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"Mass Effect" (2009): Why I Actually Hate Kaidan


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

Kaidan in Mass Effect 3.

Kaidan in Mass Effect 3.

I realize "hate" is a strong word and I actually regret using it, but I have to be honest about how I feel: I really just can't stand Kaidan.

A lot of people in the Mass Effect fandom hate Kaidan, but they hate him because his voice actor, Raphael Sbarge, also voiced Carth Onasi, that annoying guy from KotOR.

I hate Kaidan for a different reason:I hate him because he's sexist and homophobic. Don't worry, I'm going to explain to you how he is sexist and homophobic. That's the point of this article!

(Yes, bisexual people can be homophobic. "Lesbophobic" is the proper term, but the first half of this article is actually about the demeaning way Kaidan treats straight female Shepard. The second half is about his lesbophobia toward lesbian Shepard.)

Why I Romanced Kaidan

Liara's first appearance in the series.

Liara's first appearance in the series.

Because I'm a lesbian (and because I love aliens), I went into the first Mass Effect game with the full intention of romancing Liara.

When I met her, however, I was turned off by the fact that she had been purposely designed to look like a twelve-year-old child. She had a fat, round face and freckles and big blue eyes and it was just . . . unsettling.

I'm not putting down women who look younger than they actually are (I do), but Liara just looked too young. So I romanced Kaidan instead.

Romancing Kaidan, A Sad Mistake



Romancing Kaidan is probably the worst thing I ever did in the Mass Effect trilogy (and I blew up the Batarians in Arrival).

His final romance dialogue in the first game (from a writer's perspective) is cringeworthy. I cringed so bad during the final romance scene. And don't get me started on the bad camera angles.

Aside from that, however, his romance with straight Shepard was fine. I even thought parts of it were sweet. But then . . . Horizon.

Kaidan as he appeared on Horizon, right before arguing with Shepard.

Kaidan as he appeared on Horizon, right before arguing with Shepard.

By Mass Effect 2, Kaidan goes from being an awkward and doting puppy to a Grade-A Asshole. He refuses to understand that Shepard has been forced to join Cerberus against her will, instead comparing her to Saren and ranting about how he's so disappointed in her.

He gets angry that she doesn't contact him, but given the way he's throwing his belligerent tantrum, it isn't surprising that Shepard didn't bother.

Angry Kaidan approaching Shepard on Horizon.

Angry Kaidan approaching Shepard on Horizon.

After Horizon, Kaidan sends Shepard a letter that reads very much like a break up. He even talks about how he tried dating someone else and moving on for a while. And yet, for some odd reason, Shepard isn't allowed to do the same!

Yes, I'm aware that for Shepard isn't has really been two years. For Shepard, it was just yesterday that she fell in love with Kaidan. So if she moves on really fast, then it's insulting to him.

But after the way Kaidan behaves on Horizon, and after the very final-sounding letter he sends to Shepard, who can blame Shepard for thinking the relationship was over and trying to move on?

Apparently, Kaidan can blame her. Kaidan can blame her for the entirety of Mass Effect 3.

Kaidan Sees Shepard as Property

Kaidan nearly shoots Shepard.

Kaidan nearly shoots Shepard.

While it's understandable that Kaidan overreacts to Shepard coming back from the dead, at the same time, he treats Shepard like property. This is what makes his behavior sexist.

Even though Shepard literally died, Kaidan expects her to stay loyal to him because he can't move on with his life after two years, which is pretty freaking disturbing.

It's disturbing because Kaidan barely knew Shepard. He and Shepard didn't have some deep romance where they had a real connection. What they had instead was some occasional flirty banter, one night of intimacy, and a couple months dating after that. (The Normandy was destroyed a couple months after the events of Mass Effect.)

And yet, Kaidan acts as if he and Shepard are married. Ironic, considering that even married people believe in "until death do us part."

Why should Shepard waltz back into Kaidan's life after two years of being dead? That would be harmful and disturbing to him (as evidenced by his behavior on Horizon). But he can't manage to grasp that.

And once again, he's a hypocrite. Because after telling Shepard off and storming off Horizon, he sends her a note saying that he tried to date someone else for a while. So it's okay for Kaidan to try to move on, but Shepard may not. Because women are things to own?

Kaidan accusing Shepard of "cheating."

Kaidan accusing Shepard of "cheating."

If Shepard moves on and romances someone else in Mass Effect 2, Kaidan will spend all of Mass Effect 3 pointing a finger and calling her a "cheater."

