadstool, also fights with elegant high kicks. And can float in her enormous pink dress and an umbrella. Sometimes. How can some maniacal elf beat that sort of ladylike menace? I don’t want to argue the loser side.
Ashley: You wear a Yoshi shirt woven in lies.
Jennifer: On the shirt, Mario rides Yoshi. It’s a metaphor about imperialism.
Jennifer: So. Your little elf friend. Go. Mount a defense the way plumbers mount dinosaurs. You know, in the old days.
Ashley: Look, I never played Zelda. I was a Genesis kid and my neighbor had the SNES, and later the N64, and I went over there to play all the Nintendo games like Mario. I have never played Zelda in my life. Can I argue in favor of Princess Ecco the Dolphin? Or Princess Sonic the Hedgehog?
Jennifer: THOSE AREN’T REAL PRINCESSES.
Ashley: Fine. Princess Zelda is the crown princess of Hyrule and was named after Zelda Fitzgerald. Fuck you.
Jennifer: OH, I SEE YOU PULLED OUT THE DINOSAUR GUN.
Ashley: I did. F. Scott. Lineage. Zelda has it. Won.
Jennifer: It’s really hard for me to argue against F. Scott and a great lineage in any context, and you know that.
Ashley: You fucking love dynasties.
Jennifer: I know! But, I think, if there’s a more emotionally evolved Daisy Buchanan prototype to be found in the world of video games, it is Princess Toadstool with her delicate slaps to her enemies. And she has a fascinating lineage. Her grandmother was a toad!
Ashley: That is a really good point.
Jennifer: Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t it fascinating the way she’s absorbed human characteristics? Do you think she and Yoshi talked about that? Because he’s a dinosaur, which are a lot like toads? Bird-toads?
Ashley: Do you think she and Yoshi ever had sex because her heritage implicitly condoned it?
Jennifer: But I didn’t want to say so, because it was crass.
Ashley: That’s what I am here for.
Jennifer: Please argue something in favor of princess Zelda that is comparable.
Ashley: Okay, my understanding is there are many incarnations of Zelda over the course of the Zelda franchise, so she’s versatile, which is cool. She’s also named after F Scott’s emotionally unhinged wife, which is super cool. And her lineage is bestiality free! Unless those pointed ears indicate something darker.
Jennifer: I think it is almost certain that they do. But wasn’t Princess Toadstool an interesting throwback to traditional female roles, while still desperately trying to break free? I mean, Toadstool – and I will call her that because I think this whole “Princess Peach” business is just a shameful attempt to cover up her heritage – looked exactly like a traditionally helpless princess. But she was in the process of developing new powers and asserting some sort of independence. She couldn’t breath fire, but she was finding out what powers she did have. Elegant high kicks, for instance. Slapping people while wearing opera gloves. And in that way she was a metaphor for the late 80s. Zelda is a fantasy. Princess Toadstool is so many women during that period.
Ashley: I feel like you just cut and pasted random sentences from the wiki and then tinted them with crazy. Zelda is a kind and benevolent ruler. I just learned.
Jennifer: Wait – think about it. The typical 1980’s woman probably grew up with certain ideas about a feminine role. But it was an age where new opportunities were open to her and she was discovering that she could do things she never expected, even if she was wearing a big pink dress. Inner strength, maybe that’s what she was realizing. An inner strength that might have even been surprising to her. I see the real life Princess Toadstool as a woman who always believed she’d marry and become a housewife, who entered the corporate world in the 80’s as kind of a lark after graduating from Vassar and realized she LOVED working. The way Princess Toadstool extends a high kick, tentatively in early versions, and then with increasing power as the Mario games evolved. Isn’t that exciting? What an age!
Ashley: Um. What about… “Zelda is known to be a forgiving person even towards those who have harmed her before, as seen in Spirit Tracks, where she asks Anjean to take care of Byrne even though he was the one who stole her body.” Is Princess Peach capable of that kind of compassion or does she wear a hollow crown, embellished with dinosaur riding and pink dresses to distract and compel her beleaguered subjects? Does she even do any ruling? No. She is a figurehead. A puppet.
Jennifer: Toadstool is learning to slap! That crown may be hollow, but it’s hollow because of all the potential she needs room to develop! Isn’t a character in the process of transformation and growth like Toadstool – which is her true name, not her shameful grandmother-denying-name, the name that makes Yoshi feel they can never be together – something that speaks to all of us, though? I mean, she’s only recently learned to show her feelings in Super Princess Peach. In that game, she has emotions that each bring their own powers, like joy, and sadness, and anger. Don’t we all? Aren’t we all like that? Growing into ourselves and discovering the worth and uses for all our many feelings?
Ashley: Can this be a stalemate yet?
Jennifer: NO. YOU HAVE MOUNTED A POOR DEFENSE. ANGER POWER!