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Online Presentation

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Disclaimer: Some of the links on this site are to images that you may find offensive. Proceed with caution. The only ones that I think anyone would have a real problem with are under the "NudeRaider" link.

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We [the class] have been talking a lot about Lara Croft on my blog the past couple of days and this is due largely in part to the fact that she is the topic of my term paper. I posted two very distinct pictures of Croft on my blog in order to get a general response from my classmates. The first was a promotional photo that someone added a caption [Babe In Toy Land] to and made into fan art (note the use of the word Babe). The photo featured a model dressed as Croft with a gun barrel pointed at her lips, and she was looking rather seductively at the camera [almost as if she was looking at you]. The issue that this photo raised was whether or not Croft was aware of her own sexual presence. In the end we concluded that the game designers control what we think about Croft.

“The game designers want to make her sexy, but for the character to come across as nonchalant and unaware,” said Stephan Puff.

A lot can be said here about control. It is one of the biggest issues that comes up when dealing with a game like Tomb Raider. The designers [males] have a certain amount of control over Lara [the woman]. This observation made by Puff holds true to a point made by cyber-feminist Dona Haraway and reminded me a little bit about what Brenda Laurel was saying about culture work and creative responsibility.

The second set of photos that I posted dealt a little bit more with the actual topic of my term paper which is Lara Croft as viewed by feminists and her perception in by the general public. The one photo featuring Lara bare breasted on the cover of a NexGen magazine cover was considered immature and vile by a blogger at Game Girl Advance. The second photo, that I had planned to use as a milder comparison was of Croft displaying the barrels of her guns and pointing them at the observer. This photo was just as controversial as the other, but for different reasons.

KK a fellow blogger responded to the second picture by saying, “the second picture just puts into the viewer's mind that the breasts are "guns". While I cannot say that I have seen the movies or games based around this character, I can assume that they neutralize guns as okay, as toys, perhaps--and might this picture reverberate the suggestion that the woman's breasts are toys, like the guns? Or if violence "turns on" the user, the breasts-as-guns might have the same effect.”

I had gotten honest responses from my peers and classmates, which was the ultimate goal of the postings. Karissa gave me the greatest fuel for my fire and I began to research my topic. Obviously there was something offensive about Croft and it wasn’t just her appearance, it was her whole package, guns and all. For my paper I am focusing on the feminist critique of Croft and its validity based on feminist idealism.

Looking at Croft, what is your first opinion of her? Do your eyes dart right for her breasts, or are you more interested in the weapons she is carrying? Why do you like her? These are questions that you’ve got to ask yourself. Karissa’s comments also gave me the idea of another comparison to make regarding Croft. “And where do we draw that line? Art? Pornography? An age-old controversy...” (Kilgore).This is also where I began to see a connection between the feminist argument against Croft.

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1. "It's a feminist's worst nightmare," says Ariel Levy, a writer for New York magazine. "She wakes up 30 years later and abortion rights are being threatened while porn stars are the new role models."

1A. Tomb Raider is promoting pornography. Looking at Croft on screen is like looking at a pornographic magazine. Gamers that find her sexually desirable exploit her computerized image with the unauthorized “NudeRaider” patch that can be applied to the computer version of the game to play nude as Lara.

2. “When girls try to act like the boys, she concludes, the results can be more limiting than freeing,” (Levy).

2A. Lara Croft possesses a lot of masculine traits that some women find unappealing for a woman to be representing to the masses.

3. "The girls I talked to have this sense that it's about having big breasts, being as hot as possible, putting on a performance.” (Levy).

3A. Many feminists critique Croft in the same way that the critiqued Barbie. They claim that she adds to the development of a poor self-image for young girls that try to reach her unattainable looks. In both cases the cause of plastic surgery as well as plastic surgery addiction have been linked to these fictional women.

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1. “The action genre is typically masculine so this type of characterization is often celebrated as at least offering some compensation for the ubiquity of oppressive representations of women and the preponderance of masculine hard bodies,” (Kennedy).

1A. Croft breaks stereotypes and shows that women can be strong and beautiful. It is not necessarily a bad thing that she is a sexual icon. She is not exploiting her sexuality, like some other games do to their female character. No harm, no foul.

2. “Lara Croft is a positive role model for women and girls and a possible entry point for women into the male discourse domain of computer games. Similar to the way male science fiction writers like Alfred Bester and Samuel Delaney created tough female heroines in cyberpunk fiction, predating the emergence of female science fiction writers and a female readership, the appearance of female heroines in computer games, albeit male constructions of femininity, can be seen as a first step, an invitation for women to play computer games,” (Schleiner).

2A. She is breaking the stereotypes for women in games and opening opportunities for women in the genre as a whole.

3."These patches suggest that the boundary between game patches and official games is permeable, that game patches not only subvert and diversify gender stereotypes in official games. As such, game patches not only provide an index to what may be the next "Tomb Raider", game hacking offers a possible strategical means for feminists to participate in the formation of new gender configurations," (Schleiner).

3A. An argument that game patches can actually be a positive tool for feminists to use in order to diversify gender in games. Even though there is the NudeRaider patch, other patches have been created that change the look of the avatar in a more positive way (sometimes even removing her over the top features).

Conclusion:
I felt that a good note to end this presentation on would be by showing some selected sentences from my thesis paragraph.

Despite the games immense popularity it has also stirred quite a bit of controversy regarding Lara Croft. Toby Gard and Phil Campbell, the creators of Tomb Raider met criticism from women like Dona Haraway, a self-proclaimed cyber-feminist claiming that Tomb Raider “ promotes objectification of the female body”, and teaches young men to ogle Croft’s larger than life chest (Lane). While there are some feminist critics that applaud Croft’s “non-normative iconography and use of power” others remain suspicious of her perfect body that is often revealed through her skimpy outfits. (Spittle).

