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If, as some argue, Clerith is now canon, then this attribute feels like it doesn't really mean anything. The status of canon ship is not (noticeably) drawing any new shippers. It's not lead to a noticeable uptick in fanfiction or fanart. It's not lead to a demonstrably new essay on the pairing. It might make people feel good, but if it is canon then it doesn't matter. Fans are abandoning the ship over time. The amount of fan works is being dwarfed - it should not be unusual to find a new Clerith fic listed on Ao3 or FFN but it is the exception all the same. If it's canon then this status has nothing to do with what people like to ship - they apparently do not care. Each new instalment or new information seems likely to overlook the ship - Dirge of Cerberus (the manual does not count. Seriously) and CC offered nothing. G-bike does not appear to feature Aerith at all.

If, as others argue, Cloti is canon, then this attribute does seem to contribute to popularity. There are new shippers all the time. Zerith is extremely popular and everyone is very emotional over Crisis Core's ending. There's frequent updates to fanfiction and new fanart. There's more essays about the pairing. People feel good it's canon, and it attracts new fans. The fandom grows; maybe not like when FFVII was new, or when AC or even CC came, but it's still in flux. New fans come to the ship. They're swayed by arguments, they produce fan-works. People ship the pairing - and it looks like it's canon; each new game and new information seems to keep confirming the ship. Right up to date there's Tifa in G-bike.

This is a rallying call to Cleriths. Stop the canon fixation. It does not help. Believe it if you wish, but stop bashing Tifa. This is putting people off. Stop bashing Zack too. That really puts newer fans off. Like it or not, the major way fans enter the fandom these days is via AC or CC - neither of which at first glance indicate Clerith. CC gave rise to Zerith as an eternal unending ship (no, I don't like this view or the ships' portrayal in the game or indeed the game but this is beside the point) and implied Cloti. AC is nothing but Cloti - believe what you will about Cloud's last lines, the smile, Aerith's words, whatever the creatives said previously or Cloud seeing Aerith as he does. None of that matters in the slightest. A new person to the fandom is going to watch Aerith walk away from Cloud and Cloud then says he's not alone anymore. They are going to see Tifa sticking by his side and believing in him the entire film. They do not and will not reach the conclusion that Aerith lives on inside Cloud - the visuals and framing simply do not lend themselves to this conclusion.



A new person playing CC for the first time is not even going to see Cloud and Aerith together; they never appear onscreen at the same time. They're going to see Zerith as a charming romance halted by Sephiroth's actions and then ended by Shinra. They're going to see fledgling hints of Cloti in Cloud's behaviour in the reactor.

And if these people go on to play FFVII itself? Then they drag those views of the relationships with them. So they choose the pro-Cloti moments - after all Tifa was why Cloud defeated Sephiroth at Nibelheim - finding out she's why he joined SOLDIER and then the Highwind scene just looks like proof positive all things considered - they know all this in advance of the FFVII revealing it - and this is problematic for FFVII's structure and narrative (and seriously; if you just thought that maybe these people should play FFVII first and they're just ignorant, then stop. Bad attitude, not helpful. Not everyone joins a fandom in the same way, and policing a fandom like that is appalling behaviour. We are lucky the fandom has continued this long anyway - the more new fans the better. I will admit it's frustrating newer fans insist the retcons are not as retcons - but to them the big reveals of FFVII are likely well known - the experience is fundamentally different). Maybe they're not sure what to make of Cloud's line after Sephiroth's defeat; "Maybe I can meet her there", but it's not as if AC remotely implied Cloud was actively searching for Aerith (nor do any of the novellas support the notion. Cloud's movements after FFVII are not detailed but not ambiguous enough to allow him to scour the Planet. Plus there is a simpler explanation of what he meant besides) - which is also likely the reason why her one appearance in the credits was cut from ACC. They're not going to choose the pro-Clerith moments - Zack died trying to get to see her, how can they possibly put her together with Cloud who has his sword and a head full of jumbled memories (…and occasionally wonder why you play as Cloud rather than Zack)?

They might even wonder why there is even a choice given the prequel was very clear on its stance about the relationships - that Cloud was designed to waver between Tifa and Aerith is of no concern to a newcomer. They don't know about that quote from the design process, and being given the choice with their foreknowledge might feel a little distasteful - how could they betray Zack like that? Neither is it relevant to them playing FFVII. Anyone who's watched AC first already knows Aerith is going to die so it would be easy to view the relationship as a dead-end. In some extreme cases Aerith is now seen as uncaring and flippant (and gets some totally unjustified hate); how dare she flirt with Cloud when her boyfriend has only just died? (This is a problem with CC's implied sensing of Zack's death - and either she doesn't care or is in denial. It was much easier when it had been five years without a word. Yes you might feel awkward that she's not mourning his death, but the vital part was that she can easily have never known - plus even if she had known, it's been five years since she's last seen him. I know it's tempting to see this as a tragic romance, but five years without one hint he's still alive and she doesn't move on is problematic). They're never going to see Zack's talk to Cloud on the back of the truck as anti-Zerith; not least when the one line seemingly supporting this is omitted in every other depiction of the same scene.

Yes these are all retcons. Yes I dislike almost all of them. Yes, Final Fantasy VII should be the thing adhered to, not CC with its extra characters who disappear without further mention and whose fates are very much in question (whither Kunsel and Cissnei?). But. That's not how it works. With multiple ways in, and how SE's stances have altered over the years, how a new fan views the ships is going to be coloured differently to how someone who came in with Final Fantasy VII itself. I don't doubt that there are an increasing number who are coming in via the game now since it's on Steam. But it still doesn't matter. If they search for FFVII they're much more likely to find something Zerith or Cloti (or, well, yaoi ships).

