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Geek Revival: Lara Croft, G. I. Jane and the movies

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Old 08-30-2010, 02:36 PM
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Default Geek Revival: Lara Croft, G. I. Jane and the movies


I'm posting this to celebrate the birth of my game-oriented blog, Catgamer : ). It's a games' blog with a twist - my role in it is pretty much that of a columnist with a cynical tone, as columns should be. I guess I turned to this kind of writing because I find taking anything seriously (in a long piece of writing, anyway) incredibly difficult. Please do visit, it's my baby.


Some radical feminists accused miss Lara of being a yet another walking proof of deeply rooted sexism in our (pop)culture – a woman oozing sex appeal, apparently strong but of course looked at mostly due to her incredible physique and looks. To those feminists, I therefore announce: doing acrobatic fifty feet in the air with an MK assault rifle, with a large behind is an inconvenience, to say the least. Do reconsider, ladies.



I am a gamer (perhaps not a confession you should come to in a group of friends who decide what’s en vogue in your area) and I disagree with how this particular kind of Homo sapiens is portrayed in the media and general conversation: that is, pitifully or not at all. 2010 Anno Domini is just another year in the constant flow of surprises in the last decades, some unimaginable to our grandmothers without making their cheeks flush a deep purple – gay rights, organic food, continuum of investment in nuclear power despite the fact that Chernobyl has become a radioactive jungle of mutated unicorns and lizard people, and – wait for it – the genesis of guides to better sex and instructions how to find your very own g spot, comparing to which globalisation of Victoria’s Secret isn’t quite as shocking anymore. In short, the world has changed at 5 times the speed of our CPUs since 1968, but the one thing that has remained the same for decades now is the fun-poking at gamers and the understatement of the influence the gaming had and has on popular culture. Too wordy? Let me re-word: we don’t suck. Video entertainment doesn’t suck. We were just told we do by the same people who wore their polo shirt collars shamefully popped up in their teens.

I don’t comprehend why the games industry is so dramatically underrated – its status incomparable to the films’ industry even though it has just as much good, bad, masterpiece, crap. And icons, symbols – the films have James Bond lately played by Craig David (and for years, quite unfortunately, now Mamma Mia’s Pierce Brosnan), Michelle Pfeiffer and a 3-metres long avatar (pardon me: na’vi). The games industry boasts Tom Clancy instead of genius directors, Cloud Strife as the sexually confused Disney teen idol with a Schwarzkopf-stylised haircut, and Alma as Lindsay, as despite all the respect I have for the F.E.A.R. series, Alma’s hobo look does make a compulsive painkiller addict spring to mind. If the graphic artist’s effort to make these characters’ visage look perfect even in a middle of the most murderous ambush – an unrealistic trait games share with films - isn’t enough to seriously reconsider the importance of games nowadays, I’d wonder what is. Never to mention the absolute A-lister in all this, a (non)domestic goddess many millions of dollars’ worth, silicone and restylane included.

Miss Lara Croft – posh British accent obligatory – is still as ripe as she was years ago. But cynicism aside, Lara was a very important character to me in my gaming path which inevitably led me to writing about gaming, and one of the few female protagonists in the industry who, when in threat, do significantly more than cry in the corner and poke themselves in the eye with a mascara in a masochistic punishment. Lara is a symbolism for today’s strong, liberated woman. While she fights the mercenary snipers in the rain forest jungle and could easily out-spiderman Spiderman if there ever was a liana contest between the two, we fight the urban jungle alongside the annoying Starbucks guy and usually still have to shout twice as loud as men to have our opinions heard in the workplace. Croft is everything most women aspire to be today: she’s brave and individual, she’s agile, self-assured, beautiful, and her confidence doesn’t end with her workday. It goes without saying, Lara impresses us with her ability to survive alone. I have never witnessed as male counterpart she was especially affectionate towards in any of the games; in the films, there were allusions to sexual tension and to some relationships in the past, but this particular woman seems above anything as trivial as pouring her sweat in efforts to make a relationship work. Decades on, she remains single and perfectly okay with that – though her reasons for prolonged singledom are perhaps different than ours as I doubt Lara would put on weight post-breakup and not wear that pair of jeans again.

