Guilt and Geostigma

Cloud Strife has had it rough. And he’s not making anything easier for himself. In addition to the deaths of his closest companions, Cloud has witnessed the burning of his hometown, undergone unethical medical experimentation, and suffered from various psychological conditions—including a nasty bout of dissociative identity disorder. By the time we’ve caught up with the unsmiling, spikey-headed hero in Final Fantasy: Advent Children, all that emotional instability has begun to take its deadly toll… and the fact that he’s contracted a cancerous, PTSD-inducing disease called Geostigma isn’t helping either. Spawned from strands of his arch-nemesis Sephiroth’s DNA, the disease literally thrives on Cloud’s guilty conscience, taking every opportunity to remind him that it’s his fault his love interest, Aerith, was brutally killed. Cloud isn’t afraid to die—in fact, he’s exiled himself to a penitent, living death while the disease eats away at his skin. In fact, he’s terrified to live with the weight of his guilt. He isolates himself, attempting to cut all social ties so that no additional failures can taint his conscience, but in doing so he builds emotional barriers that, through misunderstanding, threaten to disconnect the network of friends he considers to be his family. A long sleeve keeps Cloud’s infected arm hidden from prying eyes, metaphorically symbolizing his unwillingness to make himself vulnerable by telling others of his condition. That doesn’t stop his childhood sweetheart, Tifa, from finding out the truth, though, which leads to a heated confrontation:The grace that had ever been available to him is finally able to manifest itself because he’s made himself vulnerable to it. “So you’re just gonna give up and die. Is that it?” she accuses. “There is no cure,” he answers. Cloud is clearly talking about more than his disease here—he’s also talking about his...