[TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains descriptions and discussion of sexual assault and violence.]
In the longstanding tradition of putting them uppity bitches in their place, the new Tomb Raider game will feature the main character, Lara Croft, being threatened with rape. Nice trope, y’all! Because that’s never been done before! The game, which will be released at the end of this year, will put Lara Croft up against a group of “island scavengers” out to rape and presumably murder her. She must fend them off and escape or face being sexually assaulted and killed. I just”¦ what?
I’m not a gamer (never mastered camera angles or analog controllers!), but I have an interest in gamer culture, and I enjoy watching others play video games wither in person or via YouTube. And of course, as your resident angry feminist, this struck me enough to write about it. I couldn’t pass it up when I happened to read that Ron Rosenberg, the game’s executive producer said in an interview with Kotaku that he wanted players to get the sense of trying to “protect” Croft. Yeah, we (dudes, he was probably thinking) are supposed to swoop in and rescue the damsel in distress. And yet anyone who is familiar with Lara Croft knows she is definitely no helpless lady. Rosenberg goes on to say that players don’t insert themselves into the role of Croft, further proving that he doesn’t think of those who play this game as potentially being female, and that this is why they would want to protect her. Um, sorry, but women do game, and we live with the threat of rape every day, in part because of a culture aided and abetted by such gaming scenarios. Not only is he depersonalizing the experience of rape or attempted rape, he is finding saying that men playing the game are removed from the concept of rape, even while men do face the same threat.
Assuming that this will indeed be a playable scenario and will not be changed to simply a cut scene, what options will players actually have? What happens if we fail to “defend” Lara Croft? Do we see her being assaulted? Murdered? Or do we get a fade-to-black screen, perhaps with a harrowing scream? Players may get the opportunity to save her, but if they fail, they may also have to see her being raped. And you just know there are some horrible creatures who are going to fail on purpose, maybe over and over again. In a community wrought with misogyny, is this really the way to go?
I find all of this very disappointing (not to mention fundamentally disturbing), given that the redesign of the character was so promising. Feminists and allies have been calling for so long to have women actually look functional in video games, and we finally got it. Gone is the scantily clad, super-buxom Lara of the previous games. The Lara of now has a more realistic figure, and wears pants (!) and a tank that doesn’t show three inches of stomach. She looks like she could kick your ass, and she actually seems like she could, well, raid some tombs. And what is our trade-off? A rape scene. A totally unnecessary, pointless rape scene that will likely do little to enhance the origins story as Rosenberg claims it will. That’s never been done before either, right? Oh wait. What message is this sending? What is it saying when we finally get our functional-looking, realistic character only to have her placed in a dehumanizing rape scenario?
And an afterthought:
“Island scavengers”?!?!?!? Five bucks says they’re racist caricatures!