EDITED ON WEDNESDAY, 17. AUGUST: Bioware is holding another beauty pageant. This time the colour of Femshep’s hair is up for the vote. At this moment the red-haired model has a very clear headstart. By now I have given up on Bioware finally getting a clue about how to properly represent a strong female lead character.
Today I cancelled my pre-order for the N7-Collector’s edition of Mass Effect 3. Because of that blonde impostor that is not Shepard.
When Bioware first announced that they will feature Femshep in trailers and on one side of the Collector’s Edition box I was ecstatic. Finally, the many fans of female Shepard got recognized by the Powers that Be. I really looked forward to holding the box with a depiction of the default Femshep that has been good enough for two games in my greedy little paws.
And then came that beauty-pageant. The guys over at Bioware presented six versions of some young woman in a Shepard outfit to the unwashed masses at facebook and let the mob decide which of those young wannabes would be the one to be used in the trailer and on the box. Needless to say that the generic blonde, blue-eyed and pale-skinned one with too much mascara and a less than practical hairdo won.
Commander Shepard is — according to the ingame information database — 32 years old, a marine, a spectre. She has saved the universe twice. She is a strong, capable, and — most importantly — not sexualised character. Which, by the way does not mean that she isn’t sexy. It means that she is defined by what she does, and not how she looks or how available she is. Those six nymphs that were presented to the facebook mob were the exact opposite. With them, the only important factor was how attractive they are.
The image at the top of this post was created by Bianso over at deviantart and it expresses pretty much what I currently think about the femshep debacle. Once again, a strong female character got reduced to mere looks. Once again, the message that got sent out to women is: No matter how capable or badass you are, you are nothing if you are not pretty.
I wanted Commander Shepard on my box, not some dolled up pretender.
Another very insightful blogpost about this whole debacle has been posted by Richard Cobbett. Finally someone who really gets it.