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Mass Effect Movie, or Shepard should be a woman

Every tie some video game has been optioned off for a movie, there is a flurry of activity among the video game community- one of either hope or pessimism (currently, the latter is being used more often than not) for the project. Unfortunately, the film projects have one of two results- either the film languishes in development hell for one reason or another (see the film projects for Bioshock or Metal Gear Solid for two films stuck in movie development hell.) while others come out to somewhat mediocre results-see every video game movie ever made. Seriously. There was a Tekken film. No one remembers it because it went direct to DVD. I saw it and I slightly hate myself for doing so, even if it was just to see how weird it was to have people in those silly outfits. Seriously though, a woman wouldn’t even dare try to fight in assless cha-okay, you get the idea. Mass Effect has just been optioned for a film with Legendary Pictures. This is a unique new opportunity for video game movies- giving the original creators some input into the creation of the film. I doubt Shinji Mikami or anyone at Capcom were given key roles or consulting opportunities when it came for Resident Evil films, for example. I do believe that to make a video game movie work properly, there needs to be a balance set- one between that of the original game designers and that of the creative team of the film- screenwriter, director, et. al. It’s a tricky tightrope to follow, but even with some creative input from those who originally created the story, balanced with the creative team behind the movie, magic could be made. But besides that- what fascinates me most is the possibilities for the Mass Effect movie- what could come of it if it came to fruition. The game was open ended, and gamers came together with different tales of their Mass Effect experience. I would like to submit my own idea to where the Mass Effect movie should go- something in my own part of the Mass Effect experience. Shepard (the main character), should be a woman. Okay, so it’s not entirely unheard of- I understand that. And the majority of the advertising for both games feature the standard male Shepard (or maleshep, as a couple of ME fan friends of mine have informed me to the lingo of the fans), and the adversity the character presents in having to save the world. So why this femshep?

The world of science fiction films is crowded with the idea of the one male hero fighting adversity for the good of their respective “universe” so to say- everyone from Captain Malcolm Reynolds(Serenity, Firefly) to older classics like George Taylor (from Planet of the Apes). The male hero fighting for good in the face of so much adversity is a world to which comes natural to the science fiction genre in films. Let’s mix it up a bit and place a female Shepard into the role. After all, when you think of a female hero in science fiction, most minds turn immediately to Ellen Ripley of the Alien films. And that character is almost thirty years old at this point- have there been no other real sci-fi super heroines. Okay, maybe Buffy, but she was more fantasy character than sci-fi. Some of the Firefly characters were quite strong, but they weren’t the main character- only playing second fiddle to Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds.

Why not allow the female Shepard not only face adversity as being the only human ever to become Spectre (an event that occurs early in the first game)- facing adversity not only to her race- but her sex- thus facing adversity within her own people. Make that battle to gain acceptance and understanding from those in the Citadel- and in that universe- that much harder to accomplish.

It would be a difficult sell, yes, perhaps, then going safe and filling the tropes of science fiction films to a strong male lead, but to challenge the audience to respect this Shepard would indeed shake things up.

The Mass Effect experience was the ability to shake things up- to allow players to choose their own path and make their own moral experience. Why not shake it up and allow the central character- the protagonist to which Ashley, Liara, and Garrus and the other secondary characters- rally behind to save the universe with- be that of the fairer sex? To have a female character that not only has the distinct problems to attempting to save the galaxy already discriminated as a human (a already looked down upon group within the Mass Effect mythos, as humans are relative newcomers to the galactic political-sphere), but to receive further discrimination from those within her race as a woman– if done correctly, could create a rallying character to which is sorely missing from the realm of science fiction. The story was written in such a way that playing as either sex would feel natural to the player. The same could be said of the movie- having a female lead may be difficult- especially for those who were used to playing through the Mass Effect with the male Shepard.

Unfortunately, that can’t be the case anymore. At Comic Con, Bioware had a panel for the film, in which they confirmed that the movie will be about the origin story of a male Shepard. Now to go and say that this plan is a bad one is a foolhardy move on my part- who knows, the film may be an amazing success. I would have just liked it if there was a challenge on the behalf of those involved to create a new science fiction heroine in their already vivid, expansive universe, basing it on a story already known by the fan base created so far. But that’s just my thought as a writer, just a compilation and musings of someone who would like to see the Mass Effect story make the jump to the silver screen effectively, by challenging itself to become the next great sci-fi universe in film.

2 responses to “Mass Effect Movie, or Shepard should be a woman”

  1. Good job on a very well written article. I agree that a femShep would have been absolutely amazing, but figured that it would never happen. My one disagreement with your view is with the conflict that she would face as a woman. One of the great things about the ME series is that it takes place in a time where a person’s sex (and race) amongst humanity is pretty much a non-issue. Whether they like her or not, no one really gives female Shepard any problems when it comes to her being a woman. In my opinion, this says more for equality than anything else could.
    Unfortunately, at present, in the real world, feminism seems to have regressed a great deal, especially when it comes to pop culture. I doubt that we will see a strong heroine saving the day for all of humanity on the big screen any time soon. At least we have our games.

    P.S.- You have my greatest sympathy as I too know the suffering of sitting through the Tekken movie. I only pray that you were spared the horrors of the D.O.A. movie. It still haunts my dreams.

  2. It’s the real life sexism that makes me wish to add it to the Mass Effect universe. When women’s rights are still being threatened in this day and age, it’s a damn shame it’s still up for debate in this manner. Highlighting sexism in the film’s universe could hopefully draw the audience to understanding the sexism occuring to this very day.

    And I saw the Dead or Alive movie once back when there was a Blockbuster near my house. I realized I didn’t have enough alcohol at home to make that movie bearable, so I didn’t rent it.

    Really now, there’s not enough alcohol in the world to make it bearable. thanks for reading!