Tomb Raider: Crossroads - Sexual Assault Is Not Empowering!

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I suffer from poor geek syndrome and cannot justify spending more money on a single game at release than I do on food in a month, so I have yet to play TR. However, the pro bloggers over at The Mary Sue have got it covered; Lara Croft Is Dead, Long Live Lara Croft: Reflections On Tomb Raider. Turns out it's the old "trailer's selling an entirely different product because PR don't think the actual one will sell" problem... which is another rant altogether.

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I am so fed up with people claiming that the little shit storm that has been kicked up over TR:C is a) over-reacting, b) based purely on the words of one "obviously misinformed" man and c) not actually what appears in the trailer.

a) that's a whole other post involving rape statistics, gaming statistics, explanations about rape culture and explorations of what the brain and body does when you're gaming compared to reading, writing and just watching entertainment. Essentially it boils down to; I don't want my PC violently sexually assaulted while I watch just so she can become badass o.O

Even I'm not that much of a sado-masochist, geez.

b) yeah keep reading.

c) Ooooh yeah it is. Allow me to present; Aer's Trailer Critique!

There follows some brief description of sexual violence.



Now, if I could be bothered... and had any rights to use it (although Squenix are actually quite good about that stuff, compared to other companies), I'd do a video edit with notes on Youtube. I might even be willing to do a VO and allow everyone to ask in the comments "can we get that in English please?"

But it's some time in the wee am and I want to get on with playing Final Fantasy XIII-2 (shush). So here's my blow-by-blow take on the trailer and why exactly it DOES show the threat of sexual assault and that this is used as the final nail in the coffin of weak Lara, allowing strong Lara to take the floor.

We begin with Lara waking up upside down, hanging in a very grizzly human abattoir. She is, amazingly, fully clothed, which is a pretty big plus, although was to be expected as so much emphasis was made of making Lara less of a... physical presence, shall we say?

She escapes that (on fire), falls onto a little spike that we're all, briefly meant to think is a huge spike and she's dead (clever use of perspective on that, pulling a big "oh crap!" from the audience as well as shoving in a bit of nostalgia). Lara stumbles around a lot, groaning and squealing and eventually finds her dead, strung up friend (also fully clothed). Lara then climbs her way out of the cave complex she was locked away in. There are explosions, cave ins and a pretty evocative score that's reminiscent of Silent Hill; deep, groaning, slightly off kilter chords (I never studied music).

Lara erupts from the caves through a tiny hole with more "OMG what the Hell is going on!" gasping.

SQUARE ENIX

CRYSTAL DYNAMICS

Lara is standing on a cliff, looking out at sea and wreckage with her mayday message playing. She drinks from a waterfall, shakes as she lights a fire with some matches and sits, forlorn and pathetic looking, hugging her knees, by the fire under an overhanging rock.

There's more stumbling around, clinging her wounded side but also being able to climb (hey, ass shot) up a crumbling plane through the canopy. There's more groaning, apologising to her dinner (fair enough) and general "Oh God please don't let me die" going on. This is not the Lara we all love and want to be (come on boys, admit it, you'd rather do the stuff Lara does than be her shag buddy).

Finally Roth (sounding an awful lot like Balthier) contacts her and she begs him to come find her. She heads to his location and, on the way, fights off a wolf while yelling at it (finally, some actual Lara kickassery).

Some people show up, another girl gets kidnapped and Lara treads in a freaking bear trap! She gets tied up, slapped around and then an (Irish?) man pulls her out of the tumble down building she was hiding in, licks his lips, strokes her arm and tries to fondle her hips (while her hands aren't tied, if you pause it correctly... damn bad rendering). The camera here slows down, making sure you absolutely realise he's going for her hips, then speeds up rapidly as Lara knees him in the balls. There's a scuffle, the man grabs Lara around the hips and goes for a nibble on her neck. There's more scuffle and, ultimately, Lara blows his brains out.

Up until this point Lara has been kind of pathetic. More badass than most of us, male or female, would be in her position, but still; lots of crying, big eyed panic and barely getting through by the skin of her teeth, mentally and physically.

The gun goes off, killing Lara's attacker, and suddenly the score changes. It rises in pitch and Lara stands, breathing out as if shaking off all that's happened and hardening herself for the task of survival ahead. There's some inspirational talk from another man and the music changes again to a mighty hero march and the action slows as Lara takes up her gun and starts killing people; look, here's our Lara!

The trailer ends with a pithy "I hate tombs!" and some peril, to remind players of the fun we're going to have helping Lara off the island.

There is no assumption that rape is used as one of the adversities Lara overcomes to become a self reliant hero. It's right there in the trailer. It's not until she is sexually assaulted that the trappings of a hero (stance, less crying, the cinematics and score, the way she defines her situation rather than reacting to it) appear. Extreme bungee and spelunking, hunting her own food, falling off cliffs, down hills, out of trees, being attacked by wildlife, finding and then losing her friends/hope again; none of this is enough to toughen Lara up. She's still weak, frail and reacting to her situation until the threat of rape. It's not until the assault that Lara is pushed into taking control, making decisions and really fighting back.

It's all there in the trailer, Ron Rosenburg's words were just to make sure nobody missed it.

This is a tired old trope. Sexual assault does not make people suddenly shake off fear or the cobwebs of their life and become a different, better, stronger person. It is not something people just shake off. It is not empowering! Nor is it something we want to play through within a computer game as the person being assaulted. Maybe you think this will open people's eyes to the horror of rape? To the thing they might even perpetrate against others.

No, it just normalises and glorifies it. Rape; it's like losing a football game. Sure you'll feel bad, but you'll be stronger for it! You'll overcome those down and out feelings! It's character building! Next time you'll win!

Just... shoot me.
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