So upon opening my Twitter feed this morning, I immediately encountered this blog post, and then had to quell the urge to punch something.
My first thought after that was of what they’ve done/are doing to Lara Croft’s backstory. Along with Baldur’s Gate, Tomb Raider: Chronicles was my first introduction to “real” video games, whereas previously I’d only played 2D side scrollers and adventure games. I loved it. It was amazing. Here was this badass female character who–just like me–enjoyed archaeology and exploration. She wasn’t afraid of anything, and pretty much shot anything that got in her way. While she was technically a thief, and that maybe wasn’t such a great thing, she generally only took things to learn about them or to protect them from other people who were going to do bad things with them. She was intelligent, brave, and inspired young little Mandaray to make her own luck and be an awesome person.
When I got a bit older, I did eventually notice that Lara was pretty much walking wankbait, with her too-short-shorts and heaving bosom that never seemed to go inside of a sports bra. But I figured it was just the price I had to pay, since after all the only female characters I ever saw in video games up until that point fit into four categories: Damsel in Distress, Tits-on-a-Stick, Too Pixelated to See the Gender, or Weak & Breathy But Purehearted. And, honestly, as someone who happened to find herself growing into a body with big boobs and a big butt, it really only helped me identify with her more. I remember dressing up as Lara on Halloween on several occasions, after spending the rest of the year painstakingly searching clothing stores for shirts that were *just* the right shade of blue, and round, rose-tinted glasses. (After Angel of Darkness came out–and before I knew it sucked–I used a few pictures I’d seen of her in a gaming magazine to carefully reconstruct her outfit, boots and all. Nobody in the neighborhood got it, but I didn’t care.)
The point of all this is that when I heard about a new Tomb Raider game, I was fucking psyched. I was significantly less psyched when I heard it was going to be a reboot, (I hate reboots) but was still excited. Then I saw the trailers and gameplay snippets and it became clear that this was no longer the strong, independent woman I had grown up loving. This was a frightened teenager being stranded, then brutally and repeatedly tortured by her environment. Yes, she was finally wearing clothes that covered her whole body, and that was nice. Too bad they’re all covered in blood and instead of hiding her D cups they’re hiding countless bruises.
Then, the story about the attempted rape scene broke, as well as all the devs trying desperately to backpedal over it like cats raking litter back over their own shit. OK, so nobody actually puts their dick in anybody else. Fan-fucking-tastic. I still have to watch someone I see as strong, capable, and fiercely independent suddenly be demoted to the ranks of EveryFemale. Now someone I identify with and use as inspiration is, as they’ve put it, a “cornered, frightened animal”. I have to guide her through the kind of terrifying scenario that plays out in my head anytime I’m alone, or see a group of unidentified males heading my way. I have to watch her be weak. And why do I have to do this?
“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character. They’re more like, ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to adventure with her and trying to protect her.’
Oh. Right. Because obviously men–who are, for some reason, STILL YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE–can only sympathize with a character if they feel protective towards them.
So, basically the message we get here is: Men can’t/won’t/don’t ever project themselves onto female characters, because they have no empathy towards anyone but themselves, UNLESS that person fits neatly into the gender role of “oot grunt, man protect woman!”. Then they have all of the sympathetic feels–up to a point, naturally. (That point usually being after the saving has occurred and the time for the woman to “reward” her savior has come.)
Meanwhile, women naturally won’t project themselves onto a strong female character because they just can’t possibly comprehend the idea of seeing themselves as strong. They can’t possibly envision a world where they don’t apologize for every little thing in an attempt to make people like them. They can’t possibly envision a world where the trade-off for not seeing women in revealing clothes is watching them get beaten to a pulp. They only understand being afraid.
Hey, game developers: Imagine for a second if this was Batman. Would you attempt to rape Batman? Would you attempt to sexually assault him in any way, shape or form? No? Yeah, I didn’t fucking think so.
Needless to say, I will not be playing the new Tomb Raider game.
Going back to the original blog post, there’s a great comment in the Livejournal thread about the top five things most often used to develop character growth (I use the term loosely) and drama in a female character’s storyline:
“For some reason, female characters seem to have rape, pregnancy, and miscarriage in their top five choices for character growth.”
As usual, it always seems to come back to what’s going on between a woman’s legs.
And the funny thing is, I don’t think anyone is debating the fact that these things can’t contribute to a character’s growth. Obviously, if these things were to happen to a woman in real life, it causes some major changes to her personality. This is true of any trauma, from losing your favorite stuffed toy as a kid to watching your house burn down.
But to see these scenarios as inevitable? To see them as the only choices? To think that is the only fucking way to write a female character? Insanity. Sick, twisted, perverted insanity. Not to mention, lazy as hell! What kind of a writer relies on only two or three sources of conflict?
*glances at television and video games*
Oh. Silly me.
You know, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I spend a lot of time reading articles, tweets, and blog posts about the horrible things which happen in the world. When I read, I don’t want to deal with any of that. I want to watch characters come out on top. I want to watch bad things happen in orderly, neat ways that can be dealt with and conquered. I want to see dialogue where nobody forgets to say the right thing or trips over their own tongue. I want to be uplifted, I want to be inspired, and most of all I want to be entertained.
The idea that there are people out there who see strong, independent female protagonists and immediately feel that they not only can be, but should be raped? That rape is the inevitable conclusion of going places alone, wearing revealing clothing, and “being cocky”? (that one really floors me)
Well damn. By those standards, men should be getting raped left, right, and center.