Firstly, though many would argue against this, Tomb Raider is not Tomb Raider just thanks to the charms of its main character. I am – be warned, I’m going to say this again – a gamer, and few adventure platform series have given me as much joy in their fluidity as these games have. Still, there is much more to Lara that just a well animated character in well animated series – what she presents is a state of being. She became a real and almost touchable idea, a way of life. Some radical feminists accused miss Lara of being a yet another walking proof of deeply rooted sexism in our (pop)culture – a woman oozing sex appeal, apparently strong but of course looked at mostly due to her incredible physique and looks. To those feminists, I therefore announce: doing acrobatic fifty feet in the air with an MK assault rifle, with a large behind is an inconvenience, to say the least. Do reconsider, ladies.

I appreciate Lara Croft. I appreciate the idea of Lara Croft. The reasons behind this is not her promotion in a healthy body image, or at least, not primarily that. Sure, there was the whole “look like a heroine junkie, dress like one” waify trend that emerged in the 90s and was quite popular since then, creating hordes of pole-straight, chest-flat and unsexy models. And yes, it almost became a crime to have a normal woman’s body while the nearest person starving and in need to have food pumped into her stomach is no longer the Ethiopian child from the Oxfam leaflet but the painfully brittle Kate Moss, who not only followed the “look like a heroine addict” rule, but took the fashion a step further by actually becoming one. Yes, sure, I’m positive Lara makes a positive contribution in this issue – but I won’t even get into that, because to me, anyone who doesn’t think a woman should have a woman’s body is a bit crazy, finite.

The much more important detail of Lara’s mission as an icon was not that of a normal-sized woman; it was, most significantly, that of a strong woman. The only people who would claim women were made for staying at home and live their lives baking and putting icing on cupcakes to the joy of their money-making husband after Tomb Raider hit the sales must have been people living on a deserted island, who ticked the hairbrush option in the one-item-you’d-bring application, rather than a laptop with broadband. Anyone can argue that she’s just a fictional character – without realising, these folk are actually strengthening my viewpoint. Some of the strongest, most influential characters that inspired people in the real world are fictional. Ask anyone who did English Literature in school, and was good at it.

I don’t want to get into the tales of the sexual revolution of 1968, of how women’s rights have changes since then, of how much more freedom we have then. It’s all too much very sophisticated information for a modest column like mine. When focusing on the role of females today, I like to think that we’re ¾ of the way there: at the basic army training at the ATR, women might have the same sit-ups entry requirement as men, and except for certain upper body strength exercises, much the same effort is expected of them. Still, despite the fact we are no less capable in many ways, and we have been proven to be more resistant to pain than men ( past studies have shown that if it were men who gave birth to the daughters and sons of the nation, we’d have an infant death rate 6 times higher), upon considering joining the army I find that most of the combat posts are opened to men only. To be honest, I have no idea why that is – as long as I accept that a woman would never make a superb pack mule, that is the only argument that really convinces me in the chaos of nonsensical rants about “tradition”. One of the arguments I had thrown at me (by a guy slightly younger than myself) was that in a situation when a woman is hurt, say, in the chest area, it is “imprudent” to treat the wound in a company of males. “Oh, honey,” I wanted to say, “I think when a bullet goes between your ribs with the strength of 800 fps and you’re pretty much done for if you don’t get help quickly, showing your charms to the world is probably very low on your lists of concerns”.