I recall viewing the argument on Horizon as a break up. Kaidan's letter afterward did nothing to negate what had been said. Not for me, anyway.

Shepard wasn't given an in-game option to break up with Kaidan, which means that — mechanically — she is forced to move on without telling him. The player has no agency.

So in the third game, it feels like Kaidan is constantly harping on about something the player had no control over. We were given no option to end the relationship except to have Shepard move on. And because I viewed Horizon as a break up, it didn't seem like "cheating" to me.

BioWare did this deliberately because they wanted to create amusing drama. I just thought it was annoying.

Shepard shutting down Kaidan on Mars.

Shepard shutting down Kaidan on Mars.

Probably the worst part is, Shepard is given no option to call Kaidan out on his bullshit. This is because Kaidan's writer for Mass Effect 3 (amazingly enough, a woman) didn't see how his behavior was sexist.

Internalized sexism is a thing, folks.

Shepard can chew out Kaidan on Mars about Cerberus, but she can't tell Kaidan to back off about her choice to leave him, that she considered them done after the way he treated her on Horizon (and the fact that, you know, she was dead for two years), and that she wasn't a cheater.

Instead, Shepard has three options: to lie, apologize, or explain.

Apologizing is dumb. I tried that option (out of curiosity and to see the end of the romance), and it was painful to watch Shepard, this strong woman who takes no one's crap, crawling on her knees in shame when she had done nothing wrong!

Shepard can also lie, which seems cowardly and disgusting. What does she have to be shamed of? And why hide the truth from Kaidan? Who is he?

And the last option — explaining — is such crap. Kaidan chewed Shepard out on Horizon, then sent her a letter pretty much saying he couldn't be with her and that it was too much, and she needs to explain why she chose to move on with her life after all of that? No, she doesn't.

No matter what option the player takes, the blame is still on Shepard. Kaidan is never held responsible for his actions towards her, and she never stands up for herself or acknowledges that he is the one behaving in a possessive and ridiculous manner.

Ashley and Male Shepard arguing in Mass Effect 3.

Ashley and Male Shepard arguing in Mass Effect 3.

This is further underscored by the way the writers treated the male version of Shepard.

When confronting Ashley in the hospital, she behaves in the same possessive and irrational manner toward male Shepard. Ashley accuses male Shepard of cheating, even though she told him to F off on Horizon!

Unlike Shepard, male Shepard is given the option to shut Ashley down and (rightfully) call her out on her crap. He points out that Horizon was a break up and that he doesn't owe Ashley an explanation.

Male Shepard is allowed to assert his own humanity and the agency that comes with it, as is Kaidan. In both instances, the men are right and the women are wrong, the men are human beings with freedom to move on and make choices while the women are possessions who should know their place.

How is this not sexist?

Kaidan Can't Take "No" For An Answer

Kaidan as he appears in the first "Mass Effect."

Kaidan as he appears in the first "Mass Effect."

When I got tired of Kaidan's crap, I romanced Liara instead, and it was the best thing I ever did in Mass Effect. Liara has since become my favorite fictional lesbian romance ever. I'm so glad I gave her a chance.

And yet, even when Shepard is clearly a lesbian, Kaidan still doesn't leave her alone. This is homophobic and sexist (aka lesbophobia): ignoring a woman's boundaries because she's a woman and ignoring a woman's boundaries because she's gay.

If you try talking to Kaidan while already romancing Liara, he disrespects Shepard by prying into her personal life, asking her questions about her sexuality, stumbling over the world "lesbian," and asking to know how she feels about Liara — when none of that is his f****** business.

The nice thing about the first game is that the writers gave Shepard the option to put Kaidan in his place. He is a subordinate prying into the personal life of a commanding officer, and it's incredibly disrespectful to her as a solider and as his superior.

Kaidan would never do that to male Shepard, instead joking with him about how attractive Liara is. Because he respects male Shepard's boundaries (at least he did in the first game).

And even though Shepard can say some funny things to shut Kaidan down, it was still so annoying (and so reminiscent of men in real life) that I decided to stop talking to Kaidan altogether in the first game.

Kaidan greets Shepard on Horizon.

Kaidan greets Shepard on Horizon.

Unfortunately, simply ignoring Kaidan's existence in the first game isn't enough. If you leave him alive, he goes on to harass Shepard about her sexuality for two more games.

In Mass Effect 2, he behaves toward Shepard as if the two of you are married. There is no difference between a Shepard who didn't and did romance him because either way, he's still obsessed (not in love) with Shepard.

