Video games are one of the most problematic parts of popular culture. We all know about the extreme violence, which is only a problem if you’re prone to violence. But they are also extremely racist, often excluding characters of color completely or permanently covering their skin in the ashes of their slaughtered wife and daughter. But the biggest problem I have with video game is that they’re incredibly sexist.
When you look at games as a whole, the character you play is normally a guy. Other than Samus Aran (Metroid series) and Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), there are very few female leads in video games at all. When there are female characters they’re usually strippers (Duke Nukem), concubines (God of War), kidnapped (Super Mario) or homicidal assassins in impractical sexy nun lingerie (Hitman: Absolution).
I’ve normally held on to the aforementioned Croft and Aran as good examples of how women could be kick ass chicks in video games, with some reservations.
Unfortunately with the reboot of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series, she’s been demoted from awesome, confident and kick-ass explorer chick with an affinity for low-cut tops and short shorts to a modest, weak girl who has to fight off gang rape and cry out in pain at every turn.
What the fuck?
When I heard they were rebooting Tomb Raider and Lara Croft, I thought, “Awesome, maybe she’ll finally wear some sensible clothing and get a bra cup-size somewhere below DD.” That did happen, but the modesty and sensibility came at a price.
This new Lara Croft has lost almost everything that made her awesome. Sure she’s still strong enough to get out of all these crazy situations but she’s still a weakling that needs to be “protected.” That’s not me complaining and being too sensitive, Tomb Raider executive producer, Ron Rosenberg, told gaming blog Kotaku the following in an interview at E3:
"When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character. They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.”
By people, he’s referring to men specifically. In that statement, he’s saying that men have a hard time identifying with strong female leads who don’t dress like strippers. So, we had to knock her down a notch. That way men don’t feel emasculated and will still shell out $60 to play our game.
Again, what the fuck?
I get that the target audience for this kind of game is mostly guys. But I know plenty of women who have loved and bemoaned Laura for the same reasons I have. Is it really so important to preserve the male ego, at the expense of the female audience’s sense of self worth?
I understand that this version of Laura Croft is one that is younger and less experienced. I also understand that at that point in her development she may not be the kick-ass chick we have grown to love over the years. But does that mean she has to be a crying wimp of a girl who only fights back because she’s forced too and even then isn’t strong enough to kick-ass on her own?
I would like someone to explain to me why, like most origin stories of male characters, she’s not mostly awesome but needs just a little bit of training or, in some cases, just a bit of adrenaline to become a awesome, dual-pistol wielding, bad guy massacring hero? What makes Laura Croft different, other than her vagina and newly deflated breasts?
Now that I think about it, maybe it was her DD breasts that held the secret to her power. Maybe the only way women can be genuinely awesome is to find the power in their sexuality and get a boob job.
Of course, that’s bullshit. What’s really going on here is the same thing that goes on in every part of our culture and media; women, who have been designated as second-class citizens, are forced into certain roles deemed acceptable by our sexist culture.
In times past Laura Croft was the sexy, powerful vixen who was more popular for her hemlines and boob giggle physics than athletic ability or intelligence; think Bayonetta or Soul Calibur. Now that she’s become more modest, she is being forced into the new box of dowdy, weak, powerless girl who can only succeed with the helping hand of a man.
The gang rape scene is meant to break her down right in the eyes of the presumably male audience. The developers believe that is the only way men will want anything to do with her. How fucked up is that?
I know that the creators of the Tomb Raider reboot are not calling the attempted gang rape scene an attempted gang rape scene anymore. But in the same interview Rosenberg said, “…she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her…”
That sure sounds like rape to me. It also sounds like $60 that this man will be spending on a game that respects women and doesn’t insult his intelligence.