Dwellings On the Revisioned Tomb Raider

Say hello to the new Lara Croft.

Say hello to the new Lara Croft.

Lara Croft was one of my childhood heroes. I absolutely adored her, and it’s not hard to see why – she’s beautiful, intelligent, rich, and most importantly of all, a brunette (represent). That said, there’s a lot of reasons not to like her. While I may have been able to look past these faults as a kid, she’s also a blatant sexual objectification of women, she destroys precious artifacts wherever she goes, and, depending on how you play, kills endangered animals without a second thought.

Needless to say, Lara and I have a complicated relationship. As an adult, I’m still terribly fond of her – I even dressed as her for Halloween in 2011. However, this maturation adds conflict to the matter; a girl can’t understand the many negative aspects of Lara’s character, but a woman most certainly can. It’s of little wonder, then, that I was thrilled to hear that Square Enix was pairing with Crystal Dynamics to remake the famous franchise with a new goal in mind: to make Lara Croft a dynamic and accessible character to all genders.

You go, girl!

You go, girl!

At first, this was purely delightful news, but it soon became evident that the new Lara came with a new reality. Every day, women face the risk of rape and sexual assault. Most of us don’t let it rule our lives, but it’s a constant presence in the back of your mind when you’re walking alone at night or stuck in a strange place by yourself. You have to be careful, and you have to be smart.

Lara Croft is not the former.

Kudos goes to the developers for taking on such a difficult subject. Rape and sexual assault are, unfortunately, a reality for all of us, but it’s rarely handled well in media. At best, it is a clumsily portrayed “gimme” used by producers to stir up emotional toil in its female audience, but, in actuality, mostly serves to alienate us, whether we are victims or not. To put it bluntly, it’s generally a bad choice.

The emotional weight tied to such a violating experience is something to be respected. I, myself, have never gone through such a thing, but one doesn’t have to be a survivor of rape or sexual assault to understand this concept. Thus becomes my wariness: I love Tomb Raider, but I don’t want to see the game ruin itself by mishandling an emotionally loaded scenario.

A screencap pf the infamous scene from the 2012 trailer for the newTomb Raider.

A screencap of the infamous scene from the 2012 trailer for the new Tomb Raider.

“But wait!” you say, “There isn’t actually any rape in 2013’s Tomb Raider!”

It doesn’t matter. The implication is there, the threat is present, and it’s something that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have both addressed directly. If you’re intent on disbelieving this notion, please take a few moments out of your day to view the controversial trailer below.

It’s troubling, to say in the least. How can a video game possibly cover something like this? Can it be done properly?

Tentatively, I’m going to say yes. I’ve mentioned before the rape scene from General Custard’s Revenge, which is what I think a lot of gamers are expecting from the newest installment of the Tomb Raider franchise, but perhaps a touch less cartoony. This is 2012. The game is coming out in 2013. Personally, I have high hopes for Lara Croft; Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have an admirable goal, and they’re trying to approach an underlying subject that was fumbled in the series’ past with insipid come-ons from male members of the cast.

There are going to be offended parties, regardless, and it would be incredibly insensitive of me to say that they’re wrong. Everyone responds differently to such emotionally charged subjects, regardless of sex and experience. Someone is going to be hurt, and therein lies an important dilemma – is it right to put this in a form of entertainment? It has been done well before in films (Deliverance, The Girl with the Dragon TattooIrreversible), which indicates to me that there remains a chance for this game to pull it off.

It’s all about respect and treatment of the subject matter. If 2013’s Tomb Raider can manage to handle the (very real) dangers that Lara Croft faces as a young, attractive woman alone in the wilderness, it may just set a standard for the industry that has yet remained untouched.

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