Mirable dictu, I'm poking around the Internets this afternoon when what should I happen on, but another blog post looking at Shelly's work from a feminist perspective - and, OMG I had no idea of the trail of dead neurons her writing has left.
For one, the "gosh I can do this didn't we all learn something" air of those columns was, apparently, Shelly's standard writing style:
The thing that really bothers me about this is that almost every one of Shelly’s columns seems to follow the same formula, and that always starts with Shelly being adorably and/or humorously insecure about some facet of playing D&D. This then leads into neurotic and sometimes irrational attempts to wrestle with the insecurity in which a humorous result is achieved and a lesson of some sort is said to have been learned. Only it’s not learned, because the same insecurities pop up again and again and again.
Another seems to be that the "clueless ditz Shelly" appears to be her standard personality in her writing, even from over a year ago.
Hmm. When did I get wizard’s escape? Oh yeah, I have a shield. I double-checked to make sure this character sheet said “Tabitha Sparkles”. (April 2010, Confessions of an Overwhelmed Duckling)
“When Herteus gets to here,” Chris said, pointing to the square I just passed through, “a large green blob falls from the ceiling and tries to attack”. Hmm. Didn’t I just approve some banner ads that mentioned something about wearing protective headgear? (May 2010, An Overwhelmed Duckling Part 2)
Ten minutes later, I hadn’t finished my cup of peas, but my unaligned female elf thief was in my arsenal. Holy moley, I did it! I made a character using a book and a pencil. (December 2010, Arcana Lang Syne)
With my two gargoyles, remaining minions, and one dragon waiting in the wings, I realized the importance of placement. I was kind of throwing minions out there willy nilly and kept forgetting the gargoyles could make better distance by air than ground. Aeon had a minion and a gargoyle marked. Anwar was bloodied, and I was overlooking opportunity attacks at every corner. Dungeon Masters have a lot to keep track of! (July 2010, Canine Encounters Part 2)
“What if the dragon is susceptible to tickling, and if the adventurers tickle him he laughs so hard he spits out puppies? Unharmed, of course.”
New DM shook his head, then started mumbling things like help me, please make it stop, I don’t think we’re in D&D anymore. (June 2010, Canine Encounters)
Then it hit me. The talking. And not just the “What are you having for dinner tonight” or “Would you rather have eyes in the back of your head or a giant lizard tail” table talking I’m used to. This was relevant talking. Like important to the game talking. This was – gasp! – roleplaying!
I know what you’re thinking: “This is D&D, you big dummy!” But maybe you don’t remember my irrational fear of roleplaying and playing D&D with people who are: 1. Too serious. 2. Jerks. 3. Really good at roleplaying.
This is why I usually create characters that are too sullen or naive or too apathetic to talk to strangers. (October 2010, Last of the Mojitas)
New DM has exacted the ultimate revenge! “He’s on vacation?” I whined. “He’s supposed to be helping me with my encounter!” Technically he did help, as you might remember from last month’s column. But that was a month ago. You can’t expect me to remember everything he said about traps and tactics. I can’t even find my notes. (July 2010, Canine Encounters Part 2)
Um. How... not overwhelming. And not surprising, either. (And, yes, her 4e character is indeed named "Tabitha Sparkles". *gag*)
So what's the conclusion on Shelly from the feminist perspective?
Now do I think that Shelly Mazzanoble is all of these stereotypes? No. I think that Shelly is being used by Wizards to try to broaden their appeal to women. Only their marketing department doesn’t really understand how to speak to women without being off-putting, insulting, and patronizing. So as a result, you get Shelly-the-character’s Fluffy Adventures in D&D is Also For Girls Land.
This pisses me off. It pisses me off because I don’t want the neurotic, fashion-obsessed, passive, please-decide-things-for-me, d&d-has-numbers-and-is-haaaaaard character she portrays herself as to represent me as a female player. In her columns, Shelly frequently refers to herself as Player In Chief. This implies that she is somehow representing players of D&D, which is what I am violently against. I desperately, vehemently, passionately want to be disassociated from pretty much everything Shelly’s columns say about women. Shelly-the-character doesn’t represent me or any of the women I know who play D&D, or even any of the women I know who play roleplaying games that aren’t D&D. Not at all.
For that matter, if Shellykins is actually viewed over there as "Player In Chief", it doesn't at all reflect well on WotC or RenFest D&D, regardless of gender. Not at all well.