Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Commander Jane Shepard

Commander Jane Shepard, Alliance Navy, Earth. Sentinel: Renegade. Mass Effect 1-3

Whether you chose to play her as a paragon or a renegade, she is arguably the toughest woman in the galaxy. Her sole purpose is to defeat the Reapers from destroying all sentient life. Everything she does from the second she is taken over by the Prothean Beacon and given a vision of how the Reapers will decimate the galaxy is geared toward that all consuming goal. The galaxy is in jeopardy and no one in power will believe her. So she makes it her life’s work to fight the hierarchy and the enemy on a 360-degree front. It doesn’t much matter if you chose to make her a space born kid who grew up on Alliance ships, or a trouble orphan who joined gangs on Earth to stay alive and join the military at seventeen. She is and will become the greatest hero the universe has ever seen.

Bioware designed Commander Shepard is a completely customizable character. The player choses gender, history, fighting style and appearance if not going with the default. I personally want to jump the bones of the default male Shepard. Between his voice and how dead sexy he looks in those Alliance BDU’s, I’d climb paragon Male Shep like a tree if I could. Is it wrong to be hot for a video game character?
Pretty darn close to our Jane Shepard.
Alas, I digress… Whichever visual appearance the player selects appears throughout the gameplay and cinematics giving the ultimate in personalization and bringing your own character to life. Our Shepard (my husband and I play together… he battles and I make all the decisions… perfect marriage, right?) has black hair, the action girl bob (a trope amongst video game females) tucked neatly behind her ears, ice blue eyes, strong cheekbones and full, pale lavender tinged lips. She is plain, yet beautiful, strong yet soft. She is a soldier, not a fashion model. If you wanted her to be, you totally could, though she’ll still walk and sit like your high school gym teacher. Put her in that hideous dress in ME3 and she’ll walk around like she’s got combat boots on and an assault rifle strapped to her back. She’s only graceful in combat. Just saying.

There’s no denying that Shepard is a tough bitch whether it be paragon – the ultimate do-gooder or renegade – the chick with a chip on her shoulder. She is so tough she died, spaced after her ship exploded and was burnt up in a planet’s atmosphere, to be resurrected, two years later, better… stronger… faster. (Let’s not even touch the Jesus comparisons so inherent in the character – even the name cries out biblical comparisons).

If you play Shepard as renegade though, she is one BAMF (badass mother fucker). Her responses to people when they’re having moments of doubt and weakness make you ashamed that you cried at the age of five for falling off your bike and skinning your knee. She has no time for uncertainty, insecurity and petty concerns. She’s so bad, but oh so good. The exceptional voice talent of Jennifer Hale, with her gritty, throaty resonance lends credence to the idea that fluffy girly-girls just ain’t gonna get the job done. However, there are moments when Shepard’s empathy and compassion can bring tears to your eyes. There is a subtle sensitivity and gravity to her words that reaches out and touches your soul. You feel and experience her pain. She is unwaveringly loyal to her crew and her mission. Her sometimes-awkward advice to teammates in new situations for their species, being in love or learning how to maneuver emotionally, are often hysterical. Her sarcasm is on-point, though most of the best lines are delivered by her snarky fellow teammates. Despite being a dyed in the wool soldier, she is a skilled negotiator. Her directness is her asset. She seeks to help others and unite races that have been at war for centuries despite their fundamental differences and grievances. The driving motivation is to bring all of the strongest races together for the imminent final battle for existence.

Shepard’s weakness, if any, is her single-mindedness. She is consumed by her quest. At times, she may make the hard decision of leaving people to die. Sometimes, that unwavering drive can lead to betrayal of friendships for the cause. Much of this is experienced in the third game where the success of the mission is paramount. Join at all costs. Fight or die. She loses people along the way but has no time to grieve. The brutality is pushed down deep and swept aside to be dealt with in brief moments of guilt and tender uncertainty. This is usually where her love interest will provide moral support.

What is so fantastic about the three games in this series are the interpersonal relationships and the development of loyalties along the way. As Shepard, you have a stable of lovers to choose from. The female version of Shepard can romance both male and female characters. (In 3, Male Shep can be gay too... oddly kinda hot if he chooses to romance Kaiden.) But Shepard is so badass that she can romance other species. Our Shepard chose Garrus, the hard face-plated, bird/lizard-like, charismatic and humorous turian. Their mating is so potentially dangerous that the salarian doctor sends them instructional vids, creams and analgesics and warns them about the potential of anaphylactic shock if tissue is... ahem... ingested. They can’t even eat the same foods because of opposing amino acids in their system. Yet, she propositions him to ‘let off some steam’. How badass as is that? What ensues is the most awkward and endearing love story between two vastly different people brought together for a cause. Garrus will follow her into hell. She doesn’t even have to ask.

I’ve truly become a die-hard fan of this video game series with its majestic visuals and its broad sweeping scope. The virtually infinite possibilities for stories within this 'universe' could have fans salivating for years to come. But what classifies this as a staple in my inspirational repertoire is the personal investment in the characters. Over one hundred hours of game play and these people become your family. You care about them and their fate. You are integral in their story. You become the hero.

You become Commander Shepard.

Fit or die.

Check out wiki for more info on all three of the Mass Effect games.


  1. Oh, my. I've never been a gamer myself, but that description of the 'ship between Jane and Garrus sounds hot... and infinitely more interesting than the excerpts/spoilers that I've read from Fifty Shades of Grey.

  2. It has quite the potential for hotness, but they shy away from too much visual stuff I think because he doesn't look very human. I find it unfair, because they show you plenty with the other human/human and human/ human-like aliens, especially if its with the sexy blue asari chick, Liara. But the fanfic for Shekarian! Oh my, some of that stuff you need a glass of wine and a cold shower after reading. I have read some really excellent stories in that fandom alone. Talented writers for damn sure. I haven't read "Fifty Shades of Grey", but from it's description, Garrus and Jane's romance is based on mutual respect and love. Doesn't matter that he's a taloned, three fingered, scaly alien. That deep bond between them is sexy in and of itself.

    1. Regarding 50 Shades: Don't. Or at least look up the excerpts. For a piece of best-selling BDSM erotica, it still reads like Twilight - and considering that it was originally written as Bella/Edward fanfic, I would have expected the prose (and the characters) to be much stronger, especially with all of Teh Sex in there. As it is, my head still hurts from the eye-rolling.

      That said, I don't doubt at all that there are better writers working in fanfic these days who deserve a bigger audience. If they can make us believe that a human can maintain a loving relationship with an alien who could kill her with a single scratch, they can get away with practically anything. :)