The Tomb Raider ‘rape’ controversyPosted 4:53 pm on Monday, June 18th, 2012 by John 'Spartan' Nguyen
When I watched the Tomb Raider 30-minute demonstration at E3 2012, I was completely floored away. The game became one of my top anticipated games to check out in 2013. The demo was an extended version of the one everybody saw at the Xbox Media Briefing. In this segment of the demo, we see Lara Croft as vulnerable as ever. Her team is kidnapped, and she is searching for them as she gets smacked around by mother nature. Lara is faced with many obstacles including wolves, scavengers, friends dying and the island.
The most controversial scene is when Lara Croft gets kidnapped by the island scavengers. Who are these guys? We don’t know, but they aren’t looking to become Lara’s BFF. Lara is tied as the scavengers get ready to have their fun with her. She frees herself while the bad guys get distracted, and we enter sneaking mode. As she tries to evade the enemies with flashlights, she gets caught by the “leader” of the group (He happens to be Russian). As an evil scavenger who’s on a remote island without female contact, his urges take over as he tries to rape Lara. She stops all his advances by performing the Mike Tyson bite and kneeing him in the groin. His third attempt ends up with Lara shooting him in the face. This scene pretty much cements Tomb Raider as a Rate M game.
I thought the whole demo was very intense, and it made me root for Lara to kill all the scavengers and rescue her team. Although I enjoyed the previous Tomb Raider games, this reboot actually has me excited about her as a character. Is she too helpless? Maybe. But isn’t that part of the journey? Look at how helpless Uma Thurman was in Kill Bill when the male nurse was accepting money to let other males take advantage of her when she was unconscious. She took action into her own hands when she came out of a coma and killed the male nurse. So maybe it’s a cliche that something bad needs to happen in order for them to become great, but these types of empowering characters are popular for a reason.
Crystal Dynamics decided to throw everything bad at her, including attempted rape. A lot of people, however, aren’t too happy about it. “Torture rape porn” are what many are calling it, as they’re describing it as a bad route to create a strong female character. Is the subject of rape so taboo that it shouldn’t be in a game? Maybe it’s because Lara Croft is held to such a high esteem, that seeing her this vulnerable sends a wrong message to people? Or maybe it’s how executive producer Ron Rosenberg described the game.
“She’s definitely the hero but— you’re kind of like her helper,” he said. “When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”
Either way, I don’t see her as vulnerable. She’s out there killing wild animals and thugs in self-defense. She gets back on her feet as she gets hit by everything mother nature is throwing at her. She’s actually doing something to stop the madness. Yep, Nathan Drake has it easy compared to her.
John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.