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Various FFVII Meta Pieces

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Something which has been slightly bothering me over the last however many aeons is the way a lot of fan-fiction writers in FFVII fandom tend to characterise Cloud Strife as a whiny emo USA-style suburbanite teenaged boy. I'd argue that this isn't a role he ever had a chance to play.

From the original game canon, we know that Cloud left his hometown of Nibelheim at the age of fourteen to join the Shinra military (it's mentioned at the beginning of the game that he made a promise to Tifa before leaving the town "seven years ago" - and the game handbook gives Cloud's age at the start of the game as 21). So at age 14, Cloud Strife is making an adult decision to take on an adult role within the society he inhabits. He stops being a child, and becomes an adult, and is expected by the society he inhabits to react in an adult fashion.

When Cloud returns to Nibelheim two years later, he's sixteen years old. He has spent the past two years doing an adult's job in an adult role. He hasn't been in school, or performing a dead-end job while he attempts to get training for something else. He's been doing an actual adult job which requires him to be willing to kill or be killed on a daily basis. He's an adult. Yes, in the flashbacks he does appear to be reacting like a whiny kid - but that's probably a combination of firstly, not remembering at least half of what actually went on with any degree of accuracy (his memories are tangled with Zack's memories at the time, and the ones which aren't were scrambled by a long dose of mako poisoning) and secondly, of being reduced back to childhood status by his mother.

At the time, Cloud goes through a number of traumatising events. He's nearly killed, and then becomes an experimental subject for five years. But he does these as an adult, not a child or a teenager (as we know it).

The status of "teenager" or "adolescent" is one which is a liminal state between childhood and adulthood, and it's one which is peculiar to WEIRD[1] cultures since approximately the middle of the 20th century. Prior to this point, there was childhood, there was adulthood, and there was nothing in between. Children became adults through the process of taking on adult roles in the community, or through various rites of passage - marriage was a popular one. So Cloud passed out of his childhood when he left Nibelheim; by the time he reached Midgar, he was culturally an adult, and considered capable of making adult decisions.

If a fan writer is looking for an analogue for Cloud Strife's situation at the end of the original FFVII canon, it isn't that of a teenager who has just grown up - he did that years ago. Instead, you're looking at an adult soldier who has been involved in a war, was captured and tortured behind enemy lines for five years, and who had broken free to regain his freedom, only to discover that now the war is over everywhere except in the silence of his own skull. Look at the accounts of soldiers who survived shell-shock in World War I and World War II for templates, or better yet, look for accounts of what happened to soldiers who returned to Britain from the Napoleonic wars (particularly Peninsular War veterans).

[1] Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic