|Lara Croft, in the new reboot, is fighting tooth and nail for her survival|
Lara Croft the "rape survivor" doesn't work as a story.
On June 13, it was announced that Lara Croft's backstory, in the rebooted franchise, was to
include an attempted rape; it was to be the player's role to fend off this assault. As mentioned in an
earlier post, most female gamers have described it as a sexist addition to the games, and Crystal
Dynamics have accordingly backpedalled. While I, as a woman, am relieved by this change, I'm also
relieved from a purely narrative point of view.
Full disclosure here : I didn't play the first Lara Croft games, because I simply didn't own a
PlayStation at the time; but I read the first few comics about her, by Image comics. In those, she was
indeed shipwrecked on an island and had to learn to survive on her own; it was just a single-page
montage, but the idea was so powerful that it stick with me for over a decade; so much so, that I got
excited about the new game just learning it would explore that fight for survival – from a feminine
Think about it : from Robinson Crusoe to Tom Hanks in Cast Away, this narrative isn't new
when applied to men. In the case of Lost, there were female castaways, but it was more about the
collective effort than about any individual – and the survival part was never the main plot. This is why
the use of « Rape as backstory » feels so hollow in the case of Lara Croft. This is already a trope
teeming with unfortunate implications as it's used mainly for female characters; but here, it also
reduces an original story, as strong female characters go, to an easy shortcut to explain her bad-assery
without the writer having to actually work on and for it.
Now I understand narratives in video games are a bit different than in movies or novels; the
gameplay and the interactivity always come first, and rightfully so. However, these justifications don't
hold here. This is a well-known, decade-old character that a lot of gamers have a nostalgic attachment
to and whose story they'd get invested in.
More importantly, the whole purpose of this first game in the rebooted series is to explain how
Lara became a shorts-rocking, dual-gun-wielding chick who can somersault without a bra despite her
DD cups – and who has never shown any particular fear, resentment, or rage against men. In short, not
only are shortcuts not necessary, they undermine the fight-for-survival narrative and the preexisting
But maybe, maybe the point of this rape was to make the story appear more mature? I believe
maturity is in the treatment rather in than the subject, but let's concede this point. Or maybe Lara Croft's
producer Ron Rosenberg was just getting carried away, exaggerated some minor plot point, and
thought it'd appeal to a larger audience to show Lara in need of protection. I certainly hope so, because
I'd still like to play that fight for survival story and see the character's growth happen at my fingertips.
Carole is a new contributor to GameTrender. She has worked in the video game industry for under a decade as translator, community manager, and content designer in Europe and Canada.