30 day mass effect challenge, supplemental: in which I discuss edi …

Okay, I know I said Urdnot Wrex is my favorite team member and that Grunt is my favorite character – and I stand by those solidly – but EDI is a super close second to both, and I really feel the need to discuss why.

Just a slightly lengthy disclaimer: I would have preferred that EDI stay a disembodied voice like she was in ME2. It’s not like they didn’t necessarily foreshadow it with the rogue AI on the Citadel in the first game, but there was something about her being the Normandy‘s soul that made her transitioning into the “sexy robot body” harder to take. It is just … creepy.

Anyway, now onto the actual post:

Although EDI seemingly just appeared in ME2, her story began in the first game: as we find out in ME3, she was the rogue VI on Luna that Shepard took offline on Hackett’s orders. Cerberus then takes that self-actualizing virtual intelligence and creates a full AI. Shepard was there at her birth, not unlike the quarians and the geth; the only difference is that there was a shadow group who decided EDI would be useful and developed her in secret instead of attempting to eradicate her existence. Over the course of three games, EDI becomes fully realized, and despite the fact that Bioware decided that development needed to include a busty, nude robot to distract Joker from doing his job (which I’ll get to in a second), her character arc is one of the more compelling ones throughout the series.

As far as her being a member of the team, like I said above, she is right behind Wrex in my list of favorites. An incredibly resilient fighter, EDI is a strong ally with tech powers, and since I also usually played as an engineer, I could combo with her attacks and do pretty significant damage. I think it might have been pretty cool to allow her to call down missile strikes from the Normandy, but I guess all of my dreams can’t come true. She also provides incredibly entertaining dialogue and insights that other characters might not have (like the calming effects of geth architecture, for example). One of my favorites has to be in ME3 while aboard the geth dreadnought, where EDI is explaining to certain team members (Kaiden, Ashley, or James) that Tali and BroShep had been “intimate” during the second game, and they were appropriately and hilariously awkward about the whole thing.

But now for the big elephant in the room: EDI’s body. Even if the Dr. Eva model absolutely had to be a part of ME3, it didn’t have to be designed as a titillating mannequin walking around. That was a conscious choice on the part of the game developers, almost like a reward for players that knew Tricia Helfer was voicing her.

And this is in no way meant to shame the talented and objectively gorgeous Tricia Helfer. She is incredibly nice to look at, but I think we can appreciate her for more than her appearance – she’s tough, strong, and gifted.

But anyway …

The male gaze obviously played a major part in her becoming an active team member (as opposed to the support role she had aboard the ship), a treatment similar to that of Ashley, who was inexplicably sexed up for the third game. Was it really necessary, though? Couldn’t she have been given a robot body like No-3113 (Noelle) from The Adventure Zone? Or couldn’t she have been placed in a mech, seeing as human-like robots weren’t even around until ME3? I suppose neither of these options would have inspired Joker to make a cake. Sigh. I really didn’t intend for this to become a diatribe on the sexualization of women in video games, but to quote Vulture‘s Danielle Henderson, “I didn’t create this patriarchal boner-fueled garbage pit of a planet – I just live in it.”

And then they added in an incredibly awkward relationship with Joker, which just cheapens what she learns throughout the games. She’s an artificial intelligence and doesn’t need to procreate, so having her be a sexual fantasy for Joker (and players) is taking away a portion of what agency she’s developed over two games. It’s not that I think she should have been a relationshipless character; I just wish they would have explored sexuality (or a lack thereof) and romantic relationships in a much more nuanced way than they did. I mean, it took them three games to finally retcon Kaiden’s bisexuality, but they had homosexuality covered with Traynor and Cortez, and Liara’s (well, the asari, in general) pansexuality was just accepted. And with EDI, they could have approached asexuality, a la Parvati in The Outer Worlds. And not even just with EDI: they could have made Joker asexual, happy to connect with another being who didn’t need sex to be in a committed relationship.

But here’s my gripe: it’s not like they didn’t already have an interesting story to tell with her evolution from a VI that had just gained sentience to a fully-actualized artificial human consciousness who chooses to fight for the survival of the human race. That is the part that makes her one of my favorite characters. Her development as a person, from her periodic modifications to her morality to her constant attempts (and occasional failures) at humor, gives her a depth and vulnerability that not many characters in video games have. And it’s not one of those Born Sexy Yesterday ways, although it could have been made this way, for which I am eternally grateful to Bioware that it wasn’t. While she may just be discovering what it means to be alive, she is in no way naive or childlike. She just knows that she must learn things, and she has no problem reaching out to others for help in making those decisions, recognizing (like an adult) that choices regarding morality (and various other topics) cannot be “made in a vacuum.”

And see, this is why I have such a complicated set of feelings regarding EDI. Like, I don’t get turned on when I see her body (and I’m a bisexual woman, so), so I’m able to really focus on her story and my friendship with her, appreciating the little moments where she asks for my advice. I can marvel at her insightful observations. But then I get angry that people who make games assume that players are not going to care about a female character unless she looks like something out of a porno. And then I hate the fact that so much of her story at the beginning of ME3 was about her relationship with Joker, because how else is she supposed to matter, right? Ugh, it’s just so frustrating.

Regardless of any of my issues with Bioware’s choices, though, EDI is such a great part of the game. In ME2, her interactions with Joker are hilarious, every single time, and she’s much better than the original ship VI that just kind of told everyone when Shep went ashore. EDI is almost always on my squad (after she takes over Dr. Eva’s body) in ME3, and I make sure to talk to her every single time I wander around the ship between missions. But she was not just an information repository or an arsenal of technology; she actually became Shepard’s friend and ally and a valuable member of the crew. She was actually the main reason I had any problem choosing the destroy option at the end of the trilogy; the pain of sacrificing her to save the galaxy wasn’t eased by knowing that she would have been 100% behind my decision.

But anyway, that’s my supplemental post on EDI. I have to go get some studying done, or else this would def be a lot longer. I think she would support me in learning more about developmental psychology, though.

Art Credit: eTeknix, Queerblr, IMDB

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