Societal Subtext

"They don't want their failure publicized. Better they lose us then their pride."

This is more game-related, rather than Lightning-related, but I want to speculate on the sociological and political influences from real life that may have contributed to the events of the ingame world. Humans are affected by the events in their environment, which in turn can turn up in their creations.

The FFX Shoutout

Despite its colorful and playful exterior, Final Fantasy X is notable for delving into the realm of religious problems. I have tremendous respect for the game because how it was able to discuss problems with organized religion in the context of human emotions and relations. I think FF13 touches on a lot of subjects that FF10 explored deeply.

FFX showed characters who had a variety of attitudes toward religion. Tidus viewed the religion as an outsider, and thus, could not comprehend why citizens are so content with the idea of self-sacrifice. People like Yuna and Wakka grew up following Yevon, so they believe wholeheartedly, as that was all they had known before the game. And then there's Yunalesca, who is very similar to the fal'cie in beliefs. She recognizes the futility behind the system, but encourages ignorance because the masses need something, anything to believe in. It's a very pessimistic ideology.

The cities of Bevelle (FFX) and Eden (FFXIII) have similar functions, and I believe the latter was inspired by the former. Bevelle is the holy city of the Yevon Church, it is a place of political and symbolic power. Yet Bevelle's interior reveals dungeons full of machina, something prohibited by the church. This demonstrates the corruption that can occur in places of high authority.

For more on this, I recommend reading an excellent article called "How FFX killed a God and is after Santa Claus now" at Girl Gamers Suck.

Religion & Mythology

First of all, there are the glaringly obvious Christian motifs. Japanese designers often use Christian symbolism because Shinto and Buddhism are the main religions in Japans. Thus, designers can utilize old Christian motifs the same way they do Norse or Greek mythology, as ancient folklore, without fear of offending their general public. The names of Sanctum enemy units include ArchAngel, Inquisitrix, Seraph, Templar, and Sacrifice. Galenth Dysley, the sovereign of the Sanctum, is dressed like a foppish Pope (Look at him, you know it's true). There's also the big mythological focus on the concepts of apocalypse, reuniting with a creator deity, sacrifice, martyrdom, and salvation, most noticeably brought up by the fal'cie in the game.

Eden, like Bevelle, is a holy, governing city with a dark secret. Sanctum, the governing body basically preaches against the horrors of Pulse, yet within their capital city is a Pulse Ark - an armory and training ground filled with beasts from the damned planet. Furthermore, all the monsters you fight sent by Sanctum are actually beasts from Pulse that have been mutilated, domesticated, and combined with Cocoon technology. In other words, it's hypocrisy.

This is a world where fal'cie are seen as gods, society is governed by fal'cie supporters, and Pulse takes the position as "the other", a Hellish dark side for people to easily fit with simplified good/bad systems. If you're on Pulse, it's actually Cocoon that is seen as Hell, interestingly enough. Cocoon is a revealing name, as the floating moon shields people from dangerous monsters, but in turn, they become zealous sheep. As with followers many large, organized religions in real life, the people of the game can (and many do) choose to believe in something that gives them great comfort, but the price of this security is the ignorance they hold by turning a blind eye to the natural flaws of the system.

Political Tactics

Sanctum, like most efficient but morally-questionable governments, makes heavy use of propaganda. Propaganda, most simply defined, is communication towards a community with the intention to sway their attitudes towards a certain conclusion. This type of communication is known for showing facts selectively and/or invoking emotional responses, rather than logical deductions.

Framing the l'cie as terrorists immediately bring to mind the events of 9/11 in New York City, the subsequent use of 'terrorism' everywhere, and the mistreatment of minorities after that. The American administration in the 1990s pushed the thought of rampant terrorism to appeal to fear. They used this fear to pass laws which stripped many citizens of their liberty under the guise of protection and defense. Similarly, Sanctum intended to use the chaos in Eden to influence the population to submit to their sacrifice.

The War of Transgression is notable for being a particularly huge piece of propaganda in FFXIII. No one quite know what it really was because the history is so distorted. It is mainly used to convince Cocoon citizens that Cocoon is gloriously superior, yet always potentially in danger, keeping them comfortable on a short leash. Despite being such a violent event, it is depicted playfully as entertainment, as seen at the Natuilus Park parade.

This occurs often in the real world as well. During World War II, Germans showered the public with movies that showed them honorably prevailing over dastardly Allies. All the meanwhile, they were also telling the public that Allies were genocidal, desiring to exterminate all Germans. The United States did and still does this today. Even now, American news networks bombard the population with the threat of a nuclear North Korea and pump out countless celebrity-filled movies about wartime in the Middle East.

Did anyone else see a very slight Holocaust (or actually, genocide in general) reference in the Purge? People who are scapegoated, forced onto trains by their government, and shipped off to be exterminated. It sounds rather like something that has happened, and that still happens today.

Society / People

On one last note, I find that the migration of people from Pulse to Cocoon mirrors that of real world migration from third world countries to first world nations. According to the Complete Official Guide to Final Fantasy XIII, fal'cie on Pulse were constant turning people into l'cie for whimsical missions. This is why there are so many cieth stones around. Thus, Cocoon seemed more appealing, not knowing that they would be domesticated to become sacrifices.

Similarly, people often escape from third world countries seeking refuge from the tyrannical actions of a corrupt government. While the nations they flee to, like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, etc, offer more security, they face a new set of hidden problems, such as Big Brother-like surveillance, the confines of bureaucracy, and discrimination.