Teerah Shepard


Teerah Shepard

Teerah remembers her parents. This is not what people expect at first. She is a slumrat, one of the dregs. They crawl up from nothing and come to nothing, which is what everyone says and everyone knows. But she remembers her parents and her father’s bright smile and her mother’s strong hands. What became of them, well, she remembers that too, but it’s not important. What is important is that she kept on; she survived; she did not compromise.

When she enlists she’s still a slumrat, crawled up from nothing, who will come to nothing. Everyone says and everyone knows that she will wash out. Her kind don’t do well with authority or structure, taking orders and following rules. It is not the first untrue thing said of her and it will not be the last. She keeps on, she survives, and she does not compromise. On Akuze, she is the only one. She remembers what became of her unit, the ways in which each and every one of them died. But it’s not important.

They look at her differently then. Before: she’s damaged, no matter how many years of perfect service–perfect soldiering–precede her, a look at her pre-service history paints her in colors that bleed into everything afterwards. After: she’s broken, which is just a more heroic form of damaged. It’s all another skin they want so badly for her to slip into.

Teerah would wish to be defined by all of her actions, her attitudes, and the choices she makes, not just the parts of her past that burn bright in other people’s minds, shaping their expectations. But she’s smart enough to know that they will never stop defining her by the things she’s walked away from. She is a pristine whole–unwavering, just, and charitable. They only see her parts.

It’s not important.

She keeps on. She survives. She does not compromise.

Multiple shots of Teerah Shepard ducking behind cover, being addressed by the Citadel Council, flanked by Kaidan Alenko, etc.

This is a series of posts seeking to highlight the various Commanders Shepard of the Mass Effect universe, and make sure people don’t forget that not everyone plays a default white male option that looks like every other space marine out there. Inspiration from Arie Salih.

About Rawles

Rawles is cis, queer, black, a reader, a writer, a gamer, and an activist. She enjoys marathon sessions of The Sims, melting faces, and having an alt for every possible RPG outcome. She tweets more than she ought to across multiple accounts, but you can find her stream of consciousness rantings at @rawlesmarie and her original fiction and critical essays on pop culture at aristeia.me.
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8 Responses to Teerah Shepard

  1. Mantheos says:

    She strikes me as very similar to Jack Bauer from 24, especially in the later seasons when he has been hardened and broken by the sacrifices and horrible things he has had to do in the name of his country. Neither of them compromise, and both of them always survive and are further hardened by their experiences. Very well done.

    • Rawles says:

      Thank you! Though I actually wouldn’t characterize her as like Jack Bauer at all. What Teerah refuses to compromise is herself. The expectation is that she’s damaged and broken because of what she’s been through. That’s not necessarily the reality. She perseveres and carries on and there is a certain hardness (perhaps just strength) in that, but she refuses to let it all stay with her and make her into someone that she’s not despite what people assume about her because of it.

      And the reason her character took shape that way was because of the game mechanic where in the Earthborn backstory comes with an automatic boost to Renegade points, whereas you had to be a Spacer aka army brat to get a boost to Paragon points.

      Now, with my initial playthrough for most any RPG with any ind of morality system, I generally end up as the Goodiest Goody Goody Goodface Two-Shoes of all time. It’s just what happens. With Mass Effect, I went for the Earthborn backstory because it was most interesting to me only to find out later that the implicit assumption was that because my character was from an underprivileged background they were more inclined towards being immoral, criminal, mercenary, and xenophobic. Which if you apply it to the narrative, it also implies that whenever my Earthborn character did take a questionable action it stuck out in everyone’s mind more. And that was such a nice little microcosm of a whole bunch of society’s class (and attendant race) issues when it comes to expectations of morality or lack thereof, that it couldn’t help but to deeply affect my perception of my character, the universe she was in, and how she was treated by it.

      • Mantheos says:

        Well said. That is very interesting how other characters view your Earthborn Shepard, and how your Shepard’s decisions affect and even surprise other characters. Which squadmates did you bring along the most?

        • Rawles says:

          To clarify, the game doesn’t actually follow that mechanic (Paragon boost for Spacers, Renegade boost for Earthborn) through into the story to the best of my knowledge. I think characters pretty uniformly only question/don’t question/agree/disagree with your actions based on their own philosophies/traits. The only time your pre-service background is mentioned in the game is basically in the intro and during the quest based on it.

          I was saying that the mechanic’s existence not only made a statement about the devs and their perspective, but in a roleplaying/narrative sense, affected how I perceived the interactions my character had. Particularly since in the Earthborn quest line, it’s explicitly stated that her background is public knowledge. Basically, the devs clearly felt: underprivileged = inclined towards immorality and made their morality rubric reflect that bias. So it was really easy for me to imagine that bias also existing in the world they created. Especially if you make an attempt to figure out what the Renegade/Paragon game mechanic means in terms of the story (i.e. what could it really be measuring other than how other people perceive you).

          Though I’m interested to see if anything about this changes in Mass Effect 2 since in Dragon Age characters do actually react to your background much moreso than in ME1. (Granted the situation in DAO is more conducive to it than ME1, but still.)

      • Mantheos says:

        I couldn’t reply to your reply, so I’ll do it here. Now I get what your saying. Yeah, that is interesting how the developers consider the underprivelidged Earthborn gang background as the more “renegade” background.

        For me, even more interesting than that is how the colonist background is neutral. For that, it really depends on what you choose as your service history. You can have several different personalities based off of how the character deals with the attack on Mindoir. For example, if you choose a colonist-Torfan background, then you set up a character who wipes out the Batarians on Torfan with extreme prejudice that is probably based off of the Batarian slavers attacking his/her home.

  2. Alex says:

    This is so very awesome.

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