For this week’s Characters, I’d like to talk about Lara Croft from the 2013 remake of Tomb Raider. The reason I’m talking about her and not her earlier incarnations, is because I never played any of those games. What’s more, before the game was released, there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding it. Would Lara Croft be depicted as any less than a “Strong, Female Lead,” or would she break the stereotypes the gaming industry is bogged down in?
I’m not qualified to say. But I’ll talk about her anyway.
Like many good journeys, Lara’s begins with disaster which thrusts her into the unknown. She’s searching for the lost kingdom of Yamatai, and she believes it’s in the middle of the Devil’s Triangle (think Bermuda Triangle, but east of Japan). A storm smashes her ship, and she and her friends become shipwrecked on an island filled with monsters, wolves, and crazy cultists armed with machine guns.
The plot of the game is cut and dry. You start out skeptical of the island’s mystical nature, but become convinced over time and eventually save the day and your friends. Fine, fine. I think the actual story involving Lara, is the important part of the game.
Lara is no stranger to danger. She’s climbed mountains, hunted, and had all sorts of survivalist training. Of course, training only gets you so far. She’s still green when it comes to surviving by herself, and the initial brutality forced upon her is shocking.
Here’s where the game, and the character shines. Lara, in one the opening scenes, pleads with her mentor to come and find her. But he can’t, because he needs to stay where he is and guard their position. So Lara needs to get herself to him. The game starts small. Use a bow to get something to eat. Okay, simple enough. She kills a deer, and apologizes to it before digging in with her knife to get some meat. It’s a pretty telling scene, when someone has to say, “Sorry,” to something right before they eat it.
Likewise, the distances Lara has to cross, and the gaps she needs to leap across start small as well. It’s like the game is working you towards the grand finale of crawling up the cliff side, exploding monastery (what actually does happen), by introducing these baby steps.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but Lara loses a lot during this game. Friends, innocence (no she’s not raped, I was talking about her need to murder people in order to survive), and even her worldview is broken down. It’s a taxing experience, but you see that she becomes stronger for it. Though initially she’s rather timid, by the end of the game, Lara has no problem issuing orders and calling out others for things she sees as wrong.
One particular comparison I found intriguing was two scenes at the onset of combat. In the first, near the beginning of the game, Lara calls out to the men who are shooting at her to stop, and that “You don’t need to do this.” They, of course, reply by continuing to shoot at her. Later, after Lara has dispatched hundreds of these evil cultists, she begins to taunt them when she fights them. She shouts, “Run, you bastards!” and “I’m coming for you all!” It’s pretty cool to see her attitude change that much.
Tomb Raider’s plot may not be the best thing out there, but it’s not about the plot. Tomb Raider is about one woman’s development from naive college graduate to hardened survivor. And it’s a journey that didn’t need to involve sexual assault. Someone should takes notes from that.