Miranda: Femme Fatale?

As a space adventurer, and saviour of the galaxy with a new game spinning in the drive, I was happy. More Mass Effect! Getting back to being Ophelia Shepard! I HAVE WAITED SO LONG!!

A few hours into the game, I had familiarized myself with my new companions. Although I didn’t really dig them right off the bat, the joy of returning to this world had me riding high.

Then something happened. Like a solar eclipse, the camera pointed right at it, and I couldn’t look away.

Miranda’s butt.

Miranda, crewmember of the Normandy in ME2 leans over her desk, the camera focusing on her butt.

This was the first moment in the game, where I sat back, realized I was playing a game that wasn’t really meant for me and said “wtf?”

Of course, I still love the game, but that moment stuck with me.

And FINALLY, someone asked the question that I had wondered since that incident. WHY?

That someone, is the always awesome Tracey John. In an interview with Casey Hudson, ME2 project lead:

Me: Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, or I’m a female Shepard, but my other friends — both male and female — also noticed that shot and found it be to be gratuitous. I did notice that Jacob’s uniform is pretty tight too, but you can only tell when you stand behind him, and these shots of Miranda just could not be missed. So why…

Hudson: That’s part of her character design, she’s the femme fatale. It’s part of her character and the fact that she’s beautiful and this beauty is part of what helps her. As you get to know her, you realize there’s more to her.

First of all, the idea that she is a femme fatale. Let’s look at what a femme fatale is, to wikipedia! (Batman theme music plays) (brackets are comments by me):

A femme fatale is an alluring and seductive woman whose (check) charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire (hmm…), often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations (no….).

The phrase is French for “deadly woman”. A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose (no?) by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure (huh…). Typically, she is exceptionally well-endowed with these qualities. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm (um…) . She may also be (or imply to be) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; … (sort of).

Really, none of this is true of Miranda. She doesn’t ensnare any lovers, or manipulate male Shepard. From what we know, she doesn’t have a hidden purpose. Seems like a weak response. I get that she is supposed to be “the (traditionally) hot one” on the crew, but really?  I would almost prefer the admission that yes, this is eye candy, rather than the implication that this is part of her character.  In the game she laments her modifications, and from what I remember, never uses her beauty as an angle.  The camera shot always seemed odd to me, especially when playing female Shepard—who can’t get with Miranda anyway.

Go read Tracey’s article!

About Twyst

spider-woman (and marvel comics) fangirl, videogame producer
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22 Responses to Miranda: Femme Fatale?

  1. Daniel says:

    Yeah, this response irritated me possibly even more than the recent “Shepard isn’t gay because we say so” rubbish. I think you’ve done a good job of elucidating why – she so clearly isn’t a femme fatale. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Hudson doesn’t actually know what a femme fatale is, except for the token characteristics of intelligence, beauty (possibly a vampy beauty, in the case of many of the noirs) and the dubious quality of ‘feistiness’.

    Actually, perhaps this opens up a whole new debate: that this ‘lite’ femme fatale rubric encompasses many videogame heroines. Maybe this is where BioWare gets it from – the legion of female videogame characters branded femme fatale because they’ve balanced eye-candy with ‘feistiness’ in order to get away with such a shallow, male-oriented vision of femaleness.

    • Twyst says:

      I wondered this too, that perhaps he had a new definition in his head that i wasnt fully aware of. I also wondered if she turns into a femme fatale in ME3, but who is to say.

    • 8mph Ansible says:

      Personally, it feels like a lot of people ‘these days’ incorrectly use the term “femme fatale” and pretty much work by that definition you just used, at times applying it to heroines & anti-heroines too.

      I see it especially used as if it actually adds depth to shallowly feisty eyecandy, if you want to call it such, and/or justify her male-gaze oriented appearance. Sleight of hand?.

      -Ani8

  2. Gunthera1 says:

    When I played the game I understood her character as having resented how her father tried to create her as a “perfect” person. As such, I thought it was strange that she would wear such skin tight outfits. Why would she want to show off her father’s work in such a way? Plus, those pants did not look comfortable, they look like they are giving her a permanent wedgie.

    I have loved this set of interview articles by Tracey John. Someone is finally able to ask the people at Bioware some of the uncomfortable questions regarding their games. I have not been happy with their answers but I do love that they are being asked the questions!

    • Twyst says:

      Agreed, 100%. It is important that someone is asking these questions. Giving a voice to things that gamers are thinking. And I love ME2, i love it, it may be my favourite game of all time. But that doesnt mean it is perfect, or that there werent things that bothered me.

      I really really dont understand this shot, in the context of Miranda’s character, because as you say, she is trying to be different from what her father wanted, she is trying to escape that. So it is almost like the camera is making her a victim again.

      If it happened with only male Shepard, i could KIND OF (but not be happy about) understand, that it is his gaze, and she is just so attractive, as per her blueprints. But when it is female Shepard, it seems confusing. Since THERE ARE NO GAY SHEPARDS, it is a really wtf moment.

