Anonymous asked: Friendly reminder to post your rant about femShep dialogue changes.
You got it, nonny!
Here’s the thing: in pretty much every feminist discussion of the Mass Effect series, you’ll see a reference to the fact that the dialogue for the male and female versions of Commander Shepard is pretty much identical across the board. In reality, there are some small differences, and I think it’s pretty telling to see what Bioware’s writers chose as ways of distinguishing between male and female Shepards. Let’s draw on a few specific examples:
In the first game, Shepard needs information from a washed-up, embittered, extremely drunk C-Sec officer named Harkin. When the male version of Shepard approaches him, Harkin’s dialogue is “Alliance military. Hmph. I coulda been a marine, you know.” For a female Shepard, it’s, “Hey there, sweetheart, looking for some fun?”
In the second game, Shepard gets recruited by a mercenary gang to help kill Archangel (which is, of course, all part of Shepard’s plan to rescue him from said mercenaries). When the male version of Shepard approaches the Blue Suns recruiter, the recruiter greets him with, “You three look like you could do some damage.” For a female Shepard, it’s, “Well, aren’t you sweet? You’re in the wrong place, honey. Strippers’ quarters are that way.”
In both cases, the dialogue is unavoidable, and the possible responses range from brushing it off to outright threatening the jerkwad in question. In both cases, the dialogue reverts back to the male Shepard version almost immediately, with no permanent repercussions. Keep in mind that these are virtually the only differences between male Shepard and female Shepard’s dialogue in the entire 50+ hours of gameplay between the two games.
The end result is a pretty uncomfortable message: even 170 years in the future, even decked out in heavy armor with a grenade launcher strapped to your back, your femininity is a joke, and people are still gonna target you for it. Hell, aliens are gonna have the same attitude. And hey. That stings. Because video games like this one, where you’re playing a quasi-superhero who runs around saving the galaxy, are basically power fantasies: you can subsume your own day-to-day worries in the death-defying, wise-cracking adventures of Commander Shepard. Except, if you’re playing as a woman, even your power fantasies come with a little asterisk, a footnote reminding you, again and again, that you don’t quite measure up, that as powerful as you are, weak and miserable people will still see themselves as stronger.
I remember reading an article about how Bioware made the female version of Commander Shepard such a fascinating and well-fleshed-out character more-or-less by accident, and I think these examples bear that out. The writing that’s specifically for a female Shepard has these weirdly nasty implications.
For instance, in the romance subplots, a female Shepard can get together with Kaidan in the first game, and then pick someone else in the second game, leading to a confrontation in the third. Likewise, a male Shepard can get together with Ash in the first, someone else in the second, and then the same sort of confrontation ensues in the third. When Kaidan confronts a female Shepard, it’s for “cheating”, and none of the available dialogue options allow her to do anything but lie or apologize. When Ashley similarly confronts a male Shepard, he’s able to point out that she stepped away from the relationship every bit as much as he did. Only a male Shepard gets to come out of that conversation with any sort of moral high ground, despite the fact that both relationships broke off in exactly the same way.
So, y’know, I think it’s a bit disturbing to look at these examples and see what the writers decided would be worth changing when it came time to write dialogue for a female Shepard. It’s pretty telling, for an essentially blank-slate character, to see what’s being coded as inherently “feminine”.
I don’t think the answer is to eliminate all gender-specific dialogue, either. Cookie-cutter “Mrs. Man” characters still run into the roadblock of dude-as-default, after all. There’s a scene unique to female Shepards in Mass Effect 3 that sort of wobbles into slightly stronger territory, where Shep has a brief heart-to-heart with Eve, the female krogan. The writing itself is pretty cringe-worthy and feels a bit like the sort of conversation guys imagine women having when they’re alone, but the point stands that Eve recognizes Shepard as a sympathetic role-model, a kindred spirit, when faced with her own patriarchal culture. That’s a relatively positive way to acknowledge the character’s gender: recognizing that she’s well-placed to offer encouragement to someone that a male Shepard wouldn’t have been able to help in the same way. It adds to the power-fantasy, doesn’t detract from it, doesn’t undermine it.
In the end, what I’d love to see is more player characters who aren’t “fem-” versions of anything, who are female player characters by default, who have narratives written for them rather than for the dude on the cover. I’m getting tired of constantly having to slip on someone else’s ill-fitting armor if I want to play.
I don’t really have anything to add to this, because I had precisely the same problems with female Shepard dialogue, but I never managed to word it quite so well.
cursethepharoahs prompted: Cheiloproclitic shenko!
Cheiloproclitic - Being attracted to someones lips
I’m borrowing Mica Shepard from aphreal42 for this, my own Shep was being ridiculously unhelpful. I hope that’s okay.
Shepard is mad, and Kaidan really ought to be paying more attention to her words. The mission didn’t go as planned, and she’s right, he did screw up, he knew his mistake the moment things went wrong, and he certainly won’t do it again. But right now he can’t focus on anything but the fact that she’s okay. His eyes wander to her lips. They are beautiful, even as they form the words of her angry tirade, and it’s been far too long since he’s kissed them.
"It cannot happen again," she finishes. "Am I being clear?"
"Crystal," Kaidan says, stepping closer and taking her hand. "I won’t miscalculate like that again. But… you’re okay?"
Shepard blinks at him, and he can see the wind go out of her sails. She’s always been that way. Just a little bit of kindness undoes her completely, though he’s probably the only one to recognize it. It kills him that she’s known so little understanding in her life that she doesn’t know what to do when she’s faced with it, but if she’ll let him, he’ll spend the rest of his life proving she deserves it.
Shepard licks her lips, and Kaidan loses his train of thought.
"I’m fine," she says.
"Good," Kaidan breathes, and leans down to claim those lips at last.
Mica drabble: Speculative Purgatory conversation
(So I haven’t actually started Mica’s ME3 playthrough, but in playing Marcus’s I couldn’t help but think how she would respond to certain situations. There are always times in Bioware games where my character wants an option of “I am so not having this conversation.” Mica, apparently, decided to substitute in the conversation she would have.)
Mica stares for a moment, trying to figure out how she can blame her slight inebriation or the noise of Purgatory for what she thinks she just heard. Eventually, she concludes that, no, that is what Joker said. “Why the hell are you asking me?”
aww Mica and Kaidan
aphreal42 prompted: Mica Shepard, Secrets
Joker was smart enough to know when to keep his mouth shut, but he couldn’t hold back a smirk as he watch Shepard ream Kaidan a new one, her face only inches from his, one finger pointed at Kaidan’s chest in accusation for some screw-up that Joker did not want to know the details of. Kaidan’s eyes were wide, his mouth open, apparently just as speechless as Jeff was.
It was pretty obvious that Shepard still had it bad for Alenko, and that they’d both probably be better off if they’d just start making out, but Joker didn’t think Shepard would appreciate the observation, and decided that this was one secret he would take to the grave.
theunlikelyheroine prompted: femShep/Joker, pause
It was only the briefest of moments, only a pause between Shepard dumping Joker unceremoniously into the escape pod and the shudder that wracked the Normandy, tossing her violently out of his reach.
He screamed her name as the explosions erupted around them, turning their beloved ship into so much debris, but it did no good.
She was gone.
F!Shep/Joker - late night chats
“A race that nearly wiped out the galaxy…and I let their queen go.”
Joker shrugged and said, “If you hadn’t let her go, you’d have been dooming an entire species to extinction.”
He could have told her he had complete confidence in her decisions, that she was the smartest and most capable person he had ever known, that he would follow her to the ends of the galaxy, but instead he just poured her another drink and watched her knock it back.