We all know Vivi Ornitier. He’s the cute black mage, one of the representatives to Final Fantasy IX. But have you ever wondered why he’s wearing gloves?
Note the exaggeration of Final Fantasy IX’s characters. They have big heads, narrow shoulders, and wide hips. They look like caricatures of human beings. Plus, many animals exist in the world – non-humans doing very human things.
One thing to note about Vivi is that he’s not human. He’s essentially a doll, created with Mist. What type of process this entails, we don’t know. So much so that we don’t even really know what Vivi’s body looks like under his clothing. But we still think of him as humans, as he does very human things.
One of the first things we see Vivi do is turn in tickets to see a show. He holds tickets in his gloves. When a girl walks by to pick them up with her hands, she places them in Vivi’s gloves. We see the illusion of two humans interacting. In a way, gloves seem to bring nonhuman things to life, more so than Mist.
Yet, gloves also have yet another symbolic, and inconvenient, reference: Vaudeville shows, and blackface minstrels. In a sense, Vivi isn’t like a minstrel character, he is a minstrel character.
Vivi, like the minstrels that predate him, is generally good-natured. Although the game developers put Vivi in silly situations to make him look naive. He wears loose clothing, has a darker face, and…wore gloves.
Back then white audiences didn’t see black characters as fully people. Yet, by giving them a sympathetic nature, white audiences started to empathize with them. How do we find the human commonalities between us and Vivi, even though we know Vivi isn’t like us?
Existentialism teaches that individual existence, freedom, and choice are paramount. Using magic, symbolize by seeing them cast through their gloves, the Black Mages were able to decide for themselves. Did they want to kill for someone else, or live for themselves? Vivi used magic to end the fighting.
He wasn’t alive but nonetheless was aware of his existence. Paradoxically, how can a doll analyze his existence and of the ways he finds himself existing in the world? We don’t really know and we can’t know since we’re alive. But we can sympathize with him. He makes us think about our existence and the way we find ourselves existing in the world. And that’s the point.
Also note that Zidane, Kuja, Garnet, and Eiko also use gloves. They’re not quite human either. Steiner also wears gloves and is human, but doesn’t quite act believably. Freya, Amarant, and Quina don’t wear gloves.