The asari are possibly the most infamous alien race to appear in the Mass Effect series. And in an era where simply having a sex scene in a video game could get it on Fox News, a romance between a female Commander Shepard and an asari character was famously Mass Effect’s only same-gender romance option.
You see, though the asari are a parthenogenically-reproducing race with only one biological sex, they essentially look like blue human women with fancy head-tentacles — and they’re all female. At least, until now.
The Mass Effect games have pushed and pulled the asari from the realm of “the hot space babe race” over their course, establishing that yes, the asari prefer to mate outside their own species and most races in the galaxy find them attractive — even turians, who have significant physical differences from asari. On the other hand, the codex entries say, asari are not more promiscuous than other races and their military and economy are the most powerful in the Milky Way. The asari NPCs that the player interacts with are usually powerful political rulers, crime bosses, or expert scientists and researchers … but asari erotic dancers are often also used as set dressing in the background of the galaxy’s bars and clubs.
Characters like Liara T’Soni, Samara and Aria T’Loak are a huge part of the original Mass Effect series, and they all identified as female and used female pronouns. Which, in and of itself, was curious. The asari lived for thousands upon thousands of years in a society without gender, they’ve been interacting with sentient species that have gender for a mere 1500 years — and when an individual asari can live for a millennium, that’s not a lot of time cultural time at all. Human women, whose appearance they most superficially share, have only been on the galactic scene for three decades. Was there a species-wide asari decision to go with feminine pronouns, instead of neutral? Is this all a quirk of translator implants? Are there any asari who don’t use female pronouns?
One NPC conversation in Mass Effect: Andromeda says yes. In Andromeda, the player leads the Andromeda Initiative to make peaceful first contact with the angara, a native Andromedan civilization. At some point after that, a player can wander into the Cultural Center of the Nexus (i.e., The Hall of Presidents but for the races of the Andromeda galaxy to learn about the races of the Milky Way galaxy) and overhear a conversation between an asari docent and an angaran visitor.
It’s not unlike a conversation the player can have with an asari in Mass Effect 3, where the character chastises Commander Shepard for making the human assumption that use of “mother” or “father” are used based on the gender of the parent, where an asari would use “mother” or “father” based on which parent gave birth to the child. Except in Andromeda, everybody’s very polite and nobody uses the phrase “anthropocentric bag of dicks.”
The brief conversation establishes not only that some asari use male or neutral pronouns, but that angarans also have more than one or two pronouns. Now, if a Mass Effect game would only include an asari who uses male or neutral pronouns …
But who knows? Maybe Andromeda has that hidden up its many sidequest sleeves somewhere.
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