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"Mass Effect 2" (2009): Why Miranda's Butt Camera Had to Go

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Lee has an embarrassingly deep love of all things "Mass Effect." Her favorite is the original first game.

Art of Miranda.

Art of Miranda.

Human squad mates in Mass Effect tend to be obnoxious and hated by the fandom. From Ashley to Kaidan, to Jacob, to Jack, to James . . . yes, even James . . . Cora and (God help us) Liam, a lot of the human squad mates have entire sections of the fandom dedicated to hating them. And that includes Miranda.

Sadly, I used to be a Miranda hater. Before the Femshep + Miranda mod existed, which (as the name suggests) allows you to romance Miranda as a woman, I didn't fully understand Miranda and I kind of hated her.

BioWare tends to hide layers of their characters behind romance gates, so people aren't going to have a full understanding of a character unless they roll a playthrough where they romance them. Sadly, BioWare doesn't tend to do friendship as well as they do romance (you couldn't even be friends with Jack as female Shepard, which just made me hate her more).

But unlike Cassandra in Dragon Age: Inquisition, I have never been able to bring myself to play as the male version of Shepard just to romance the straight women in Mass Effect. I guess I'm too attached to Jennifer Hale's voice.

Also, the first Mass Effect spoiled me by allowing me to be a lesbian and still have a plot relevant romance (incredibly rare in video games, to the point that I have to use mods or give up and play a straight character). So it was pretty annoying when they took that away in Mass Effect 2 by having basically no gay romances. Then the Femshep + Miranda romance mod came along, and that's when I fell in love with Miranda. And now I can fully analyze her for you!

But you aren't here for that. You're here to shake your head as you scroll through my feminist rant and look for reasons to be angry about something as silly as not being able to stare at a character's ass while she's talking to you about her creepy father.

Okay. Let's do this.

Right This Way . . .

Miranda's transition from portrayal as a piece of meat to a human being.

Miranda's transition from portrayal as a piece of meat to a human being.

I wasn't going to write an analysis of Miranda just because . . . I didn't feel like it. Especially since I've already halfway analyzed her character in articles about other Mass Effect characters. But ever since the legendary edition of the original trilogy dropped, there's been a big baby tantrum over BioWare deciding to remove Miranda's gross and gratuitous butt scenes from the games. Male gamers have screeched repeatedly that the games are now "ruined" for them, which is . . . utterly ridiculous.

I reacted to this by adding some lines to some of my articles here, explaining why BioWare was right to remove the butt scenes, and even here on Hubpages, some immature (and probably male) editors felt the need to troll my articles.

So after much deliberation, I've decided to sit down and explain to you people like you are five exactly why it was wrong to have the butt scenes in there to begin with.

Let us begin this huge and daunting task.

Objectification vs Normal Nudity

People aren't "afraid of asses." We're tired of women being objectified.

People aren't "afraid of asses." We're tired of women being objectified.

I remember about four or five years ago, I was on Tumblr, and there was this big discussion about how women are often objectified in video games and a lot of (female) gamers (myself included) were tired of it. There were a few young people who dismissed our concerns as silly and went into a rant about how people should be allowed to be naked because objectification is "a part of sexuality."

Okay. . . . What? You can be sexually attracted to someone and still respect them as a human being. Where do people get the idea that dehumanizing someone is "a part of sexuality"? It most certainly is not.

And that's when it hit me. . . . Most people don't even know what objectification actually is. Well, here's the definition straight from Google:

My screenshot of Google Dictionary.

My screenshot of Google Dictionary.

As the image says above, "objectification" is the action of degrading someone to a mere object. A character being nude is not inherently degrading or objectifying. Focusing on their butt in a non-romance scene like they're a piece of meat is. Can people really not see how staring at someone's ass while they're talking to you is degrading?

I suppose most male gamers wouldn't know how this felt in real life, since it's not common for them to have a thirsty gay dude staring at their crotch or butt while they're talking. But imagine a Mass Effect where the camera focused on Jacob's crotch while Shepard (male or female) was talking to him. It would have been equally as dehumanizing and disgusting, but the game is made by straight men for straight men, so it's Miranda who was degraded. (So that's right, Silverman. Jacob was never degraded the way Miranda was. He was sexualized, not objectified. Stop trying to dismiss what is basically sexism.)

And speaking of Jacob, I wanted to add that Miranda and Jacob were deliberately sexualized not just for fan service but for a specific story reason. The Illusive Man's goal all along was to get his hands on the Collector base and the Reaper technology within. Miranda and Jacob were placed on the Normandy in tight, sexed-up catsuits with the intention of seducing Shepard to TIM's side.

This was TIM's intention, even if Miranda and Jacob weren't fully aware (and to be honest, I don't think they were). The hilarious thing about it is that it completely backfired: instead of Shepard becoming loyal to Cerberus, Jacob and Miranda become loyal to Shepard. Miranda even figuratively gives TIM the finger and quits her job at the end of the game, regardless of which Shepard you're playing and regardless of whether or not you befriend or romance her.

For me, Miranda walking from Cerberus at the end showed massive character growth for her. I always loved that. She was written better than the other human squad mates in so many ways.

But back to the topic: objectification.

Miranda's name meaning according to Google . . . It's fitting.

Miranda's name meaning according to Google . . . It's fitting.

You could make the argument that Miranda is not a real person, but since when has that mattered when it comes to irresponsible media messages? Whether a woman is real or a freaking cartoon, degrading her in a form of media that caters to a huge swath of impressionable young people is reprehensible. It sends the message that it's okay to treat women like meat.

