Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Lara, New Issues

This morning the Internet made me angry.

I checked my Twitter feed to discover that quite a ruckus was being made over the new Tomb Raider reboot. Since I am looking forward to the game I took notice and then saw that the controversy was over a supposed attempted rape scene.

What now?

Yup, apparently Lara Croft is kidnapped by men on the island she crash lands on and is forced to fight them off under threat of rape.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this upsets me but I will anyway.

Here we have this new vision for Tomb Raider, a series that infamously stars a ridiculous caricature of a woman who pretends to be rough and tough all the while wearing next to nothing – sometimes even high heels. Yet, in all those games Lara is allowed to be as she is; we know she’s there as a sexual object.

In the new game we get a new Lara – a strong, more realistic Lara. She gets her ass kicked by Mother Nature and suffers for it. She is covered in blood and dirt and cries out in pain. She wears pants and a tank top. Although her appearance is definitely still an ideal, she seems like the type of person you could possibly, maybe run into.

So now this new Lara is confronted with rape, a very real, serous issue. Almost as a reminder that she is still a sexual object. Lest we forget.

But I did just say that this is a more realistic Lara, in a more realistic environment and rape is a reality. The creators of the game mean for Tomb Raider to be taken seriously and in this new world, potential sexual assault fits in. What's more is that there is certainly no hint of the rape myth; Lara does not get persuaded. She fights the man off and eventually puts a bullet in his face.

That all being said, I am still bothered by it though admittedly not nearly as upset as when I first heard about it. In a response to the controversy Darrell Gallagher, of Crystal Dynamics, said that there is a threatening undertone to the scene but it goes no further than what is shown in the new trailer and that, friends, you can see here:

He goes on to say that he finds that players often do not see themselves as Lara herself but rather as her protector : "[the player is] more like 'I want to protect [Lara].' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and [try] to protect her. She's definitely the hero but you're kind of like her helper. When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character."

Quite honestly . . . I think his response bothers me more than the actual scene. Like I said before, sadly, a sequence like the one above fits within the world of the game. It’s tragically realistic. However, the idea that it would help endear players to Lara . . . what? Because she fights off a rapist male players will be more moved to help her? What about the women who play Tomb Raider games? As a girl I sought them out just so I could play as a woman and accordingly pretend I was Lara. Now in addition to looking over my shoulder when I walk home alone at night I have to confront those same fears with the only female video game character I remember from childhood.

Basically, I’m upset that Lara has to deal with what millions of women deal with every day, but it is a reality. I can’t argue with reality and because of that I can’t really fault the developers for including this scene but I still really just don't see the necessity. Why not just beat the hell out of her like you would a man? Why must we be reminded that for women to be tormented they must be sexually assaulted? 

So I guess I get it but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.