G-Rated Gender-Bending With Sexy Sheik

by Jennifer Culp

Well excuuu-uuse me, princess, but you aren’t my choice for supreme Ocarina of Time crush. Nor is Link, Ganondorf with his power-hungry ginger villain steez, Ruto with her — uh — somewhat overbearing enthusiasm, or Impa with her (hopefully unused) bike shorts. Not those nutty nekkid Great Fairies, not Malon and her singing voice, not even Darunia and his sexy dance. Not even Nabooru, who I sort of wanted to be. Nope, Z. outdid herself and everyone else with her impenetrably incognito, absolutely in no way whatsoever recognizable disguise as her mysterious male alter ego, Sheik.

I often credit Ocarina of Time as the game that got me into video games. Thinking back, that’s not really true. I played the SNES regularly and sometimes obsessively (Donkey Kong Country, aaah!) throughout my elementary school years, and progressed to Super Mario and GoldenEye (badly, and therefore briefly) on the N64. I enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie so much that I faked strep throat to stay home from school, and spent so much time playing Diddy Kong Racing that I can still pick up that unwieldy controller and dominate all comers purely from muscle memory. (In hindsight, I would have been better served to devote all that practice to Mario Kart, since I still play it semi-regularly with friends today. But it didn’t have planes!) As Final Fantasy VII did for many impressionable young PlayStation users, however, Ocarina was the first game to make me realize that a video game could be more than just a collection of increasingly difficult levels requiring timed button pushes. It had a PLOT! It had allies and enemies, and a big field and a horse, and masks that affected other characters’ perceptions, and TIME TRAVEL! It had a sweeping score and simple, catchy, button-playable tunes that were integral to the action. Did anyone else try about 30 different variations for the Scarecrow’s Song before settling on the version that was just right to impress your friends with your five-note composition skills? Thought so. Ocarina had the most fun fishing game I have ever experienced before or since. Long story short, it’s one of the greatest games ever to have existed, and if you haven’t played it, you should go pick it up for the 3DS right now. Leave work! Go forth! And in addition to all of that, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time gave me my very first video game crush.

I don’t know why Sheik hit me so hard. He (as in the game, I’m going to use male pronouns to refer to Sheik from here on out) didn’t have much in common with his predecessors Raphael the Ninja Turtle, Adam West as Batman, and several soccer playing cuties who played freeze tag with me on the playground during recess. Maybe because his Sheikah get-up was so much better looking than Impa’s? (Not to harp on those bike shorts, but they really did not do it for 12-year-old me.) Maybe because he was so preferable to Kaepora Gaebora and that terrible refrain of, “Do you want to hear what I said again?” Maybe because he was broody and mysterious and turned up in important places and seemed to be way more clued in about everything than Link? He certainly did play some soulful songs on that harp or lyre, whatever that stringed thingy was. Mysterious! I told you! I must have liked being bossed around; I just Googled “Sheik quotes” and found a hella lotta instructions for things I needed to do and places I needed to go in order to further the quest. In any case, I remember that this picture made a positive impression on me:

If I’d had a centerfold pullout of that pic back-to-back with Link and his ocarina, I probably would have put it in my locker.

As I mentioned, Sheik was tooooootally manly, bore not the slightest passing resemblance to any other character in the game, was in no way suspicious whatsoever, and seemed to be exactly how he presented himself (if you were 12 years old and abnormally naïve and oblivious, anyway). Therefore, I was shocked, SHOCKED — almost as shocked as Link — to reach the big reveal in the Temple of Time where I learned that Sheik was really Princess Zelda all along.

Mind = blown. How did you change your eye color, Zelda/Sheik? And why did you not change your eye makeup, too? My mind was more blown to see what a weenie Zelda became after revealing herself. Wearing a dress must really hamper her coordination; where Sheik was tearing all around the kingdom and rescuing Zora princesses before the reveal, Zelda gets imprisoned in a crystal and, after being released, shuffles around pretty ineffectively after changing duds. Girl, throw on that spandex-and-bandages ensemble and start pitching some Deku Nuts! The fate of your kingdom is at stake here! What happened to those ninja skills?!

At game’s end I missed Sheik, but a tiny seed of appreciation for androgyny and drag had taken root in my heart. My crush on Sheik and his reveal as a woman in disguise caused me to begin examining my budding notions about gender and attraction, and while I can’t believe I was too thick to foresee the blindingly obvious plot twist, I look back on my lust for Sheik fondly. Looking at Sheik’s upper arms again (Zelda, that must’ve been magic. Michelle Obama ain’t got nothin’ on ‘em), I feel like a bit of that early crush might always remain with me.

Previously: Garrus.

Jennifer Culp will be dancing to Saria’s Song for the rest of the week.