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"Mass Effect 2" (2011): Jacob Taylor, an Analysis


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

Jacob as he appeared in "Mass Effect 2."

Jacob as he appeared in "Mass Effect 2."

Jacob Taylor was the first follower you recruited in Mass Effect 2. He was a grumpy do-gooder Alliance soldier who was a bit of a hypocrite, but like Ashley Williams in the first game, was completely blind to his own flaws. At least Ashley was interesting, though. Even sitting here typing about Jacob is making me fall asleep.

I was tempted to title this "Why fans hated Jacob Taylor," but Jacob is such a boring character that most fans don't care about him either way. The only people who really hate him are 1) the fans who romanced him or 2) are aware of his crappy romance and hate him by proxy.

I'm in the second group.

But instead of bashing Jacob the way I bashed Kaidan (ha ha), in my "Why I Hate Kaidan Article, "I'm going to try to do an actual analysis, explaining why the character just . . . failed for me.

Welcome to my analysis of Jacob Taylor.

The Player is Forced to Flirt (Ugh)

Kaidan greets Shepard on Horizon.

Kaidan greets Shepard on Horizon.

It's not Jacob's fault that I hate him. For context, I'm a lesbian, so I basically hate all the male human followers. Not because they're male, but because the game always forces Commander Shepard to flirt with them.

This is something that always got on my nerves, even before I started roleplaying Shepard as completely 100% lesbian. I hated being forced into a romance with Kaidan in the first game. Even if Shepard turned him down, there was still an awkward love triangle between him, Shepard, and Liara.

Unrequited love is realistic. I only wish they'd made Kaidan back off a little more. People complain about Liara always following Shepard around like a puppy dog, but for me, Kaidan is ten times more creepy and possessive.

You get to the second game, and Kaidan treats you like a lover on Horizon whether you romance him or not. The only difference between romancing him and not having romanced him is that he hugs the Shepard he romanced. Otherwise, he still treats her like a lover who betrayed him by not calling while she was in a coma.

Because I was foolish enough to leave Kaidan alive, he continued to pursue my Shepard straight into Mass Effect 3, where he asked to date her even though she had shown zero interest. You'd think they would leave it up to the player to decide by the third game. Especially if your character never once showed an interest. But no. Kaidan keeps trying to f*ck you no matter what you do. The only solution is to remove him from the game entirely by killing him on Virmire.

James Vega (ugh) comes up to Shepard's cabin.

James Vega (ugh) comes up to Shepard's cabin.

In the third game, Commander Shepard is forced once again to flirt with the human male follower, this time James Vega, who is supposed to be in a mentor/student relationship with her (so it adds an extra layer of creepiness).

Vega sexually harasses Shepard to annoy her (comments about her breasts) because he's mad at her for destroying the Collector base, making the sacrifice of his squad pointless. It's really childish. And Shepard deals with it by flirting with Vega, calling his bluff, and in turn making him uncomfortable. It was a little funny the first time, but after a while I started to resent the fact that my lesbian character had been hitting on men repeatedly for three games.

Imagine if they forced straight male players to be gay for three games. The Twitter rage would be phenomenal. In a game that's supposed to include lesbians, why won't it let me be a lesbian???

And when you talk to Jacob in Mass Effect 2, it's the same.

Jacob in the armory on the Normandy.

Jacob in the armory on the Normandy.

When I was younger, I was something of a completionist (now I just don't give a sh*t). So this meant I would talk to every character to get their story and I would do every mission. So even though I didn't like Jacob much, I still tried talking to him on the Normandy.

I say I "tried" because as soon as you talk to him, Shepard puts on a purring, "come hither" voice like she's trying to seduce him right then and there. Jacob's response to this is to reply that it's too soon, shutting Shepard down and turning away from her.

The first time this happened, I was so grossed out that I never spoke to Jacob again. It was Kaidan all over again: another male character who's impossible to talk to as a female because if you do, you'll be forced into a romance.

Anders speaks to Hawke.

Anders speaks to Hawke.

For the record, this is not the same as homophobic male gamers being grossed out by Anders hitting on them in Dragon Age 2.

