ThreadThe Legend of Playable Zelda: Setting Ourselves Up for Disappointment... Together! (Speculation, Discussion, and Wishful Thinking) [Media Heavy!]
This touches on my issue with her depiction from Sheik to adult Zelda. It was such a .
I connected well with child Zelda. She wasn't particularly empowered, but she was energetic, bubbly, full of innocence (as is expected of a child), adventurous and good natured. And while she is whisked away, she isn't imprisoned, but instead taken to safety by her lifelong carer and trusted guard Impa, a woman. None of this is insulting to her character. Everything about her made sense for the life that she had lived up until this point, as well as her age. Link is definitely the hero of this story, and the one who defies expectations as far as his capability goes, but Zelda's depiction seems understandable and I wasn't left disappointed by her depiction, especially as a child.
Sheik is a stoic and wise badass. I found her character mysterious and alluring, and as you said, she plays an integral part in the game's story, and her help enables Link to actually fulfil his mission. She seems capable and dependable. So finding out that that child who I found endearing and was sad to see separated from Link earlier actually grew up to be Sheik was refreshing and exciting. I quickly wondered what her journey had been like and what she had experienced, because she'd clearly been through a lot.
But then... as soon as she's actually Zelda, everything about her changes. I don't mind Zelda dressing in feminine attire or makeup. I think Cadence of Hyrule Zelda is incredibly badass, for example, and played the entire game as her. But like you say, her demeanour changes along with her outfit. Now that she's wearing a dress and face full of makeup, she is a different person. She's suddenly demure, fragile and dependent entirely on Link. She gasps in fear when rocks fall, which is something I can't imagine Sheik doing. She follows Link around like a lost child. This is all to emphasise her new status as a damsel. And of course, there's how quickly she is imprisoned after her transformation. None of it matches with the experiences she must have had up until this point, or how she was portrayed as Sheik. It was exciting for me as a young girl to relate to this wonderful female character, and it felt like it was very quickly snatched away, which felt, as child me would put it, " very lame".
This is why I've found I feel very fondly towards child Zelda and Sheik as characters, but have always been a bit put off by adult Zelda. They are all the same character, but are depicted differently. Ocarina of Time is still my favourite game of all time, let alone my favourite Zelda game. And I do think the Sheik / Zelda reveal is still one of the best character moments in any Zelda game, but the way adult Zelda was treated after that reveal is still disappointing to me today. Except now I'm old enough to analyse why.