Mass Effect: Electra in Space

Daddy Issues:
Mass Effect
Mass Effect Cover
Characters with Issues Five
Dead Dads Two
Dads Killed by Kid One
Buy from Amazon

Daddy issues: it's a common phrase thrown out to explain many character issues, especially against women. Psychologists call it the Electra Complex from the Greek mythology of Electra, a woman who had her brother kill their mother after she had been involved in their father's death. Many would say Electra had daddy issues, and she probably did, because of her response to her father's death at her mother's hand. While the complex is as old as mythology, it's still commonly used today in literature, television, and yes, even video games. This is the first in a sporadic series of articles on daddy (and mommy - Oedipal) issues seen in video games. And since I'm such a big fan of Mass Effect, it seems like the perfect place to start.

The number of characters in Mass Effect makes this a great place to begin, many of them are pretty complex, not only due to their parental conflicts, but because many of them are aliens and have a unique culture that let's the writers exploit Electra and Oedipus in new ways. The main character, Shepard, can recruit six additional characters along the way. Talking with them as the game progresses reveals their backstory and how they ended up where they are today. No too few of them are there almost certainly because of the ways their father was or wasn't present in their life. Let's take a look at some of the characters from Mass Effect and their daddy issues.

Mass Effect Wrex

Urdnot Wrex

He's a gruff-talking krogan mercenary who is over a 1000 years old and has seen more action than the rest of the squad combined. The krogan race was devastated by the genophage, a biological weapon used to cull the number of krogans in the galaxy after a population explosion. Their numbers are dwindling, but due to the krogans' lust for battle, many of them are still mercenaries and soldiers. Wrex had a different idea once, he thought that the krogans should instead focus on breeding and build up their numbers, his dad had other ideas. Jarrod was a warlord out for blood after what the genophage did to his people, and tried to rally the krogan against the other races in the galaxy. Jarrod confronted Wrex at their ancestors' burial grounds, a holy place where fighting is prohibited, to try and work something out. When it was apparent Wrex was not going to join his father, Jarrod gave a signal and his krogan army rose up out of the graves of their ancestors and mowed down Wrex's recently united tribes. Wrex escaped, but not before he planted a knife deep into Jarrod, killing him.

A family reunion gone very bad for old Urdnot Wrex seemed to destroy any confidence the krogan had in his people ever recovering from the genophage. Wrex eventually became a mercenary, interested only in the next buck and preserving his own neck. He has no qualms killing other krogan even though he knows that's one less there may ever be. His dad's death revealed the blunt truth of his people, for better or worse.

Mass Effect Tali

Tali'Zorah nar Rayya

She's a quarian who has spent her entire life out on the migrant fleet away from all other species. As part of her coming-to-age, Tali is required to go on a pilgrimage into space and bring back something worthy to the fleet of ships, where she would undoubtely again spend the rest of her life. This is the life of a quarian, a banished species of sorts that accidentally unleashed the geth upon the galaxy, and now travel all together slowly moving from system to system. When Shepard meets Tali early in the game, she's in the middle of her pilgrimage and in quite a heap of trouble. Having the main bad guy chase after you for having found some damning information about him could certainly cause that.

This information, however, is the key to joining up with Shepard, and depending on how you treat her, could eventually lead to her returning to the migrant fleet with something truly special. Since all quarian are required to go on a pilgrimage, this wouldn't make Tali's story that special, that is of course, if she didn't have the requisite daddy issues! Tali's father is on the Admirality Board, the highest ranking council of the quarian people. This makes Tali somewhat famous among her people, and she admits that while the quarian generally have a collective mindset, that she is definitely treated differently. She feels she needs to bring back something more than most quarians on their pilgrimage would settle for.

The pressures of having a father in politics? Not something I'd want to put on my kid.

Mass Effect Ashley

Ashley Williams

Many fans of the game point at Ashley as the prime example of a character with daddy issues, I'd actually consider that to be Garrus, but Ashley certainly does not lack in the department. Her father and grandfather were both military men, with Ashley following in their footsteps. Her issues are actually rooted with her grandfather, however, as he was the first and only human commander to surrender to aliens in the early days of the human space-borne Alliance. Therefore, the Williams' disparaged reputation hung with her father and now Ashley herself, both of them being relegated far from the front lines, defending distant outposts such as Eden Prime.

Ashley opens up to Shepard mid-game and explains that while she is constantly applying for positions on Alliance ships, she is always refused with no reason given. Her father undoubtedly followed the same military career path, and she is doing whatever she can to break out of that and renew the name of Williams. While her father is dead, she believes that he is watching over her in Heaven, and wants to do whatever she can to correct the wrongs brought against her grandfather and father. She completes her legacy with her actions in the first game, and it will be interesting to see how her story resolves in the next two. Maybe the one girl with the big daddy issues can actually get over them.