Anders is pretty respectful when he propositions Hawke. When Hawke says no, he's hurt but goes back to being professional and doesn't keep pursing it (which at that point would have been sexual harassment if he hadn't). There's no reason to be grossed out or offended by the incident because Anders isn't disrespectful. Remotely. If anything, Hawke is pretty mean in the way they shoot him down, which is why he gains rivalry.

Male gamers just didn't want to deal with unwanted sexual attention from a man, to which I say . . . welcome to being a woman.

Even though my characters are gay, I don't mind if male characters respectfully flirt with them and take the rejection maturely. I expanded on this in my Kaidan article when I compared Kaidan to Thane, who is way more respectful of Shepard's sexuality.

I'm often grossed out by Kaidan and Jacob (and Vega) because my character is being forced to be straight, which, as a gay person, I find disgusting (no offense, straighties. You are free to find my sexuality disgusting but you still have to respect me).

No one forced Hawke to be gay in Dragon Age 2, and they were given the ability to say no. Shepard, on the other hand, is forced to flirt with men, even if you're trying to play her as gay. Or hell. Maybe your Shepard is straight, loyal to Kaidan, or just uninterested, and the game still forces her to flirt with every human man within spitting distance.

Fan art of Darth Revan and Carth. Reminds me of my first play through.

Fan art of Darth Revan and Carth. Reminds me of my first play through.

I feel like KotOR also did this better than Mass Effect. In KotOR, Carth is the male romance for straight female Revan. You talk to him as female Revan and are forced into a romance, but there's room to just roleplay it as a one-sided thing where Carth just has a crush.

As with Anders and Kaidan, Carth falls in love with female Revan, even if she's bad, and she can dismiss, ignore, and even mock him (I mean . . she's evil). In other words, Revan has agency. When it comes to Jacob and James Vega, Shepard does not.

I think the problem with Mass Effect is that it started out an actual roleplaying game, where you could control Shepard and choose who she was attracted to and who she wanted to romance. By the time Mass Effect 2 rolled around, Shepard was slowly becoming more of a predetermined character with auto-dialogue.

So even though Shepard may have romanced Liara in the past, the developers ignored the fact that she could be gay and forced her to hit on every human male she would meet from Mass Effect 2 onward. This problem actually became even worse in Mass Effect 3, where the player has even less control over Shepard.

To be clear, I'm not really . . . complaining. I loved Mass Effect 3 despite its problems. I loved Shepard's arc and the fact that they made her more human and vulnerable, showed how she was struggling to handle stress, etc. But at the same time, I really hated how her sexuality was pretty much taken out of my hands. That aspect of her was something they told me I could control and then they . . . took it away.

So because of the forced romance with Jacob, everything I know about him is from Youtube videos and wikis. Even got to a point where I started killing off his character in the Suicide Mission because I hated getting to Mass Effect 3 and hearing my LESBIAN Shepard make a comment about how Jacob "looked good" and then glance over his body, as if she was salivating to get in his pants . . . ugh.

Jacob has a Thing for Powerful Women

Jacob and Miranda.

Jacob and Miranda.

This was something I immediately noticed about Jacob, even before Mass Effect 3 was released. Namely because there's a part after Jacob's personal quest where Shepard learns that he and Miranda used to be a thing. If Shepard asks about it, Jacob gives her a longing look as he says that Miranda deserves a better man than him (and Shepard doesn't?). It was then that it clicked for me that Jacob liked powerful women.

And by that I mean actual, raw power. Like battle prowess.

It becomes even more obvious that Jacob wants Shepard for himself when Thane joins the crew. He becomes aggressive and rude toward Thane, saying that he doesn't like assassins because assassins are just "precise mercenaries . . ." even though Jacob himself is little more than a mercenary working on a terrorist ship.

The hypocrisy is astounding. But Jacob is so set on his lust toward Shepard, he can't even see it.

Originally, Thane and Jacob were going to have a rivalry mirroring Miranda/Jack and Tali/Legion, where the player has to pick a side or else settle the dispute by telling both to knock it off. Thane and Jacob were going to fight over Shepard much the way Miranda and Jack can.