Comments (9)

Evan:

Many of the arguments against Croft you presented I immediately recognized as extreme forms of third-wave feminism. While I agree that it is more liberating for women to just be who they naturally are, I think the deeper issue lies in imposing femininity on women (something very anti-third-wave).

While each gender should be celebrated equally, we should not compartmentalize gender. This creates binary logic with the idea of gender. A more realistic view is that gender is a human dynamic that grows and changes over time. Restricting gender to two choices is a form of power and control.

That being said...
Do you think that Lara Croft can also have negative effects insofar as the girls watching it will want to strive for "perfection" without first being happy with who they are to begin with?

Excellent presentation, Leslie! You raise some interesting issues.

Kayla Lukacs:

Leslie, well done! I found your presentation to be very thorough and precise. You did a very well job at presenting your thesis and opposing views. I enjoyed this presentation because it sparked my interest in this topic.

How did you come across a website with patches like that? They are rather disturbing. It is images and ideas like these that turn a form of art into pornography which gives the gaming industry a bad reputation which should not be. My jaw dropped when I saw those images. The first thought that crossed my mind was...it is a virtual game, if you are interested in seeing naked people having sex, the best thing to do would be to go rent a porno or better yet, get off the couch, clean yourself up, and go find a good member of the opposite sex and do the deed.

To end my rant, I would just like to reiterate what a wonderful job you did on your presentation and I cannot wait to read your paper.

Wasn't it so nonchalant of me to use nonchalant? I thought so...

There are sports in video games, there is drinking in video games, there is love in video games, so why shouldn't there be nudity in video games?

People(many parents) think since we "control and create" video games, that they should uphold ideals. But there are a reflection on our society more than an ideal.

I think Schleiner is sacrificing rationality for progession. She'll take what she can get it seems. Laura Croft is not strong and beautiful, she's masculine and miscued. I think Laurel is right by making a game for girls that is relatable or at least the main character be relatable. This is a boy's game.

There is no realism in this game other then the places and scenery. And realism goes farther than looks, it is about the character as well.

Great post, Leslie.

Many people in mainstream society connect video games with children, along with cartoons and comic books. All three forms of media can and do deal with mature themes, but there's the perception that anyone who writes a comic book or draws a cartoon is doing so with the intention that the comic book gets in the hands of minors. While the audience of all these media does skew young, in Japan for instance, comic books are far more integrated into mainstream adult culture.

While there is a segment of society that dislikes the sexuality and violence of edgier media, no matter what its form, but the presence of that kind of content in video games -- something many adults don't experience for themselves -- makes many people in mainstream society nervous.

Most people aren't simply killjoys or gleefully suppressive -- they seem themselves as discouraging something that they see as risky or damaging. Leslie has done a good job of presenting a range of responses to Lara Croft, without resorting to "It's just a game," or "Don't trust anyone over 30."

Younger generations always feel the necessity to break away from parental expectations and form their own identity. Ragtime, jazz, rock-n-roll, punk rock, rap, hip-hop... I bring this up not to dismiss the concerns of this generation or of past generations, but rather to note that this is all part of a normal cycle.

Many of today's avid videogamers will one day shake their heads in frustration at the way kids in the 2020s are wasting their time with their 3-D holographic cranial implants.

Mike:

Wonderful post. A few years ago, my friend Mike Ward wrote an extended critical essay at PopMatters about the gamer's gaze in relation to Lara, and the rhetorical split between Lara's voice (addressed to the player) and Lara's body (obeying the silent commands of the player). It's an interesting essay, particularly in the ways it uses some of Laura Mulvey's ideas on the male gaze in relation to the game's third-person perspective, and I think it might intersect with what you're saying here in really productive ways.

Wow, Mike -- that article hits on quite a few of the points I was trying to make in a phone conversation with Leslie today. I wish I'd read it before! Leslie and I also talked about how the cartoonish Lara Croft of the early Tomb Raider games raises a set of issues that don't always transfer directly to a critique of the more realistic (but still idealized) body that is part of the later versions. The earlier Lara Croft looks like an inflateable sex doll, while the later ones use more natural skin tones and a more expressive face. I referred Leslie to the Uncanny Valley, which becomes more relevant as we approach photorealism in video games.

Thanks for the comment, Mike!

Gina:

Leslie:

Your online presentation was very exciting and interesting to read. I am not one to like engaging in discussions about gender, race, and such but you presented femisnist views in ways that actaully made me feel that you were making a valid argument about an important issue, rather than just rambling about feminists and their views! You brought up many topics and had many people respond which just goes to show you how good this blog is!! Great Job

Steve:

Video games make billions and this number is growing. The use of more realistic tits and ass in games will continue - programmers devote their lives to creating more realistic boobs - and NO ONE can do anything about it except refuse to use it, but because the users, 10-40 year-old males, start their media odyssey at a young age, indoctrinated with sex and violence continuously though TV and magazines, the act of refusing to use video games and to see women (or just people) as human and not controllable objects becomes less of an option and more of a feit accompli.
I play video games and, like all men, I enjoy seeing naked women. It's fascinating and arousing, but often I fear that digital women are replacing organic ones. Digital women do not talk back; they can be beaten, raped, murdered and no one will come looking for the body because the act of dominance is intangible. But this has gone on forever, and video games merely put this in a new place.

Tall Paul:

i cant believe u ppl wasted so much time on this topic, i only read bits but i think if somethings worth reading u wont be able to help but read it all. no need to reply to this cos I wont be checkin for one.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 18, 2006 8:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Ex 7: Pre-Submission Note.

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