Ashley Lynch - Gingerbreadgirl Productions

The Mass Effect Gender Bias
Mass Effect 2 is awesome, but that's not what this post is about.

One thing I love about the Mass Effect series is that really create your own Shepard and foster them not just over the game but across what will be eventually three games.  The customization options really aren't all that diverse, and your male or female Shepard will generally look fairly similar to all the other ones.  Even your character's voice, Mark Meer if you're male, Jennifer Hale if you're female, is just a binary choice.  Where the real customization comes of your Shepard is how you choose to play them and what choices you make.  Sure your choices affect your rating and outcomes, but even more it affects your investment in the character.  Playing through the first Mass Effect and moving right onto Mass Effect 2, I was struck by a natural desire to create an arc for my Shepard and not just have her do things the way I wanted her to, but to actually grow into a different person as the story progressed.  That is a gaming first for me.

Obviously the rest of this article is going to seem incredibly biased.

With Mass Efffect 2, Bioware has ramped up their merchandising of the franchise including comics, an action figure line and God knows what else.  One thing that bothers me though is all their advertising, the cover art and even the action figures all feature the male Shepard.  Now for the most part I would agree "so what?"  So that isn't my Shepard, how does that affect my game?  It doesn't.  What it does affect is the eventual Mass Effect movie.

Bioware has received numerous offers to option the film rights to Mass Effect and while they say they haven't done so yet and are clearly protecting the integrity of their franchise (good for them), given the extremely cinematic nature of the game, the popularity of the title and how easily the story would lend itself to a trilogy of feature films, seeing a big screen Mass Effect movie is just an eventuality.  I say awesome.  I WANT a Mass Effect movie.  Even more, I want to write a Mass Effect movie.  (I won't even touch how much I really really want to direct a Mass Effect movie.)

So now I'm troubled by the fact that Bioware clearly has a gender bias towards Shepard.  In their eyes, Shepard is a man.  This is just wrong.  The dude does not abide.  This isn't just about my Shepard, but what is best about Shepard as a character in the greater context of the story.  A male Shepard is a very obvious and uncomplicated choice for the series.  Uncomplicated as in uninteresting.  A male Shepard creates no real dynamic with the rest of the story, rather he just becomes a empty pail to pour the rest of the story into.  Even as far as the game voices go, no offense to Mr. Meer, but Jennifer Hale crafts a much more dynamically sounding Shepard.

Here's why a female Shepard helps the story, plain and simple.  A large part of Mass Effect is about the coming together of species to fight for a common goal in the universe.  They don't do so willingly and bring with them their various prejudices that make for an unstable environment.  Even the Normandy's navigation officer Pressley is prejudiced towards all aliens at the beginning, but through the course of the story comes to respect them, and Shepard for uniting everyone.  If that weren't enough, at the beginning of the story, humans are the low species on the totem pole.  They aren't part of the intergalactic council, most of the aliens species don't trust humans, and every political corner seems fraught with obstacles of humans needing to prove themselves over and over.

Really, what better metaphor is there for this than the historical plight of women trying to find equality in a man's world.  Granted this is the future and in this future, gender equality is a moot issue.  Race is a moot issue.  We've moved onto larger problems as a species, but the battles are just the same, only moved to a different front.  So when we see Shepard with her bull headed tenacity, pragmatic approach and willingness to get her hands dirty overcome all these obstacles, how can it not feel like a tremendous feat to the audience.  With a male Shepard, there is no question that the intensity of the feat feels lessened.

As far as casting goes, I have a hard time not seeing Sam Worthington as the almost inevitable male Sheppard, but as a much superior female Shepard, I would offer Rhona Mitra who more than proved her action chops in the underrated Doomsday.

Rachel Harris - Working Woman

Every now and then I come across an actor who really catches my eye and makes me look up their past work. When those instances happen, I'm sometimes delighted to an extensive filmography. Such is the case with Rachel Harris.

Embarassingly enough I only first noticed her recently in The Hangover where she was arguably my favourite part of a movie I already really like.  She really gets very little screen time, but for the amount that she is in the movie, she is more than memorable.  As the girlfriend of Ed Helm's character, she is a cruel and disapproving person in everything, really inhabiting the role of "bitchiest girlfriend ever," but she seems to inhabit such an entitlement about the character that it's hard not to worry if that's what Rachel is actually like. (For the record, I don't believe she is.)

Looking her up on IMDb, Rachel has an extensive work history mostly doing a lot of TV.  Notably she was a Daily Show correspondant from 2002-2003 which makes me sad I was not watching the show at that time. (I'm slow and didn't clue into how genius The Daily Show is until about a year before Colbert left to do his own show)

In the commentary for The Hangover, director Todd Philips said that he asked Rachel to dye her hair brown even though she's usually blonde, mostly because Ed Helm's character has to chose between her and Heather Graham's character, another blonde.  But with Rachel's biting demeanor and uber-sexy nerd girl glasses, the brown hair works great for her.

You can see the same look continued in Christopher Guest's recent string of Superbowl commercials for the US Census where he does his Waiting For Guffman thing that he does so well.  She's also extremely funny in these ads, balancing the same kind of absurd reality that Parker Posey did in Guest's earlier films.

Pornographic Apathetic

Video game girls kick ass
I don't really care for either Dead or Alive or Final Fantasy, but I have to admit, this is really cool.

Will Ferrell - The Landlord

I Want an Explosion :(

Cat Flap... WIN!!!

Even though I'm lez, I would totally do Andy Samberg.

Will there be girls there?

Sprite afraid of a little fizz in the eye

Recently a leaked Sprite ad banned from German television surfaced on the internet. The long and short of it showed a girl orally pleasing her boyfriend but all the while really wishing she had a Sprite. Suddenly a sprite bottle appears and explodes fizzy drink all over her eager face. So much for subtlety.

It didn't take long for the ad to rise to popularity on YouTube and receive scathing commentary on news sites like The Huffington Post. It took even less time for Sprite to jump into action and order all the mirrors of the ad blocked citing "third party Copyright infringement." None of this is surprising.

Even less surprising is that the ad is a fake. It's not the product of a disconnected arm of German marketers, but of New York independant filmmaker Max Isaacson. Max issued a press statement acknowledging that he "directed and produced the fake Sprite ads" as well that "there was no involvement from The Coca-Cola Company." He went on to say, "I am frankly quite surprised that spots of this nature were so quickly and easily believed to be legitimate. I hope all the parties involved will understand that this was a simple mistake that went much too far too fast, and that it is now made clear that these were not real commercials, nor were they ever produced with intention of being taken as such." Sounds to me like Max is suddenly under threat of real litigation for damages to Coca-Cola's product.

But really, what is Sprite so afraid of? Of course the crass ad doesn't show their product in a wholesome way, but it doesn't denigrate it either. It connects the drink with sex like soft drink advertisers have been doing for decades, just in a more frying-pan-over-the-head kind of way. You can't buy advertising like this. If Sprite can stop worrying about their image for one moment, they'll see that Isaacson has done them a huge favour and given them huge unpaid publicity. Everyone is talking about Sprite and they get to distance themselves from the ads as illegitimate. Take into account a majority of the audience that viewed the ad. This is the YouTube audience... young people who are defining what's cool. If Sprite really wants to define itself as a young, hip drink as they've been attempting to do for some time now, they should be embracing this debacle, not lawyering up.
Tags: , , ,


Log in

No account? Create an account