The Aerith/Cloud/Tifa Love Triangle Debate

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Ship War
ShipWar: Cloud/Aerith vs Cloud/Tifa
Date(s): 1997-present
Location: Hell
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Cloud Strife caught in a tug-of-war between Aerith Gainsborough and Tifa Lockhart. Aerith insults Tifa as a "Disproportionate blow-up Barbie!" Tifa insults Aerith as a "Hippy home-wrecking harlot!"
Love is War (2006) by herms85
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The Love Triangle Debate, often abbreviated as the LTD is a long-running ship war in the Final Fantasy VII fandom between shippers of two different pairings involving: Cloud/Aerith (Clerith) and Cloud/Tifa (CloTi).

History

Final Fantasy VII (1997)

During the party's second visit to the Gold Saucer, through certain actions and dialogue choices, the player triggers a "date" cutscene between Cloud and one of four party members: Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, or Barret. Shippers debate which of the scenarios ought to be considered canon. (Barret's scenario is nigh impossible to trigger without doing so intentionally, and thus many fans were unaware that his date scenario was even possible; in the years since, many fans frustrated by LTD drama will claim that Barret is the "canon" date.)

Rumors circulated that there was a way for the player to trigger flags in the game so that Tifa would die instead of Aeris.[1]

There is debate as to whether Cloud and Tifa had sex beneath the Highwind before their final battle against Sephiroth, and as to whether Cloud’s stated desire to see Aeris again indicates an exclusive commitment to her even transcending death.

Some shippers have engaged in character bashing to attack the opposing ship. For example, some have claimed that, based on her outfit, Tifa is a "slut", and therefore an inferior love interest.[2] Some even erected entire hate shrine sites dedicated to defaming the character belonging to the opposing ship.[3]

Expanded Canon and Alternate Continuities

After the 2005 release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, shippers debated whether Cloud expressed continued desire to reunite with Aerith as lovers in the afterlife, or moved on from Aerith to be with Tifa. Some have speculated that Aerith resumed her relationship with Zack within the Lifestream.

Alternate continuity versions of Aerith, Cloud, and Tifa appear in the Kingdom Hearts series. Cloud/Aerith shippers point to Cloud’s apparent search for Aerith in Kingdom Hearts (2002), and heartfelt conversation between the two in Kingdom Hearts II (2005), as evidence for their side. Cloud/Tifa shippers point to Tifa’s apparent manifestation as “Cloud’s inner light” in Kingdom Hearts II as evidence for their side.

After the 2007 release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, many fan works increasingly featured Zack/Aerith as a complementary pairing to Cloud/Tifa, and vice-versa. A new, smaller Love Triangle Debate gained traction—this iteration concerned with Cloud/Aerith vs Zack/Aerith.

Around this time period, there may have been something of a reconciliation between some Aerith fans and Tifa fans, who put aside their differences to appreciate both characters and their friendship.[3]

Aerith, Cloud, and Tifa appear in the Dissidia Final Fantasy series.

Twenty Years of the LTD, and Beyond

After twenty years of discourse, the LTD is now often referred to in the past tense as a relic of ancient Web 1.0 history. Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020) featured an expanded story with additional character interactions, unifying the Aerith fandom and Tifa fandom in shared enthusiasm for Aerith & Tifa as a friendship and Aerith/Tifa as a romantic couple.

Yet the ancient evil still lurks undying at the margins of the FFVII fan community.

I can't believe we're less than three months away from the release of this long-awaited Remake!! I just can't wait to see the new cutscenes, and I'm especially interested in the new Cloud/Tifa- Cloud/Aerith moments we'll get !
But I already fear the Clerith/CloTi far coming back! =_= The game isn't even out, and I've already seen so much hate on tumblr, Twitter and co... like, they analyse every single moment of the trailers, every look of Cloud at one girl, and they throw "my ship is canon, yours is shit!" at each other's faces ! Can't we just appreciate one of the most interesting love triangle ever ? Cloud loves Aerith, Cloud loves Tifa, and no one can blame him for that, since both these girls are amazing in their own way!
dagga19 on DeviantArt (9 December 2019)
Since quarantine has made me really bored, I decided to jump into the rabbit hole that is twitter. HOLY HELL, why are some of the Tifa and Aerith fans always on each other’s throats?! The insults hurled are just WOW

It’s probably only bound to get worse as the remake is released. Needless to say, I’m sticking to the official FF7R page from now on.

I knew the LTD was bad but this time it seems worse.nmjunction, Bickering between fans, posted to r/FFVIIRemake (23 March 2020)
User Section Banned (Indefinite): Toxic, Bad Faith Discourse.
"The Love Triangle Debate: Another Turn in the Cycle" thread post #1793, The Lifestream forums (25 April 2020)
[u/deleted posted to Discussion [OG+REMAKE SPOILERS] Ship Wars in r/FFVIIRemake (7 June 2020)]

Glad to see the war still going as an original veteran of Cloud/Tifa Haha.

[gucci-legend]

Lmao I've been fighting cleriths in the bowels of [[]]YouTube comment sections for goin on 7 years now but clearly I still got a lot to learn

...

..

.

i have opened Pandora’s box with this thread
shadowqueen15, [OG+REMAKE SPOILERS] Is it just me or does this game favor Tifa? posted to r/FFVIIRemake (28 July 2020)
*Sees another topic about the love triangle debate*

*Puts on hazmat suit*

*Enters comment section*

OP, your inbox is about to blow up. Hope you're ready.commanderswag69 posted in r/FFVIIRemake (15 August 2020)
The so called "love triangle" was a misconception created by fans due to misunderstanding the plot of Final Fantasy 7. It is not real.
Dovetail, Minster of Truth, proceeding to purge this page and others of Clerith and non-CloTi fan content (24 February 2021)
I am so tired.PictoChatCyberBully, writing this article in real time

As of February 2021, the Love Triangle Debate remains alive and unwell.

Reactions to the LTD

The LTD has possibly been the biggest source of wank throughout the existence of the Final Fantasy VII community. While a few fans continue to passionately promote and defend their side to this very day, many have grown exasperated with the decades of fighting. Thus, the generally accepted fan etiquette is to avoid raising the issue of the LTD in most community spaces lest a flamewar spark, much like how one would avoid discussing extreme politics at a casual gathering.

Some fans have expressed dismay that the LTD has pitted Aerith and Tifa against each other as bitter love rivals in fanon, ignoring canon evidence of their friendship.

Some shippers may have turned to alternate ships, such as Aerith Gainsborough/Tifa Lockhart and/or Cloud/Zack, at least in part to subvert or spite the LTD. For this same reason, many of these fans flippantly insist that Barret is Cloud's canon date at the Gold Saucer.

Meta

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

The Case for Cloud/Aerith

The Case for Cloud/Tifa

Third Options and Alternative Perspectives

Communities, Sites, and Points of Interest

Further Reading and Resources

References

  1. ^ kawaiileena. Tifa Getting Killed? posted to Eyes on Final Fantasy on 12 June 2005. (Accessed September 2020).
  2. ^ ardwynna, jukeboxhound, et al. anyone care to give me a history lesson on how ff7 fandom was like back in the day? posted to Tumblr circa December 2016. (Accessed September 2020.)
  3. ^ a b fury-brand, et al. anyone care to give me a history lesson on how ff7 fandom was like back in the day? posted to Tumblr on 14 April 2020. (Accessed September 2020.)