Link looking dangerously hot in official artwork for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I Really Need Link To Stay Androgynous and Not Talk in the Live-Action ‘Legend of Zelda’ Movie

When Nintendo, via Mario and Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto, announced last night that a live-action Legend of Zelda film is in development, I cycled through several whirlwinds of emotions. And not because I was literally staring at a piece of music I wrote and very cheekily named “Zelda Is the BOY!” at the time the news broke (comin’ at you in the next one-to-two years).

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First, there was excitement: They’re making a Zelda movie! Right after the One Piece live-action series was actually quite good! Then, there was disappointment: Wait, it’s not animated? All our dreams of a Ghibli-like Zelda project are out the window? And finally, multiple layers of fear and anxiety: Avi Arad? The Marvel guy? And who the actual hell is Wes Ball? (Turns out, The Maze Runner was a freaking trilogy of films that, seemingly, no Zelda fans on my social media feed even realized existed.)

But when the immediate shockwaves began to settle, I realized what the biggest and most nerve-wracking concern of all is: How will the film will portray Link? Because I’m not merely concerned about how they’ll treat his dialogue. As The Mary Sue‘s resident Link Thirst Correspondent (TM), I’m also incredibly concerned at the prospect of Link turning into a stereotypical American male action hero—i.e., making my androgynous king hyper-masculine, even macho.

A rich history of how not to portray Link

There has been one previous foray into translating The Legend of Zelda into narrative media: 1989’s infamously bad The Legend of Zelda cartoon, which premiered as a segment of the Super Mario Super Show! Arguably the defining reason the show was ill-advised is that Link was not only hyper-talkative, but also exudes a very weird, juvenile concept of manliness. He hits on Zelda all the time, and it’s almost always very forced. In short, he’s icky. Zelda looks like a badass and saint for putting up with him, but he feels like a bizarre perversion of even the few pixelated Links which had existed until that time.

The 1989 Zelda is tangential evidence of an unexpected slippery slope of “when Link is talkative, he is also annoying and a creep.” Surely, though, that’s not a casual relationship, right? Surely everyone learned from the mistakes of the ‘89 cartoon, right? No. No, they did not. Let me show you the cutscenes for the infamously horrendous Legend of Zelda games for the Philips CD-i, which came out years later, in 1993 and 1994. It takes all of 30 seconds for Link to lean in close to a clearly uninterested Zelda and ask, winking, “How about a kiss? For luck?”

Nintendo has actively tried to help everyone forget that these games ever happened. And, to be fair, most Legend of Zelda fans also desperately want to forget. It’s incredibly bizarre, though, that the only two examples we have of talking Link in time-based media portray him as an obnoxious brat who over-shares. For whatever reason, the two Western-produced talking Links both leaned heavily on the laziest American male stereotypes of their time. Will Arad’s live-action Zelda film do the same?

Can a talking Link work?

None of this is to say there are no examples of a good talking Link. Akira Himekawa’s Legend of Zelda manga adaptations all feature talking Links. Fans generally consider this to be a good portrayal of the character, and for Link’s dialogue to be well-written. So a likable talking Link talking in the “on-screen action” is far from impossible.

More to the point, Link clearly talks during the games. We see him explain situations to the people he meets on his journeys. But it’s also clear, at least for Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom‘s Link, that he’s a quiet guy. (Slight spoilers for Tears.) In the post-credits scene for Tears (spoilers in the video below), the Sages all state a pledge together—during which Link is very animated and clearly dedicated to the bit, but he’s obviously not verbally stating the pledge.

You come to understand Link as the kind of person who doesn’t talk unless he really has to. He’s understated and quiet. He prefers to communicate with his actions, and his actions speak volumes. So perhaps it’s not that a movie Link is completely silent, but a man of few words would work nicely. After all, this BotW / TotK version of Link is now the most well-known iteration of the character. Going in the complete opposite direction, like the 1989 cartoon and the Philips games, to make Link a chatterbox is way past the ideal point.

Sexy and androgynous, please

The disconnect between the now-popular Breath of the Wild / Tears of the Kingdom Link and the 1989 cartoon and Philips versions goes a step beyond Link’s level of loquaciousness. Because, as I mentioned previously, the cartoon and Philips games seemed to associate that talkativeness with a very time-stamped version of manliness.

This is my other major concern for what may become of Link in the live-action film. The BotW and TotK Link is an icon in trans and nonbinary communities. Producer Eiji Aonuma purposefully designed BotW‘s Link to be androgynous. Aonuma does see Link as male, but as he told TIME magazine, “If you saw Link as a guy, he’d have more of a feminine touch. Or vice versa, if you related to Link as a girl, it was with more of a masculine aspect. I really wanted the design to encompass more of a gender-neutral figure.” 

Of course, other versions of Link—like the one in Twilight Princess—were designed to be more masculine. But whether Nintendo likes it or not, the wild success of BotW and TotK has made sexy androgynous Link the definitive version of the character, at least in the moment that they’re creating this film. My main concern is that Link will be morphed into the current stereotypical version of an American action hero—macho, gruff, lookin’ for a kiss.

What’s difficult about this is that, if I try to think of an example from American live-action media of what I’d like to see Link look like, I come up short. That character exists in animation—like an older Steven Universe, kind of?—but not so much in live action. Which means the character will have to be really well-thought out and innovative. Which … worries me.

But maybe it’ll be fine. Or at the very least, like the Super Mario Bros. Movie, inoffensive. Maybe?

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.