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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).