      • Asperity says:

        I think I handwaved it as my Shepard giving Miranda the stare-of-disbelief. Still clearly not what BioWare had in mind, but whatever helps us get through an otherwise pretty fabulous game. I also choose to believe that we see female turians all over the place. They just never talk to us. (Wait. That’s not actually better.)

      • Alex says:

        “So it is almost like the camera is making her a victim again.”

        Yeah, that is exactly what bothers me about it… it’s the developers saying, “She is saying some BS about being uncomfortable with using her sexuality, but who cares! Look at that ass!” We are supposed to treat her like a human being and care about her anxieties and yet the devs are encouraging us to look at her as a sex object FIRST. Not to mention it being so blatant as to be insulting.

        • Twyst says:

          even if they had said “it cost a lot of money to model that ass” it would have been more reasonable, than to pretend that it is in any way contextual.

          • Maverynthia says:

            So they are willing to spend money on modeling women’s asses rather than using that money to create the females of the other alien races :P

            *SIGH*

  3. Jayle Enn says:

    Seriously, that’s a deliberate shot and not an unfortunate side effect of a moving camera?

    I think Hudson confused ‘Femme Fatale’ with ‘SBD’.

    • Twyst says:

      No, that is a shot that even Casey comments on as being static — because they are waiting for input from the player, so that stays on screen until the player chooses their answer.

  4. Pandora's XBox says:

    Yay. More faux-worshipful BS “It’s not objectification, her sexiness makes her powerful/profound!” excuses.

  5. Laurentius says:

    The answers given by Hudson are almost embaressing to read, not real answers, but rather quickly invented blah-blah to cover up the real reasons for obvious in-game aspects. Shame that Tracy John’s question ends so quickly though.

  6. Twyst says:

    Related, without spoiliors, in the Kasumi DLC if you are female Shepard, you put on a dress for an infiltration. During the setup of the event, Kasumi comments that Shepard should wear “stuff like this more often”, and then there is a shot across Shepard’s boobs. It isnt a static like the butt shot, but i was kind of bothered… given that i think of my Shepard as me.

    wtf. You can’t get with Kasumi, my Shepard is loyal to Kaiden… what the hell.

  7. Jargo says:

    Interesting … why the focus on Miranda ? At least in the “background story” she is some sort of genetically engineered superhuman so she should be good looking somehow and the outfit might be a bit unpractical for combat but compared to the nearly topless Jack and the highly embarrassing cleavage of Samara its kind of mild.

    I know they are all uber-biotics and have force shields and don’t need armor. And Samara is also quite the opposite of a femme fatale.

    • Twyst says:

      Tracey wasnt able to ask more questions.
      There arent gratuitous shots of them — not that are full screen shots of their butt/boobs that the player pauses on (that i remember?). I wasnt a fan of Jack or Samara’s clothing either – Samara’s especially seemed out of place. I bought Jack the CSI Miami glasses and shirt :)

      • Asilic says:

        Hahaha Jack CSI Miami reference:
        http://epantiras.deviantart.com/art/ME2-Alternate-Outfits-Leaked-157689284

        I just come back from reading comments on another blogs (*cough*Kotaku) and, of course, horrible. Why I even go there?

        Anyway, thank you to Tracey John for the article. I am really bother by those shots and hope that in the futur they think about the “male gaze”. And for the argument that Jacob have the same treatment, I think you only see that kind of shot if you romance him.

        • Twyst says:

          There are a bunch of ME2 CSI Miami videos on youtube, which had me in stitches!

          There are shots of Jacob’s junk, for sure, but it isnt a pause-while-looking-at-his-crotch-shot, like Miranda’s.

  8. Erika says:

    Since when have “beauty” and “femme fatale” equated to “rubber suit up the ass crack”?

    I think the word Hudson’s looking for is “fanservice.”

    • Jargo says:

      Definitely fanservice. Because it doesn’t really fit into the game world.

      Most NPC’s don’t react at all to the outfit of Miranda/Jack or Samara and except Jack they don’t behave like people who dress like this. (Its also not the normal fashion of the late 21 century because the rest dresses quite normal)

      Reminds me of the “Sexy Heroines” rant of Anthony Burch. http://www.destructoid.com/rev-rant-sexy-heroines-148022.phtml

  9. loocas says:

    I get more upset every time the Bioware devs open their mouths.

    Miranda is a missed opportunity for a game that incorporates moral and social issues so well into its writing. I think there’s a point to be made about “perfection” of sexuality, especially with genetic engineering thrown in. The game doesn’t make that point, instead her engineering becomes an excuse for gratuitous shots like that.

  10. 12Sided says:

    *grumble mumble*
    On a related note as soon as I saw Samara I had my first “pulled out of universe” experience. Her outfit doesn’t look like it fits the ME universe, especially given her personality. She looked like she had escaped from the Marvel or DC universe. Previously I’d always considered ME to be like playing in Babylon 5 O_o It just doesn’t fit.
    I don’t even want an explanation really as it’s become clear that whenever the ME devs are asked about things like this they come up with some BS rather then just admit to throwing in fan-service.
    (I still love the games to pieces though)

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