But for whatever reason, it was cut. And so, Jacob being a di*k when Thane boards the ship is just the leftovers of that.

Jacob and Miranda in the comic "Foundation."

Jacob and Miranda in the comic "Foundation."

Jacob basically has a feti*h. And it's a feti*h because he desires a specific group of people for a really unhealthy reason (that reason being self-hate). So he doesn't see that group of people as people and winds up mistreating them as a result ("pumped and dumped" is the rather crude descriptor of it).

Jacob is a decorated soldier and skilled fighter (in the lore, not the actual game, sadly) but even after all of his accomplishments, he's still . . . ordinary. And he's so boring that he's bored with himself. It's evident in his behavior: he's a quitter. He jumps from one thing to another (Alliance, Corsairs, Cerberus) looking for a thrill only to get bored again and quit.

This is why during the Suicide Mission, Jacob volunteers for the vents. He knows it's dangerous. He knows it's a job someone else would be more properly equipped for. But he volunteers anyway because he cares more about his thrill than the mission.

This is dangerous thinking. Jacob is a good soldier . . . but he's not a leader. He's a great fighter . . . but there's nothing really special about him. Seeking a thrill is escapism. And by romancing powerful women, he lives vicariously through them.

Jacob and Miranda interrogate Shepard.

Jacob and Miranda interrogate Shepard.

This is why Jacob romances Miranda, only to dump her and move on. She's a thrill that he eventually gets bored with.

Because the reality is . . . healthy relationships are boring. That's not a bad thing. But to Jacob, it is. He and Miranda fell into a nice, boring, happy relationship. Miranda probably brought up wanting kids (we learn in the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker that she wants children) and Jacob realized he was bored and bounced.

In Mass Effect 2, Jacob does not want to be boring and settle down. Jacob wants a thrill. He worked with Miranda in the comics and the action and adventure were thrilling. But once that was over . . . He got bored and left her.

This is also the reason why he drools over Samara (another powerful woman) while completely ignoring Kasumi (a weaker stealth fighter who dotes on him to the point of stalking him and writing poetry about him).

And, of course, this is also why he romances Commander Shepard.

Shepard was Just a Prizzze.

Jacob and Commander Shepard.

Jacob and Commander Shepard.

I've always felt bad for fans who invested themselves in Jacob's romance, because it was always obvious to me that Shepard was just a quick thrill and that saying "I love you" to her was . . . just a way to manipulate her.

I know this because, as I said, I looked at his content on Youtube videos, and I saw conversation threads that some players may not have explored. I know that during some of his romance chats, Shepard tries to coax Jacob into saying he loves her. He refuses. So the fact that he uses it later to get what he wants and then dump her . . . He's such a scumbag.

The only black male follower is a liar and a cheater . . .Sigh. I'm not mad. I actually find it hilarious that they tried so hard and failed anyway (and, yes, I'm black). But if I were straight and had romanced him? I would be f*cking pissed. Hell, I am pissed on behalf of the female players who were let down by his character arc in Mass Effect 3. But we'll get to that.

I feel like BioWare was so afraid of portraying Jacob as a racist caricature that they made him boring as hell. But they still managed to be racist by a) giving him the worst father imaginable and b) making him a player who lied to get sex and then cheated.

On the Normandy during the final romance scene, he sneaks into Shepard's cabin and calls her "The prizzzzze."

It's a terrible, cringe-worthy line that has become a meme over the years. But it reveals a lot about Jacob's character. It says that Shepard is just a thrill. That's it. With her being locked away for six months in Mass Effect 3, she couldn't keep providing thrills, and so he left her.

Jacob Embraces Being Bland

Dr. Brynn Cole.

Dr. Brynn Cole.

In Mass Effect 3, players discover that Jacob has turned his back on the Reaper threat because he wants to get married and have a kid and finally embrace being boring and normal. Being normal is not something he can do with a powerful badass like Shepard (this is what he means with that "you're married to the Normandy" line), so he leaves her and finds a normal woman, knocks her up, and sets out on his normal life playing bodyguard to some scientists.

