I'm just gonna run down my feelings on Ashley and some of the party members as a whole here. Spoilers, natch.
Ashley is in the same camp as every human Mass Effect companion member for me, where they're by far the least interesting characters around next to all the aliens with their unique history and culture. They also look the worst, 'cause Bioware's faces aren't that hot.
But adding to that, Ashley has several things going against her. Plain screentime is one thing. Mass Effect 1 is the driest, least character-focused game in the trilogy. And that's the only game where Ashley is a full-time party member, because the option of having her killed in 1 meant Bioware would've had to actually be real with the choices matter thing and do twice as much work to keep both Kaidan and Ashley in. Beyond that, Ashley's only interactions with you is one frustrating scene in Mass Effect 2, where she is disgusted by you working with a human supremacist terrorist group. Which you can't defend, because you didn't have any choice, because Mass Effect 2's main plot is hooorrible, so she's a real jerk in that conversation, and so are you. She also shows up briefly at the start of Mass Effect 3, with a completely unrecognizable look, and spends most of that time bedridden after getting hurt. Finally you can convince her that you're right and Udina is lying, or you shoot her, I think that's how that goes. This is all your interaction with Ashley, compared to what you get with almost everyone else.
Mass Effect 1's Ashley basically read like a metaphor for some casually racist American southerner, between her military education, the talk about her family, her religious faith, her ignorant offhand comments about alien races and her distrust of the Council and Council races. That's the impression it gave me, anyway, as some dude a continent away that has zero to do with that region at all. I'm sure it didn't help her portrayal for some people that she can shoot Wrex in your game.
Mass Efect 1 is all about how humanity's last to the galactic table and struggling with all these race relations. The council doesn't care about them enough to protect their colonies. They just had a long war with the Turians, and are now fighting a Turian who eradicated a human colony, who Anderson believes is hellbent on eradicating humanity. And talking to all the NPCs on the long-ass Citadel walkabout, half of them are in some way distrustful of humans or other alien races. Ashley's wrongheaded approach is in line with that, and her opening up and making friends with the rest of the(alien) party is the natural progress of that. I never saw it in my game, but apparently she can tell a human interest group to fuck off at some point because they're just being paranoid about the aliens? They justify her prejudices well within the setting as a result of her family and career and human history, as well as Citadel power structures(humans are not the dominant species by any metric)and I think it's pretty clear that she's developing from ignorance from a lack of experience into moving beyond her prejudices by the end of ME1.
For me personally Ashley's small-time casual racism is way less of an issue than other characters. Garrus becomes The Punisher in Mass Effect 2. I think Jack kills a ton of people in her very first appearance. The fish dude is a career assassin. Zaeed and Wrex are mercs. Javik is a militaristic jackass who enslaved other species. The paladin lady crushes a skull in her first appearance, as some hard-ass no-excuses murdercop. Those things all make me dislike those characters. I hate it when they try being all in ME2 specifically and it just comes off to me as tryhardy or cruel. Even Mordin, one of the characters I like the most in all of the games, is one of the people responsible for keeping an entire race sterile, causing countless deaths.
But no, the monster is the chick that says she can't tell the (alien)people from the (alien)animals, and I can't believe how anyone could even acknowledge her, oh my god. The comment sections on Alexy Quest annoy me about this. I don't think she's either some saint or some irredeemable dirtbag, and I think her overcoming her space racism is way more reasonable than say, Shepard being all buddy-buddy with Garrus after he shot down my advice in 1 about not going rogue and started sniping at crooks and criminals. I think that's the intended effect there. Look at this woman, new to the galactic stage, changing her beliefs about aliens after actual contact with aliens. It's not "This lady is space KKK, get away! She's irredeemable! We gave her to you so you can sacrifice her in that choice!" That's ridicilous. She's just the meathead soldier tomboy who's arc was getting out into space and learning a thing or two about aliens.
At the end of the day I think she's pretty boring, but I can't deny that she's a pretty well-thought out character with some depth to her, like all other things in Mass Effect 1. Out of the human companions, I'd say she's my second favorite after Vega? That's still below Mordin, Legion, Tali, Grunt, EDI,
and proooobably even Liara though. And she'd be way lower if I didn't feel so bad about all these other dudes killing everyone.
Specifically, she's better than Kaidan because I actually felt some emotion here and there while interacting with her. Not always something positive, but something. Meanwhile, Kaidan is a human yawn, and people calling out others for the same opinion and going "Oh my god she's such a racist, you must be a racist too" can piss right off. Those sorts of arguments made me irritated enough that I wrote a long-ass post about Ashley Williams, of all ME characters.
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