Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The making of Lara Croft: "forced to fight back or die"

[Content Warning]
Right, for those of you who haven’t heard already, the new Tomb Raider game will be released this autumn, with a new, younger looking Lara Croft fighting for survival in a series of dangerous scenarios, which happen to include sexual and physical violence, after a ship she was travelling on is hit by a storm and split into two.
Crystal Dynamics, the makers behind the Next-Gen Tomb Raider, provide gamers with a picture of a Lara that is “less battle hardened and a little less voluptuous” with a back story that reflects her rise to the "strong" hardened heroine with which we are all familiar with today.


It seems she’s become more than just a pair of boobs sporting some rather skimpy attire with a gun. No, no, this Lara is no sex-symbol, no sir! Because, as executive producer Ron Rosenberg explains, in this version there is some vulnerability that immediately provides her with a real sense of personality, because now "the ability to see her as a human is even more enticing […] than the more sexualized version of yesteryear".
Right, that’s fine then. That’s not patronising in the slightest.
How fitting that this Lara should be desexualised and likened to an adolescent, because as Rosenberg puts it, gamers will only want to protect her. The plot goes as far to suggest that Lara endures sexual assault.
But hey, while this may be perfectly acceptable for some, after all it is a game so why take it so seriously, the big question here is: does a female character’s personal development necessarily have to be dependent on whether or not she suffers some sort of physical or sexual abuse?
Well, of course it isn’t, but Rosenberg, maintains that Lara’s so-called “strong” female individuality comes from these intense violent situations that see her “literally cornered like an animal” and being “forced to fight back or die”.
The scene below is examplary of this and depicts Lara trying to fight off mercenaries who have kidnapped her
[Trigger warning]
 "She [Lara] literally goes from zero to hero... we're sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again."
*claps hands* What a brillaint way to convey female charcterisation. It's not enough that she goes through bouts of violence but a sense of false hope too. Lara must literally be broken down mentally as well as physically if she is to become a tough heroic figure. In this, it seems that she has become entrapped within an idea in the media that women must be subjected to some kind of physical or sexual violence in order to be made “strong”. This weird glamorisation of rape is in itself problematic and is projecting a rather dim view of female sexuality and to the causability of a strong female individual. Some have even argued that the game is suggestive of torture and rape porn which sends out another unfortunate message about the state of female sexuality.
Perhaps I'm over-reacting here, I mean, she is supoosed to be this all-heroic female-archaeologist-adventurer. Some may even argue that the above scene does indeed communicate the seriousness of rape. But surely, by making Lara, a well renowned female sex-symbol in the gaming world, a victim of sexual assault rienforce that rather offensive link between women's sexuality and rape?

I would argue that YES it does and that perhaps the makers behind the game should reasses what it is they are trying to portray here. In no way is violence and sexual assault typically character strengthening and it is a shame that Crystal Dynamics chose this representation, out of all other possibilities, to define her as a strong female character.

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