The Lara Croft rape thing.

We’ve all heard about it. Crystal Dynamics’ Ron Rosenberg said that in the newest game that the attempted rape of Lara Croft will make Tomb Raider players want to “protect” her.

Yeah, just take a second with that one.

Previously, Brian Horton (Crystal Dynamics’s art director) has given some really prime quotes on new Lara to Game Informer:

– “What dropped away pretty quickly was the hardness that she had. She is strong and we love Lara Croft for that strength, but she was almost so strong that we were always one step away from her.”

– “What it came down to is that we wanted to have certain proportionality when we put her next to the men. We wanted a clear size difference. She isn’t going to be as tall as the men around her – about a head shorter. This reinforces the feeling that she’s against all odds.”

– “we wanted a little bit of that baby fat”

– “At one point, since survival is such an important element, we thought about having her bones break and she would be crippled in some way. And while we realized that it would be fantastic from a fiction standpoint, it would hurt us in gameplay. We want her to get damaged, and that is a huge part of how we present the character.”

– “there is a beauty and vulnerability coming through. I think that is sexy in its own way.”

So in other words we had a popular, strong female lead with huge tits in a popular game, and in order to make her continue to be popular, you feel you have to shrink her tits, weaken her, beat her, threaten her with rape, and make her shorter than you. Oh, and give her “that baby fat”.

Yeah. Because there ain’t NOTHING sexier than a bleeding, immobile girl-child in pain and fear.


The problem isn’t that Brian Horton seems to be one deeply creepy motherfucker so much as the fact that one in four real life women get real life raped by real life men. So what you’re doing is taking women’s experiences of real life brutality and using them as A SELLING POINT TO ATTRACT MEN TO PLAY A GAME.

I don’t even have words for how disgusted I am with the industry for vomiting forth this particular monstrosity, and for then placating and back-pedalling in order to protect their new toy. I’d rather they’d just come out and said “Huh, yeah. Rape is sexy.” I’m equally disgusted with anyone who supports this behaviour by buying this.

Given the stats on how many women get raped, there is a significant proportion of men who think rape is fine, and that means there will be a significant proportion of game players / rape apologists / shitty human beings, who will find the idea of Lara Croft, tied up and being eyed up as a candidate for rape, deeply titillating. I mean, there are dudes who will want to “protect” Lara when they see her hurt and trapped. And there are BIG problems with that[1], but they pale almost into insignificance next to the predictable subset of gamers who will stop the game at that point for a wank.

When this kicked off on Twitter (and many papers picked up the story), Crystal Dynamics issued a “clarification statement,” assuring us all that there is no implied threat of rape in the game.

Why don’t you decide for yourself. At 2.22 in the “Crossroads” trailer below (watch the whole thing to get a flavour of how she’s basically bitch-slapped around the set first), Lara is tied up, and the man who has just found her, drops his hand to her hip and caresses her. I don’t know about you, but in her position I would be thinking “Oh brilliant. He’s thinking about raping me.” And given Ron Rosenberg’s comments, it was in the minds of Crystal Dynamics when the game was developed, too. It’s not overt. You don’t get to watch Lara being raped. But you DO get to watch her realise the dude’s considering it. It’s there. Crystal Dynamics is attempting to profit from the awfulness of rape.

Let’s not be completely cowardly and pretend otherwise.

So, in short, Lara Croft now looks like a beaten, specifically sexually vulnerable young girl – and that is what it takes to appeal to gamers?

Now, to put the cherry on the top of that cake, I refer you to Michael Plant’s article in the Independent on Crystal Dynamics’ “clarification statement”, in which he opines:

“I wouldn’t be so quick to raise the alarm bells though, [Ron Rosenberg] no doubt spoke to 50 journalists that day, and anyone can say a dumb thing after a day like that over such a hectic schedule.”

So basically, Rosenberg got tired enough that he actually spoke the truth. And we shouldn’t be uptight about it. It’s only men profiting from the sexy sexy appeal of rape and woman-beating.

[1] For the intellectually challenged, the big problems with the whole “protect wimminz” thing is that WOMEN DON’T WANT TO BE PROTECTED. We just want men to stop threatening us so we can go about having a normal life. And men’s idea of “protection” somehow always ends up with us being shoved in burkhas and locked inside the house “for our own safety”. Fuck that noise. Fuck your “protection”.

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17 Responses to The Lara Croft rape thing.