You can't love someone you don't know, and Kaidan never really knew Shepard. There was simply no time for that. He only knew her a couple months!

The first game implies that Shepard hadn't been on the Normandy that long before the events of the game began. The actual events of the game take several months — through all of which my gay character ignored Kaidan — and then Shepard dies a few months later.

Unlike Liara, Kaidan cannot go into Shepard's head and know her intimately in a short amount of time. This is part of the reason he's so jealous of her relationship with Liara. In the first game, you can witness his outbursts during the mission debrief scenes. Every time Liara talks about how wonderful it is inside Shepard's head, Kaidan gets upset and changes the subject.

Kaidan longs for intimacy with Shepard, but when she shocks him by working with Cerberus, he realizes that he had her on a pedestal and that he never really knew her. This is why he says to her in the third game that he wants to "make it real" when discussing their relationship.

It's because their relationship never had a chance to be real. It makes his obsession with Shepard all the more creepy when he never even knew her.

Kaidan in Apollo's Cafe with Shepard.

Kaidan in Apollo's Cafe with Shepard.

Though Shepard can romance Liara across the entire trilogy, Kaidan will ignore this fact to still try and start a relationship with Shepard.

It is insanely disrespectful (aka homophobic). He knows that Shepard is gay (as I said, he stumbles over the word "lesbian" several times across the trilogy). He knows that Shepard is in love with Liara. But he handwaves her sexuality and her serious, long-term relationship with another woman as if they weren't real, and he tells Shepard that he has feelings for her anyway. (This only happens if you talk to him before locking in Liara's romance, but it's still shitty regardless.)

If Shepard gently says no, Kaidan will again stumble over the word "lesbian" while showing a great deal of frustration. He then makes Shepard pay for lunch. (Imagine me rolling my eyes here.)

What guys like Kaidan don't seem to understand is that most people have preferences. Even if Shepard were straight, that doesn't guarantee that she would want you, Kaidan.

The fact that it takes Kaidan damn-near three years to accept that Shepard is gay and that "no" is a complete sentence is pretty messed up. Maybe Kaidan's creepy behavior is the real reason Rahna (another woman he's been obsessed with for fifteen years) didn't want him.

He Never Shuts Up About Cerberus

A screenshot from Sanctuary.

A screenshot from Sanctuary.

Add this to the fact that Kaidan never lets up about Cerberus. Whether you're playing Shepard as lesbian or straight, he relentlessly harps on about her working with Cerberus right to very end of the game!

Immediately after the Citadel Coup, Kaidan is in Shepard's face again. He blocks the elevator so you can't avoid him, and if Shepard is the one who killed Udina, he has the gall to sneeringly criticize her for it!

This makes Kaidan look insufferably self-righteous. By Mass Effect 3, his promotion in the Alliance, his new role as a Spectre, and everything he has is because of his work with Shepard. And to get it, all he had to do was keep his mouth shut about the Reapers (unlike Liara, who loses her job defending Shepard and the Reaper "theory"). He threw Shepard under the bus and turned his back on the Reaper threat to get where he's at but has the gall to stand there and lecture Shepard about what a terrible person she is for shooting Udina.

On top of just being self-righteous and hyprocritial, the fact that Kaidan can be so black-and-white childish is another thing about him that seriously annoys me. Kaidan doesn't understand that to be a leader means making tough decisions where innocent people might die. The fact that he becomes a Spectre is laughable, and it also makes it more obvious that he was just Udina's tool.

Then later, when Shepard is chasing Kai Leng back to the Illusive Man's hideout, Kaidan will look at her and accuse her of being suspect! It's crazy!

If I recall correctly, he says something like, "The only person I remember on Horizon was you!" while looking at Shepard as if she's to blame for what's happening to the innocent people in Sanctuary.

This after four conversations (Mars, Citadel Coup, Post-Citadel Coup, and one conversation on the Normandy after Jacob's quest) where Shepard explained over and over that she had no choice about working with Cerberus, that she wasn't a zombie operated by a control chip, and that she only did what she thought was right.

Geez. How many times does Shepard have to explain the situation before Kaidan gets it? I heard that Ashley is just as bad toward male Shepard because she (like Kaidan) is in love with him, but she never did this crap toward female Shepard (thank God).

The fact that Kaidan is still romanceable after his extreme distrust is insane. Shepard is the one who should be paranoid here. Kaidan has proven himself easily manipulated by characters like Udina and has held a gun to Shepard's face and threatened to kill her for doing her job! Why should she turn around and sleep with him after the fact?