Mass Effect Garrus

Garrus Vakarian

Before joining the squad, Garrus Vakarian was in C-Sec, the Citadel's branch of law enforcement. Garrus' investigations while in C-Sec were constantly hampered by bureaucracy, which eventually boiled over and lead him to join Shepard's crew. His anger with C-Sec, however, can be traced back even further to his father, another former C-Sec officer. Garrus' dad was a by-the-book taurian, quoted saying, "do things right or don't do them at all." Essentially the opposite of a C-Sec officer is a Spectre, individuals working directly for Citadel Council to preserve galactic peace. They are above the law, which Garrus' father saw as a threat to justice and order. When Garrus was young, he was picked out for special soldier training which could have led to an early opening to becoming a Spectre, however, his dad blocked it and eventually Garrus followed in his footsteps and joined C-Sec. Once Garrus sees Shepard at work and witnesses the power a Spectre has, he spills his story.

While Garrus' father may be by the book, Garrus definitely is not. He's impressed by the options Shepard and other Spectres have and doesn't see their renegade style as a threat to justice, but as a way of ensuring it. Garrus tells the story of Dr. Saleon, a scientist who was harvesting organs among other illegal stuff. Garrus had the opportunity to shoot Dr. Saleon's ship down, but was prevented in doing so by his C-Sec bosses. Later on, Shepard gives Garrus the opportunity to kill Saleon and he does so gladly, with Shepard remarking, "remember that feeling, that's how it always should feel." From this story, we can see that Garrus is at odds with his father's vision of enforcing the law by the book, and instead tempted by the freedom of being a Spectre.

Mass Effect Liara

Liara T'Soni

Can you have daddy issues without even ever knowing your father? Or how about not even being sure who your father is? Or how about being an alien race where your father is not necessarily even male? These are some of the issues Dr. Liara T'Soni has had to go through the first hundred years of her life, but considering how her mother was a well-known asari matriarch, I think she's handled it all pretty well.

A quick history on the asari: their species is genderless (though they all look suspiciously like hot, blue, human females), while they're not asexual beings, the parents of a child can be of any race or gender. Before they encountered other galaxy races, asari simply mated with other asari, where the mother was the one who gave birth. However, after the discovery of the Citadel and first contact with the turians and salarians, asari found it much more in vogue to mate with other races.

Liara is known as a pureblood because both of her parents are asari, for whatever reason, her father does not wish to be recognized, and with the death of Liara's mother, this information may never be revealed. She has dealt with this rather well, but may still be affected by the social stigma of being pureblooded, as she likes to hides herself away on far off planets looking for information on long dead alien species. She may not have daddy issues as bad as everyone else, but they may crop up again if we meet Liara in Mass Effect 2 and beyond.

Mass Effect Kaidan

Kaidan Alenko

Probably the only squadmate without any daddy issues at all, at least that we know of. All we know about Kaidan's father is that he also served in the Alliance military. Not much to go on, which may indicate that Kaidan simply re-joined the Alliance because he thought he could help with his biotic powers. Kind of a boring guy, huh?


Well, we can't discuss the game's characters without taking a peek into Shepard's past. Technically, Shepard can have three different pre-service histories, all being a bit different but all leading to the same point: joining the Alliance military. In the Spacer background, both of Shepard's parents were in the military, and Shepard followed suit at the age of 18. You can actually have a short conversation with Shepard's mother, but no word of dad at all. In the Earthborn background, Shepard grew up on some rough streets and joined the military to avoid poverty and the local gangs, it sounds like his parents were both absent in this history. And finally the Colonist background, Shepard grew up on an isolated planet that was attacked by batarian slavers. His entire family was killed, leaving him to be rescued by the Alliance, which he later joined.

Unfortunately, there's really nothing specific about Shepard's father in Mass Effect, and Shepard seems like more of a product of his environment than having any parental issues.


Overall, Mass Effect features a lot of daddy issues, whether the character is male, female, or even genderless, there's plenty of the Electra complex to go around. However, do not be quick in judging the main cast, this is just one facet of their background and they are all much deeper than what I illustrated here. It's just amazing how important parents are while developing characters, whether on paper or on a DVD. It's also interesting to note that while most of them have issues with their father, it's all very different how they interacted and how the responded. Garrus seems like he's out to defy his father, Ashley is looking to avenge her father's honor, and Tali is just trying to live up to her dad's name. I was highly enteratained exploring my squadmate's backgrounds as there is a wealth of knowledge about the Mass Effect universe to be found, along with some juicy tidbits about killing your dad on your ancestors' graves.

Daddy Issues Electra Orestes
Electra and her brother Orestes