I felt really conflicted about the Tomb Raider when it was released.
For me, there are four different types of female characters in video games. One, obvious eye candy, two, obviously girly (Barbie, for example), three, gender doesn’t really matter (pokemon girl trainer), and four, characters like Tomb Raider.
I wouldn’t say Tomb Raider is totally devoid of eye candy (even Conan O’Brien was commenting on the awkward camera angles), and the nearly rape scenes near the beginning made me think. Would they have done it if it was a male lead?
I don’t want to focus just on that scene, and maybe I’m a bit more sensitive than others when it comes to it, but this is what I thought.
Would the game have been any less if they left it out? Lara simply gets captured without getting her face caressed, then caught without groping hands. My answer is no. The captors already seem “evil” enough, willing to kill innocent people, even without the threat of rape. So for me, that scene was mostly used to emphasizes the vulnerability of being female. It’s very humanizing, in a way, because as you say, it’s a very realistic scenario. But at the same time, I wonder how many people (of both genders) took it as gratuitous fan service?
This bring me to the next thought: a lot of people praise Tomb Raider as an example of not only a strong, female protagonist, but also as a very human character. She has her strengths and weaknesses, and you can see her struggle to stay strong and survive. I would go as far as to say that it’s her “femininity” that makes her so strong, but weak at the same time.
I agree with you. She’s not scared, per se, but she does have doubts about her survival. Can you imagine Indiana Jones shivering in the cold, wondering if he’ll survive the night? James Bond? Nope, cuz you know they’ll make it through. They’re written that way.
But do we really want a female James Bond who doesn’t seduce enemies with her feminine wiles and degrade into fan service? Let’s say we do have something like that. She won’t be supermodel skinny or super booby. She’ll be cool and collected, capable and efficient. Not show anger or emotion, really, she won’t be an irrational ball of emotion that women are always accused of being.
But how will this differ from being t he girl pokemon trainer? Would it matter at all if the protagonist was male or female?
I’m conflicted about that.
Side story: was in game store before the Tomb Raider launch. Dad comes in with 6-8 year old son. Makes joke about Tomb Raider being “top heavy”. All the guys laugh. Son doesn’t get it. He keeps bugging them to explain the “joke”.
I’ve hung out with enough guys to know these jokes, kind of like racist jokes, are not likely to disappear. And really, most of the time, it’s not intended to be offensive. What I found offensive was that it was told in public, and passed onto a child, kinda perpetuating the Tomb Raider stereotype. Would they ever play the game? Perhaps. But probably not for the same reason.
I think another question is, will the gaming community respect female protagonists? I think they’re acknowledged just fine, just not in the way we’d like.
The new Lara Croft (2018) movie may do some to fix this. They have gone on record as saying that the reboot which will be darker like other reboots Batman Begins (2005), Casino Royale (2006), Man of Steel (2013). Lara Croft will be a much darker, more realistic incarnation of the iconic video game character and she may not have the big breasts, in order to make her a more believable character. It’s possible that Lara in the reboot may not have the signature big breasts.