E3 2012 Preview: Tomb Raider
[Editor's Note: This article discusses the attempted sexual assault of Lara in the newly released gameplay video]
My time at the Square Enix Tomb Raider demo was the first time GA left me on my own out into the great, blue glow of E3! Unfortunately, it wasn’t that great of an experience.
As the demo began, I really liked the updated gameplay of Tomb Raider. The graphics looked decent, though the lips/dialogue were still something out of an English dubbed Godzilla movie. Lara herself looked much more realistic when compared to the gravity-defying breasts versions of her past. The game features lush and interactive landscapes where you will be able to roam around freely to explore an area.
Disappointingly, like the preview video at E3 last year, Lara is still grunting and moaning excessively whilst jumping, falling and “gutting” a deer. And this demo featured more of the slide, fall, slide scenarios we’ve seen in other videos about the game. What eclipses those points, however, is that nearly the entire last half of the footage was an attempted rape scene where Lara has to escape and kill her attacker (via point-blank gunshot to the head).
Obviously, I don’t know how these industry events really work since this is my first time at one, but the vibe in the room was one of not being impressed or excited by this demo. The response by the guys I was in the room with (yes, they were all guys except for me) was much more lackluster than I expected from a bunch of dudes who had no problem with butting me out of line to get in front of me. Was it for the same reasons I was unimpressed and highly uncomfortable with what I had just sat through? I can’t say.
As excited as people might be about this game, I am not interested in yet another entertainment company using a rape or an attempted rape scene as an excuse to make their female character “stronger”. I hope that the continual use of rape as an entertainment trope is enough to explain to everyone where the developers have gone very wrong with this game. And that fans of the character, Lara Croft, know that she was already a strong character and doesn’t need to have a contrived background like this to show that she was “made strong”. In fact, it’s been understood about Lara since her inception that she’s a pretty bad-ass woman. If you want to make a darker, grittier Lara Croft to show us how she becomes the woman we’ve loved for years? Do it.
However, not only is falling back on the rape as backstory trope lazy-writing but more importantly, it is also damaging to your fans. And not just to the men and women that have survived an attack or the attempt of one, but to everyone by continuing to perpetuate the idea sexual assault is somehow a legitimate character development for a female character. If that’s the only trauma you can think of to ‘strengthen’ a female character, but you have a list of dozens that would’ve worked just fine if this was a male character? I think you need to re-examine how you’re writing your story. In fact the idea that a character has to go through ANY kind of “trauma” to be a “strong” person is good enough reason to re-examine how you’re writing your story. Strength of character doesn’t have to be defined by any event and people of any gender are perfectly capable of being strong without one.
I think the use of the word 'rape' here is entirely overused. That sequence was most assuredly not half of the film's length, and I think you might have fixated on it, because I had to rewatch the film to see what you were talking about; thinking, 'Did I miss a rape scene, oh my, that's awful, how could I have missed that!?' I didn't. There was an assault. Not a rape. And she handled the situation. The common rape trope is of the damaged woman who despite her poor treatment (an actual bloody assault by way of penetration), finds the courage to keep going in life. This example is not guilty of that. It shows that's she strong because she never stops thinking.
Plus, I really like the part where she doesn't hesitate to blow his head off, even though she's a little freaked out by the aftermath. So many movies/games/etc show women sparing the men who tried to hurt them, even when the danger hasn't passed--painting women as saintly gentle creatures who must be protected. Here we have a woman handling a real life problem, quite effectively, on her own. (On her own, on an island apparently crawling with men.)
wistwhile I could be misreading it, but I believe I the scene above is correctly described as an attempt at sexual assault. The article overall relates this to the 'rape as backstory' trope because it is skating an extremely fine line. As I said in my comment to RachbotSeven, there's plenty that Lara is facing here that qualify as showing the strength of her character. Having to survive an attempted sexual assault seems completely unnecessary.
If you are going to review a game, please make sure you know how to spell the character's name correctly. It is Lara, NOT, Laura.
Furthermore,it is unfair to say that the writers are falling back on a rape as back-story "trope lazy-writing," The scene displayed only the intent of an assault and Lara kicking his ass; it was executed well. I applaud the writers for attempting to convey a different emotional hardship; not enough video games explore revealing real life emotional turmoil. Aside from that, the trailer did not just use rape to provide us with a strong character. Lara is ship wrecked on an unknown island where she has to figure out how to survive. That is what makes a strong individual.
RachbotSeven I think, maybe without trying you hit on exactly what was being said in the article. Lara is in a tough situation and on her own. Learning to navigate the island and the hostiles in her path show what a strong character she is. The point of criticism here is that the attempted assault is absolutely unnecessary. The idea that particular kind of adversity is needed on top of everything else she has to endure is kind of ridiculous. Emotional though it might be, it's unnecessary to proving her strength of character. The reason it's such an overused trope is exactly because of the reasons mentioned: that people continue to believe that using it as an emotional trauma is the only thing a woman (according to the media) can survive to truly make them emotionally "strong". Which is not only unnecessary but inaccurate.
Cherithe It is not my intention to argue, honestly. The article came off as, suggesting that the intention of the writers is: (this one event defined Lara as an emotionally strong character.) I don't think that is the case. It was a minor event that added to the other emotional obstacles in the game.
I am most likely biased; Lara has been my favorite character since I was 10yrs old.
RachbotSeven Maybe it's not the case, however I've seen other articles (like this one at The PA Report: http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/tomb-raider-throws-rape-assault-and-a-hostile-environment-at-lara-croft-to) that references a quote from one of the game's producers, which refers to 'attempted rape' and how the point is to build her up and show how those challenges make her stronger. While I'd agree this isn't THE defining moment that makes her strong - the intent seems to be that it's necessary to show her as a survivor. Especially when then in comparison with male heroes that don't need that sort of event to make them seem/become strong.
Cherithe You might want to read through The PA Report again. Ron Rosenberg not only pointed out the "attempted rape," but also her best-friend was taken hostage. Not to mention he stated, "We did a lot of research into survival and people who survived extreme situations." If anyone was lost on an island and came across a group of hooligans, they will most likely face a form of assault. People are offended by Lara getting beaten and assaulted, because it is an uncomfortable thing to witness. In all honesty, the general public is blowing it way out of proportion. The scene was mild.
You are right when you said it is unnecessary to add a sexual assault to create an emotionally strong female character, but rape in general is extremely unnecessary. Again they were merely implementing what would really happen in that given situation.