Kaidan Gets Romanced By Default

A high number of lesbian romances obviously written for men, no matter what the writers say to deny it after the fact.

A high number of lesbian romances obviously written for men, no matter what the writers say to deny it after the fact.

Though Kaidan has a lot of fans, I often feel as if he gets romanced by default simply because . . . there aren't that many options. In the first game, we only had three romances: Kaidan, Ashley, and Liara. And since I could not romance Ashley (and since I was iffy about romancing Liara), I wound up romancing Kaidan by default. The same can be said for gay male players, who felt forced to romance Ashley since they couldn't romance Kaidan.

I realize that Kaidan is still a romance option because the writers wanted to give the player more options, but that just wasn't the case for female Shepard, no matter what sexuality you were playing her as.

Sure, it looks as if lesbian Shepard has a lot of romances, but they were largely distasteful and were clearly written for men.

I loved Kelly, but her romance was more of a gag in Mass Effect 2 and wasn't taken seriously by the writers in Mass Effect 3.

Traynor was clearly written for straight men to fap, no matter what Weekes has said to cover his ass after the fact. She was naked and either bathing or showering in almost all of her scenes (because lesbians so hawt!!!) and on top of that, was written to behave like predator, leering at Shepard, objectifying her, and being aggressive in her "flirting" to the point that I started using a mod that would make her back off. (Yes, it's actually called the Back Off Mod, and God bless it for existing.)

What Traynor does is sexual harassment. My Shepard has shown zero interest in her, is clearly seeing someone else, and yet, after flirting the first time and receiving no reciprocation, Traynor just keeps flirting. Again, this is harassment. I kept waiting for Liara to lay a biotic whammy on Traynor, but sadly, it never happened.

And as for Allers . . . No comment.

The only good lesbian romance was Liara's. And, sadly enough, her romance was only handled well as a result of it being viewed as the "female version" of the male one.

All that being said, Kaidan's unrequited love for Shepard could have been portrayed ten times better. There are ways to have a character attempt to initiate a romance that aren't so . . . creepy, homophobic, sexist, and disrespectful.

How To Not Be A Creep, A Guide

Thane is recruited in "Mass Effect 2."

Thane is recruited in "Mass Effect 2."

Take Thane, for example. Because Mass Effect 2 had no real, full lesbian romances (and because a mod to romance Miranda as female Shepard didn't exist yet), I moved on from Kaidan to Thane (God, help me) on my "Kaidan romance" playthrough (and then, in Mass Effect 3, I left Kaidan for Liara, which was hilarious).

I love Kelly to little pieces, but I romanced Thane because I wanted to see real content, and Kelly's "romance" is treated like a side quest that doesn't count (sadly, so is Thane's in Mass Effect 3).

Thane's romance in Mass Effect 2 is actually pretty sweet. He has a very huge crush on Shepard. He went to Dantius Towers intent on letting the mercenaries kill him, and it's stated during his romance that when he noticed Shepard there —another powerful killer — he watched her from the air ducts, decided that he liked her, and raced to the top of the tower to meet her.

In other words, Shepard made Thane want to live.

He then spends the rest of Mass Effect 2 sweetly flirting with her. He has no idea that she's gay or in love with someone else, and the game gives you the option to just politely ignore his flirting while building a friendship with him.

Shepard also has the option to ask Thane to stop flirting (the tongue in mouth comment comes to mind), and get this — he stops!

Once Shepard is in an established relationship with someone else, Thane stops flirting entirely, respects her boundaries, and if she wants to start a romance with him, it's up to her to come to him.

Thane was truly a wonderful character. It's a shame what they did to him in Mass Effect 3. And if it hadn't been for Kelly (I love Kelly, my naive little spy) and Liara's DLC in the second game, Thane's might have been the only romance content that I liked.

(No, I didn't like Garrus or his content. I hate that he was crammed down my throat when I mostly ignored him in the first game. But that's another story entirely.)

Kaidan as he appeared in Mass Effect 3.

Kaidan as he appeared in Mass Effect 3.

In the end, it's my belief that BioWare made all the human followers in the series (yes, all of them) act like jerks on purpose. They had a way of giving each species certain traits (the asari were arrogant, the turians were militant, the salarians were scientific), and it seems that the chosen human trait was that of being deeply flawed and pretty much toxic individuals.

So in the end, Kaidan is a possessive, obsessive creep-stalker who won't take "no" for an answer. After putting up with him for a few playthroughs, killing him on Virmire and letting Ashley live was the easiest choice I ever made.

© 2019 Lee

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