Leave Lara Croft alone

I don't play video games (unless you count Words with Friends) so I really don't know much about them. I do often, however, end up going to movies that are inspired by video games. So I do have a passing knowledge of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and what it's all about. I'm not a fan of what the character of Lara Croft looks like in the game, but let's face it, it could be a whole lot worse. But I do like the idea of female action hero (or heroine if you like) who kicks ass and takes care of herself. Sure, she has massive boobs, but it seems like that's peripheral to the story. It's not about her sexuality, it's about her power to solve problems, kick butt, and save the day, as far as I know. She's a badass. That, it appears is about to change. There's a been a ton of buzz about the new reboot of Tomb Raider which depicts Lara's story before the beginning of the first Tomb Raider game. The creators have decided to include an interesting little detail. Lara is the survivor of an attempted sexual assault. When I first heard this, I thought that was probably a stupid thing to include in the game but since a lot of women are survivors of assault, it's not unusual at all - but when I read the game-makers' explanation of why they included it, my blood started to boil. They seem to think that making Lara live through an attempted rape will not only explain the formation of her character, but it will make players have sympathy for her and want to protect her. WTF? First of all, the idea that sexual assault can be a transformative experience is tired and just plain hurtful. Yes, it changes your life but I don't care what anyone says or tries to tell themselves, it never changes your life for the better. Lara Croft is not a badass because she was raped or almost raped, she's just a badass. We don't need that explanation, nor would it make any sense or change the character if we had it. And the idea that a woman cannot be strong both physically and emotionally without first having been through a traumatic experience is patronizing and offensive. Second, can we not feel empathy or sympathy with a woman unless she has been hurt by men? Do you have to put her in a horribly vulnerable situation in order for us to like her and want to root for her? That's fucked up. Third, this is a first-person game. The player is supposed to BE Lara Croft. Why do the game-makers want players to feel sympathy and want to protect themselves? It makes no sense at all. I think this is simply an example of the pervasiveness and acceptance of sexual violence in our culture. If you want to make her a sympathetic character, you have to make her a rape victim. That's such a common thought in our society that we don't even stop to recognize how wrong and horrible that is. Even worse is the idea that we couldn't just leave Lara alone, we had to turn her into a rape victim. It's almost as if these people who made this version thought it was time for Lara to be taken down a peg. it's fitting in this age of backlash against women. in 1996 when the game came out, we were still seeing a few strong female characters. We were still riding the second wave of feminism and seeing some alternatives in the ways women could be and could express themselves. In the last few years, the backlash has hit hard. The USA is in the middle of a full on war against women - trying on all fronts to strip women of their rights to reproductive and sexual freedom and trying to force them back into traditional roles of domesticity and dependence. Its happening in Canada too, if in a less blatant way. Is it a coincidence that a 2012 reboot of one of the most popular kick ass female characters in the history of video games turns her into a victim? I don't think so.

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