And please, don't tell me that teenagers and young twenty-somethings aren't impressionable, especially when it comes to media that caters directly to them. Given the big uproar about their precious po*n being removed from the game, I'd say they have internalized the notion that this treatment of women is okay and that they have some kind of "right" to it.

My screenshot of Sara's nude scene with Jaal in "Mass Effect Andromeda."

My screenshot of Sara's nude scene with Jaal in "Mass Effect Andromeda."

I think some people who follow my articles here were surprised that I applauded the removal of the butt camera, given my approval of BioWare's (typically nude) romance scenes. I "approve" of the normal romance scenes because they aren't dehumanizing. In fact, they are often heartwarming, tasteful, and have some relevance to the plot (aka they are not gratuitous).

Even Miranda's sex scenes were more tasteful than the butt camera.

Even Miranda's sex scenes were more tasteful than the butt camera.

Ironically, Miranda's actual sex scenes were normal, even tasteful. The only thing I disliked about them were Shepard's dumb smirks. But the butt camera was just wrong.

Focusing the camera on women's individual body parts and encouraging the males in the audience to salivate is distasteful, sleazy, and dehumanizing. Women are not a collection of parts, we're people.

Miranda is not a piece of meat and should not have been treated like one. But she was. Which is freaking ironic given the central theme of her character arc. It's like the writers and the people who made the actual scenes never spoke to each other.

Miranda's Entire Arc is About Her Humanity

Miranda cries when she doesn't speak to her sister, furthering her isolation.

Miranda cries when she doesn't speak to her sister, furthering her isolation.

When you speak to Miranda in Mass Effect 2, you learn that her father "grew" her in a lab to be the perfect woman. She has upgrades and a perfect body that was (grossly) designed to be her father's idea of "bangable." Much as her namesake in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Miranda's own father sexualized her (viewed her in a sexual light . . . eww), objectified her (saw her as a thing to use and control), and tried to use her to build his perfect legacy. This is basically emotional abuse, so she ran away. (This after her father discarded her and decided to replace her with her genetic twin.)

Unfortunately, in her quest to find a father who would actually love her, Miranda ran to the Illusive Man, who turned out to be just as bad. Once TIM realized he could use Miranda's big brain to resurrect Shepard, he did. And once the Lazarus Project was over, he tossed Miranda aside.

This is why Miranda is so mean to Shepard in the beginning of Mass Effect 2. As Wilson speculates in his logs, she is jealous that Shepard is TIM's "new favorite" while she was just used and cast aside. Basically, she was objectified yet again.

Miranda Cries When Shepard Dumps Her

Meanwhile, Miranda falls in love with Jacob, who also used her for his own ends and tossed her aside like a thing. (See my Jacob article for a detailed explanation. I have a theory that Miranda couldn't give Jacob children (Lair of the Shadow Broker reveals that she is sterile), so he eventually found a woman who could in Mass Effect 3.)

So by the time Mass Effect 2 begins, Miranda is three for three in the "used like an object" department. No one recognizes that she is a person with feelings, not a thing to be used. No one values her for who she is but rather, what she can do for them.

My Shepard tells Miranda she's not an object.

My Shepard tells Miranda she's not an object.

The pain of being objectified is so deep that, should Shepard dump Miranda in Mass Effect 3, she will assume she has just been used again . . . And it leads to her death. It's especially painful for her because she thought Shepard was the first person to actually value her as a human being and recognize her humanity. Instead, Shepard just winds up using her like everyone else.

After all the times Miranda has been dehumanized, used, and tossed aside, can people not the see of the irony of the game itself dehumanizing her?

Miranda is Supposed to Be Tragic

Miranda dies in Shepard's arms.

Miranda dies in Shepard's arms.

I mean, she's based on a Shakespeare character, for God's sake.

So, yes, I believe it was the writer's intention that Miranda would die of heartbreak. All the followers in Mass Effect 2 were deliberately designed to be people who had nothing to live for, so it makes sense that they wouldn't mind signing up for a suicide mission.

This includes Miranda. Before the Citadel DLC, she and the other Mass Effect 2 characters didn't have much romance content because they were supposed to be throwaway characters who died and brought weight to Shepard's story (aka they were plot devices). I don't think BioWare counted on just how much people would get attached to them.

For this reason, whenever I romance Miranda with the Femshep + Miranda mod, I have Shepard go back to Liara. Miranda is typically dumped and she dies. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • I feel it fits Miranda's arc the best. For me, it feels like her intended story arc.
  • I like the added drama to my Shepard's story.
  • I like that my Shepard isn't a perfect person, screwed up, and wound up using someone to her own ends (she just wanted to feel good while everything around her was going to hell and also wanted to stop thinking of Liara, who she thought she'd lost . . . ).
  • Miranda objectified Shepard first. She saw Shepard as a project, not a person, and was willing to violate her freewill by putting a control chip in her. It adds to the irony if Miranda is objectified by Shepard in return.

So, hilariously enough, I feel it was the writer's intention that Shepard would objectify Miranda and that Miranda would die as a part of her story arc. But within the actual story, it was portrayed as tragic and unfortunate, while the butt camera cheapens the whole thing, almost making a p*rnified mockery of Miranda's objectification.

So that's why the butt camera had to go. Not only was it sexist and dehumanizing, it also went against the story that was being told. I'm glad that BioWare can make mistakes and learn from them (Hell, I'm amazed. Mass Effect: Andromeda is amazingly not sexist). They learned and they grew.

It's more than I can say for the fandom, who (ten years later) still want to leer at Miranda while she's crying about her sister.

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