And we need to live with this. A lot of the fandom believes the Clerith ship is non-canon. Many have said they don't care if it is deemed non-canon they will ship it all the same. Great. Now do it. Start right now and save your ship from sinking. Stop ranting about Tifa. Stop bashing Tifa. Write some positive essays about the Clerith that do not rely on the number of dates they have versus anyone else. And please stop bringing the wedding prediction up - it isn't helping, it's not very useful as an argument and its seriously shaky evidence. It doesn't matter if your tumblr on the pairing or your site gets a huge number of hits, Clerith is still vastly under-represented where people look for fics and art. Stop relying on Dismantled and indirect translations - you don't need them. Stop insisting on canon status. Instead, please write more fics. Write more pro-Clerith fics that don't also have anti-Cloti or anti-Zerith stances. Zerith can be safely deemed over for the FFVII present; five years is more than enough time for Aerith to move on. You don't need to shoot holes in it. Ignore Crisis Core and Advent Children if it helps and write solely for Final Fantasy VII (I recommend ignoring the official timelines anyway as they're restrictive). Interpolate new scenes in with what is depicted in game. Have Cloud and Aerith go on *other* dates not depicted on screen. Let them have fun together. Show them together. Sell the relationship to someone on the fence or someone who dismissed it. But don't do it in a way that makes Tifa or Cloti look bad.

If it's canon to you then great. You don't have to convince yourself. But you also don't have to convince anyone else who already thinks it's canon. What you have to do is make other people want to ship the pairing regardless of canon status. And you have to do this without attacking Tifa. You may not like her in FFVII or AC or CC. Fine - that's your choice. But denigrating and insulting her is putting off anyone who might ship Clerith in addition to Cloti. Don't be so exclusive; this is not a club. Shipping something else and Clerith does not make you less of a fan. Don't jump down someone's throat if they feel Clerith is transitory - they're still shipping it, even if it's not end-game. Don't get mad if extremely long essays with a lot of evidence and quotes concludes that Cloti is canon. All that matters is the ship. All that matters is depicting the ship. Don't insist on Clerith end-game or nothing. Find joy in Clerith, not Cloud mourning for the rest of his life, or spending his days single in preparation for his return to the Planet. Show Clerith as happy and wonderful and fulfilling before Aerith died and then how Cloud comes to terms with this and how Aerith would want him to be happy and not spend the rest of his days waiting. Let Cloud move on. If not with Tifa, then at least someone else. Write AUs. Stop Aerith from dying and keep the relationship going past the point the game ends it. Or bring her back after AC or DC. But:

Make peace with Tifa. She's Aerith's best friend and coped least well with her death. Tifa is not your enemy. Tifa is not anti-Clerith - she worries they will get together - and while you might like to use this as anti-Cloti evidence don't. She can see them together; she will support the ship. But don’t just pair her off with someone else. Don't try to just pass off Cloti as a sibling-like relationship. Put the effort in; Tifa might get upset, she might be distant and a little awkward at first. This is normal. This is what happens when you see your crush with someone else. But if you keep Clerith going, don't leave her alone and miserable for the rest of her days. That's not Tifa. If you continue to bash her, people will continue to leave. Like it or not, Clerith has a less than stellar reputation. This needs to change. And this needs to happen with the acceptance that some of the FFVII canon is unambiguously Cloti. And already you're reeling back. Stop. Stop fighting. Interpret it differently if you wish, but stop acting superior or dismissive to those who take the story like that. I don't care what some evil Cloti has done or said, or how you've been insulted in the past, or what some other big time Cloti shipper accused you of, or how they agreed with someone being outright insulting and aggressive. Stop seeing opinions as attacks. I want this ship to thrive again, and it's not going to if no one wants to go near it for fear of being shouted down, or seeing characters dragged through the mud to dismiss their potential as a rival ship. No one is going to be encouraged to read a Clerith fic if they know Tifa is either going to be awkwardly side-lined, rendered OOC, made miserable and lonely or reduced down to a cipher to cheerlead a Clerith pairing.

What I really want to do - though I'm not convinced I can convince anyone - is for each ship to read the elected best fic of the other ship. So hard-core Clotis would read the agreed best Clerith fic, and the Cleriths would read the agreed best Cloti fic. And you'd need to do it without pre-conceptions. And if possible without reacting in hostility to the pro-pairing moments in either. I know a lot of you are very NOTP over the other pairing, but I would like you to at least try to understand why the other side ships it. Because doesn't that make you curious at all? That you are so adamantly opposed to something you don't want to see the ship when others so badly do? When one ship is so much vaster than the other, aren't you the least bit curious as to why people do (and actually why, not why you assume they like it)?

And get used to sense of it not being canon. There are so many popular ships that are non-canon. It hasn't stopped Cloud/Sephiroth. Or Cloud/Zack, Aerith/Tifa, Tifa/Yuffie, Cid/Vincent, Cloud/Genesis, anyone/Angeal, Tifa/Reno, Tifa/Rude and so on from having fans and from those fans writing fics and drawing art. I'm very sorry but no ship sails itself and as far as I can see Clerith is floundering on the rocks. We need to work together to get it upright and majestic and beautiful. We need to sail the ship.
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