This "normal" woman is Dr. Brynn Cole and guess what? She's voiced by Jo Wyatt, the voice of Hawke, the protagonist from Dragon Age 2.

When Shepard discovers that Jacob has left her for Brynn, she and her fans are subjected to a ton of . . . Well, meanness. It was utter meanness on the developers' part to not only have a romance pull this sh*t, but on the top that, it's rubbed all in Shepard's face and it's rubbed all in our face.

Dr. Brynn Cole is unnecessarily nasty to Shepard, gloating that she stole her man and that she'll be a better match for him. Shepard has a rather degrading moment where she tries to entice Jacob back to her. Jacob almost gives in but stands his ground, insisting that he couldn't wait for Shepard forever (it was just six months, Jacob . . .).

This is not only degrading to women who romanced Jacob but to all female players in the audience. Shepard and Hawke, the two greatest female protagonists in video game history, have both been reduced to a Jerry Springer episode by catfighting over a worthless, self-centered man.

It's just . . . astounding. For years, I have scratched my head over how and why BioWare, who claims to be so "progressive," could be so blatantly sexist and mean to their female audience. Could you imagine if male fans discovered Miranda or Tali had left Shepard for someone else and oh, they're pregnant too??? The rage would have been unending (and I would have been there with popcorn).

But no. Only female fans, as ever, are subjected to this utter f*ckery in video games. It's disrespectful to the fans who invested themselves in these characters to have the romance take such an unnecessarily cruel and mocking turn. And it's disrespectful to the women who voice acted the characters (imagine them wincing through those cringey lines).

Because honestly? Jacob's entire Mass Effect 3 arc feels like a mockery of women everywhere. "Ha ha, look at these two dumb women fighting over this lying dude! Cat fight!"

Women characters and women players are always made a mockery of. I've learned to expect this in all video games now, even BioWare's games.

No longer am I that naïve twenty-something who felt so grateful to be included. Looking back, I can't believe I was grateful for the basic decency of having been briefly acknowledged in the audience. People act like BioWare are saints because they sometimes include marginalized players, but in reality, they're flawed assholes like everyone else.

BioWare Loves Mocking Fans

The fact that BioWare added a refusal ending that mocked and ridiculed fans for our very justifiable anger regarding Mass Effect 3's (sh*tty) ending is evidence enough of just how mature, thoughtful, and kind game developers are.

People say male gamers are toxic and misogynistic, but where did they learn it from, I wonder.

A Violent Resolution

Shepard slaps Jacob in the DLC Citadel.

Shepard slaps Jacob in the DLC Citadel.

Of course, BioWare realized they done f*cked up, and so they gave players the option to slap Jacob silly during the Citadel DLC. Before that moment, Shepard was never allowed to properly express her anger (Baffling. Did they think players would not have been angry?). Instead, she was forced to pretend to be happy for Jacob, even forcing an awkward smile as he talked about naming his baby after her. Again . . . the writing is so, so mean to female fans.

The Citadel DLC allowed fans to get some justice (to be dramatic). Jacob is smacked by a furious Shepard. But after having watched the video, I thought it was done . . . poorly. Instead of there being any build up or acknowledgement of why Jacob deserves to be slapped, Shepard just straight up slaps him out of nowhere and he's baffled. It was poorly written, basically. But I suppose it was something.

The Citadel DLC was BioWare's way of apologizing to their fans. Not only for the abysmal ending to the trilogy but also for the loose character threads throughout the story (Jacob's betrayal, Thane's largely ignored death, etc). A lot of fans (myself included) hated not getting a proper goodbye with our favorite characters from Mass Effect 2, and far too many things were left up in the air.

The Citadel DLC allowed players to tie up loose ends, say goodbye to the characters, and give the franchise the proper send off it deserved.

Mass Effect was a trilogy with a lot of flaws and poor writing. But it also had great characters, a wonderful music score, and a lot of really interesting lore. And being Commander Shepard for three games was an unforgettable experience, enough that fans like me will be writing about its lore and characters for years to come.

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