Game Heroines - Lara Croft
Written by Lindsay Robertson It can be said without a shadow of a doubt thatLara Croft is the most recognisable female in the world of video games and also that thereâs no character who divides opinions further. On one hand sheâs hailed as a trailblazer for showcasing women playing an active role in games (as opposed to the traditional post of âkidnap fodderâ) yet this is undermined by her portrayal as a virtual reality sex object through the marketing campaign that sur... (continued)
Written by Lindsay Robertson It can be said without a shadow of a doubt thatLara Croft is the most recognisable female in the world of video games and also that thereâs no character who divides opinions further. On one hand sheâs hailed as a trailblazer for showcasing women playing an active role in games (as opposed to the traditional post of âkidnap fodderâ) yet this is undermined by her portrayal as a virtual reality sex object through the marketing campaign that surrounded the original Tomb Raider. 13 years, 2 movies and 7 sequels later (8 if you count the anniversary reboot) the controversy continues, particularly among girl gamers. Tomb Raider game. Upon realising that his original protagonist - an archaeologist bloke with a hat and whip who recovers ancient artefacts from trap-filled environments - might have borne just the tiniest resemblance to a certain other fictional hero, Gardâs character underwent a complete overhaul including a change of gender. Thatâs right guys - that pixellated sweetheart youâve known and loved all these years used to be a man. Awkward, I imagine, for anyone who owned a Lara Croft calendar in the nineties. Gard soon had a new design to present to the company; a ballsy, gun-toting South American woman named Laura Cruz. A few redrafts and a name change later and Tomb Raider had a fairly unconventional star for an action game â British, upper class and a lady of course. Lara Croft was conceptualised as a strong and fearless heroine; never losing composure under pressure especially when said pressure includes fighting packs of wolves, mutants or the odd T-Rex. Script writer Vicky Arnold gifted Lara with a marvellously dry wit, making her charisma as sharp and as deadly as her shooting skills. Tomb Raider was an instant hit on release with much of its success attributed to the popularity of its central character. This occurred during the height of the nineties âgirl powerâ craze which may well have contributed to Lara Croft â a tough independent woman in a manâs world â rocketing to stardom. Tomb Raiderâs leading lady was famous for only one reason (well, a pair if weâre going to be more specific. Oh come on, you can only talk about her for so long before making a terrible boob pun). Legend has it that an accidental slip of the mouse during the design process left Lara Croft with her trademark gargantuan funbags, a mistake that the design team decided to stick with. After all, the concept was that of an exaggerated female form rather than an effort to emulate reality (âWe couldnât draw good humansâ Toby Gard explains on the commentary for the Anniversary edition, one of several reasons why most of the enemies in Tomb Raider are animals). Having a heroine who was easy on the eyes certainly did the team no harm from a marketing perspective, particularly with a target demographic of teenage boys and young men. All of a sudden Lara was wearing a bikini and putting on her best come-and-get-it pose for posters and ladâs mags. This hardly enamoured her to a generation of girl gamers sick of seeing female characters playing submissive roles. Action heroine or not, Lara was marketed as eye-candy - created by men for men to play with. The anger geared at Croftâs portrayal was not exclusive to the female audience, demonstrated when Laraâs own creator left Core prior to the release of Tomb Raider II as an expression of his disgust with the way his character was being portrayed. Gard had taken a great deal of pride in pushing the boundaries with his powerful female lead but had to concede that heâd lost creative control. âI just wish that when she was taken out of my handsâ Gard would later tell The Mirror âthey hadn't made her boobs so bigâ. In addition Lara Croft has been portrayed by a number of human actresses and models over the years. Voice actors have been used throughout the game franchise and inevitably shape the character, with Judith Gibbons being particularly memorable as Lara in Tomb Raider II and III by emphasising Croftâs aristocratic graces. Official âLara Croft modelsâ have been employed to appear at conventions and promotional events, arguably doing little more than bringing the wet dreams of teenage boys to life. Nell McAndrew infamously posed for Playboy while working as a Lara Croft model and was fired as a result, with Eidos Interactive ordering that the copies of the magazine featuring company logos and Tomb Raider references be withdrawn. However, the association was already in place and as Lara was being officially represented by McAndrew at the time she became tarred with the same brush. By the time the magazine was withdrawn the damage to Miss Croftâs reputation had already been done. Fortunately, Lara regained her credibility and on the big screen no less. The heroine was portrayed in both Tomb Raider movies by Angelina Jolie, who proudly stated in interviews that she had performed her own stunts. In doing this she captured the spirit of Lara Croft â brave, bold and with an insatiable thirst for action. As with any adaptation, changes were made that were not always favourable to fans of the source material. Laraâs back story was rewritten from the original game manual for the film adaptations in a way that arguably stifled her independent nature. In the first Tomb Raider games Lara has been disowned by her wealthy family for her choice of lifestyle and survives by writing about her adventures. The films claim instead that she becomes an archaeologist to follow in her fatherâs footsteps and she craves nothing more than to be able to make up for the time that they lost due to his untimely death. While this certainly adds an emotional angle to Laraâs character it is debatable whether this is necessary to an action hero, plus âdaddyâs girlâ Lara can prove slightly nauseating. Croft Manor is also populated in the films with a supporting cast of tech boys as opposed to the early games where Lara lives alone save for a decrepit old butler (who served no purpose except for the fact that the player could lock him in cupboards for a laugh). Again this diminishes the lone wolf persona that helped make the character so appealing in the first place. These story elements have since made their way into the Tomb Raider canon where efforts have been made to gradually sculpt a more realistic in-game character, physically as well as emotionally. However, much of Laraâs attire remains skimpy as ever and so the debate over whether any self respecting action heroine would go adventuring with quite so much flesh on display continues. Lara Croft has undeniably been a virtual reality pop culture icon for over a decade now. Sheâs a role model to some, a polygon rendered bimbo to others and a little bit of both in the eyes of many. It looks like as long as sheâs raiding tombs in hotpants, the jury is still out on this one.
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