  1. Pirate says:

    So, she’s become the object instead of the subject in the game? Isn’t that always the way…

  2. As a man, I’d agree with everything you just said. There’s no justification for this type of “plot device” except for the cold hard fact that sex sells – even the deeply horrible kind. I’m not a follower of the Lara Croft franchise so you’ll be glad to know I wouldn’t buy this game anyway and I have to admit, it takes the perspective you’ve proffered before I realised that even “white knights” who want to ‘protect’ women invariably do so on a subconsciously selfish level. That said, I’ve resisted adopting the “white knight” mentality in favour of encouraging “free will” in the past and in retrospect – it cost me my last relationship. Thought-provoking blog post, thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    • chiller says:

      Ah, relationships end. It’s just what they do, alas – whether you choose free will or white knight. But no intelligent man wants to step into that “protector” role, and no intelligent woman would let him.

      Glad you liked the post.

      • Yeah, I know 🙂

        The survival rate for every relationship eventually reaches zero – it’s just a matter of time… Damn I’m getting good at depressing myself!

        No, you’re right – I didn’t step into it (not because I think I’m intelligent) but because I’d rather someone make a concerted choice to compromise rather than me having to exert any type of influence or bias. Maybe that’s selfish? lol I don’t know!

        Your welcome, your musings give me a different perspective on things, a welcome one.

  3. I’ve never been a game player and I never will be.

    But, if I were, this would instantly make me re-consider.

    As a man, I find this whole thing repugnant.

    Thanks for bringing the subject up in a great article.

    • chiller says:

      Thanks for reading – I’m really thrilled by how many positive comments I’ve seen from men on this issue – most blokes find the whole thing quite repulsive. I was just starting to feel happy, and then I accidentally scrolled down and saw some of the comments on the eurogamer article. Oops.

  4. I watched this trailer a few days ago (with another male friend and before I read the reactions) and we had both already decided we didn’t really fancy it. Not just because it was sleazy (I don’t necessarily have a problem with sleaze), but because we liked her as a tough, capable character.

    I was already getting quite enough enjoyable peril from people shooting at me, big fuck-off dinosaurs and nearly falling off ledges from previous Tomb Raider games – I neither needed nor wanted a bit of rapey peril thrown in there.

    And note how I said “shooting at ME”. They seem to have made this weird leap that because Tomb Raider’s a 3rd person perspective game, I’m not supposed to identify AS her, I’m supposed to want to protect her? Fuck that. When I’m playing Gears of War (another 3rd person game) I’m not thinking about protecting my hulking soldier from the nasty creatures, I AM the soldier. So already, concept fail.

    Of course the ‘make your hero/heroine vulnerable before they triumph’ trope is well-known (how often does Rocky get knocked down before he wins?). But that would still only PARTIALLY excuse the implied sexual threat if it was seen in the larger context of the character she becomes, i.e. someone who is most definitely not a victim.

    But the fact that she spends the game as a young, slight, vulnerable girl surrounded by bigger, stronger men makes it tacky and tasteless and is clearly playing to that dark, masturbatory “ooh, I wonder what they’d do to her if they captured her” section of the male gaming community.

    It’s a shame, because leaving the aesthetics argument aside Lara Croft used to be a pretty cool game character. But it’s a mistake to assume that this is what all male gamers want (not that you did!!!), nor that most of us won’t see it for what it is.

    Sorry for going on 🙂

  5. ourgaff13 says:

    totally agree with you – whole thing stinks.

  6. Veronica says:

    Yes, the whole “protection” thing is very much a chicken-and-egg scenario – except it’s easier than that to determine the origin. We wouldn’t have any need of protection by men if men weren’t threatening us in the first place. You just don’t see men being offered or expecting to be grateful for this same kind of “protection.”

    • chiller says:

      I’m particularly annoyed by men offering to “protect” me, I suspect this makes me a deeply uncharming woman. Which: WOOT!

  7. nwroth says:

    Passionate. Well-written. I’m not a gamer, but this entire debacle has got me up in arms. Rapists walk away from cases EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and now a video game company is trying (poorly) to cover up their attempts to capitalize on this abominable behavior.

  8. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this. I’m also reading Lucy Bond’s writing on it. and Cavalorn’s too.

    I find it very peculiar that if a woman is a tough character, generally she is that way, or has become that way, because of A Thing in her past and male characters are generally that way because, well, they just are. I do realise that there are exceptions to that rule but, most of the time, male characters are allowed to be tough without having some angsty reason in their past. I find that irritating.

  9. Not only all this, but according to the developers ( she’s no longer a member of the aristocracy, she’s no longer a university trained archaeologist and she may not even be 100% English. Way to trash a female icon. Less status and less education. They must really hate Lara Croft.

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