Now hold on a second. Is this crazy woman trying to tell me Lara Croft had input in women’s rights to join armed forces? No, I wouldn’t say Lara Croft is directly the reason women were allowed in the military. At the same time, Lara Croft, alongside G. I. Jane and Charlie’s Angels, belong to a very elite and rightfully praised society of female icons who very subtly, but very efficiently, influenced women and the mainstream culture. Every time a woman, especially a young girl (like myself at the time of my first encounter with Lara) witnesses a character like this, a head-strong and robust woman who fights like men, keeps her stance like men, but is one-hundred-and-fifty percent of a woman, you’ll find her pupils dilute, her eyes glitter, and cheeks flush deeply. No, she doesn’t fall in love (well, some women do) – she’s shown an icon that makes her realise that she can say, “Oh yes, I can”, which can be applied to a lot of areas of life, not just being strong in the primary, physical meaning of the word. A character like this starts of a process of realisation – and everything starts off with a realisation.

I was visiting my grandmother not so long ago. Because I’m a pretty assertive and hearty young woman, and I freely admit to having physically beat up a young man who dared to walk into my room while I was changing and comment my bust, Grandmother was very fixed on the idea of calming down my attitude so that I don’t have a problem finding a boyfriend (though I can’t say I noted any difficulties so far). Her advice was to be quiet, humble, not talk back and agree with what my ideal future man says, for the sake of making him happy with himself. The problem was, my ideal future man would understand that I never was this kind of a person, and probably never will be. Sorry, Grandma. It seems I’ll have to find a possible marriage material my way, when I decide to do so. But I don’t blame Grandmother for her thinking. After all, she never owned a computer. And she sure as hell never even heard of Tomb Raider.


Last edited by AbbyBlack; 09-04-2010 at 03:12 PM..
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Old 09-04-2010, 03:14 PM
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I made some editorial changes as some people complained it's too long. I'd as someone to just give me an opinion if this kept you reading, or is it enterntaining enough. I won't insist, but I'd definitely appreciate and return the favour : )

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Old 09-05-2010, 05:30 PM
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Hi Abby.

Well, it certainly did keep me reading, and made me smile. Who doesn't love Lara, and all she embodies?

I saw a short documentary a while ago about the development of the Tomb Raider series, I seem to remember that Lara was going to be a bloke initially and that the developers took a hell of a risk putting in a female protagonist because it quite simply had never been done before.

I had to laugh though, because when one of the original developers was asked why he thought Lara was a sucess in a largely male market, he said it was to do with male players wanting to 'look after' Lara and see that she didn't come to any harm. Lmao, I guess the short-shorts and the tight vest top had nothing to do with it.

Now to your piece, it is quite long and I'm wondering if it might be better to split it up into different sections. You have a lot of ideas and are addressing a lot of different issues. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, far from it, but it can make it hard for the casual reader to follow.

I think you have enough material for several blog entries. For example, your introduction 'I am a gamer' could be a piece in itself, what it is like to be a female gamer today, are we accepted (I know damn well when I was young we weren't), the misleading ideas of what 'girl gamers' are about (Nintendogs, lol) etc.

Then you make comparisons between the video game culture and the film industry (nicely done, btw) but this could again be a separate entry.

The discussion of feminism, women's rights and Lara should (imo) be an essay all on it's own, you have enough material and plenty to say!

And yes, it almost became a crime to have a normal woman’s body while the nearest person starving and in need to have food pumped into her stomach is no longer the Ethiopian child from the Oxfam leaflet but the painfully brittle Kate Moss, who not only followed the “look like a heroine addict” rule, but took the fashion a step further by actually becoming one.
This is beautiful cutting wit, I loved it. But, its a very long sentence and I think that's something else you need to look at, because it's another thing that can (subconsciously) put readers off.

You do have a natural way with words and quirky, biting sense of humour, I think you can definitely make a go of this. All you need to do is edit more and break up some of those long sentences. Your passion for your chosen subject and love of writing shines through and engages the reader.

I hope this helps.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:06 PM
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Wow, this is much more positive than I hoped for, thanks so much, Syntax : )

You're right, I have heard before that this is too long winded and sometimes my sentences are way too long which can be plain untidy. Now that I look at it, I always had to shorten essays in my school because they were too long in the word count. But such feedback great to know so early on, actually, certainly something to be weary of. Thanks for honesty, and the nice words. I really, really appreciate!

Will keep working at it, and soon might post more : )

Abby
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