By the always entertaining Penny Arcade, I was alerted to something that has become an unnecessary shitstorm when it comes to the marketing of Mass Effect 3. Fans are allowed to choose the next FemShep that would be on some of the advertising by voting for their favorite of 6 choices. You like the picture (or pictures) on Facebook, and each like is a vote. Whichever one has the most votes will "win", I guess. Here are the 6 ladies you can choose from.
I made them big enough so you can get a good look at the differences. Again, if you care, you can "like" the one you want on their facebook page.
Apparently there is some controversy over the blonde one winning. Which she is by a large margin. I'm not surprised. I am surprised that people are that concerned about it. Anybody who has been engaged in western media should not be surprised that the blonde Shepard is the one that is preferred. What makes it outrageous is that the people who are vocally opposed to blonde femShep say it's because she's too "Barbie" and suffers from a "personality vacuum". How do you get that from one picture? I see no high heels or designer prada bags, and right now the only personality point I get from any of these pictures is that Shepard is on the verge of using her gun on someone.
Penny Arcade recently posted their disdain for these opinions. I have to agree. To be perfectly honest, I'm not going to vote for one of those Shepards. I have two female Shepards that I love to play. Neither one of them look anything like the ones that are on facebook right now. And my male Shepard looks just like Obama, because why not? So why should I care what is on the advertising? It obviously didn't affect my purchase or my enjoyment of the game. It shouldn't affect anyone elses.
Maybe people are relating it more to how in American culture (and maybe others, but I'll speak about my own) the perception of what's beautiful tends to be somewhat anglo-fied. Sure, maybe you don't like how that works. But getting mad at a vote on facebook that is essentially "pick your favorite pretty picture"is not going to change the world. You're expecting too much at this point. Bioware has everyone right to figure out what people would prefer to play as in their video games. They try to keep statistics on that stuff all the time. God forbid they listen to what the majority of voting public would like. Again, we're getting mad at a business for being a business when you do something like that.
If you want to push for heroes that are not always the standard pretty, go ahead and do something more proactive about it. But if you're going to call one model of Shepard "Barbie" and a void of personality merely by hair and skin color alone, you're being just as prejudice at the culture you are trying to rebel from. Shepard is still going to save the universe from the reapers*, regardless of his or her looks. Mass Effect 1 and 2 proved that with every play-through every fan experienced. One blonde model of Shepard on the advertising is not going to change what already happened in the story. Only you as the player can. Play with your Shepard, and move on. The box art is not going to hurt.
Final thought: would these critics be saying this if is was a male blonde Shepard? I think not. Looks like ideals of beauty are not the only things we have to work on.
*That is, as long as your choices in the game didn't already fuck it up for your Shepard. Which I can't predict right now.