Recently, there has been a fair amount of debate as to which iteration of Lara Croft is better, more feminist, and an overall better representation of women. Alicia Vikander’s performance in Tomb Raider was heavily inspired by the rebooted video game series from SquareEnix, Crystal Dynamics, and Eidos Montreal which will launch its third installment in September. While trolls debated over Lara’s breast size, lack of short shorts and overall differences, women around the twitter-verse stared at each other and simply offered, “why not both?”
Fellow editor, Kate Sanchez and I often chat about our love of Lara Croft. In her essay, Kate feels empowered by the original Lara who takes inspiration from Tank Girl and the “Riot Grrrl” feminism of the 90s. While original Lara is wonderful and has cemented herself as an icon in video game history, I adore her rebooted iteration more.
I played Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition in late 2015, almost two years following the games initial release date. I had recently gotten into gaming again after becoming chronically ill. I could not work regularly while I was recovering and being treated. I found my solace in immersing myself in character’s who made me feel strong, one of which being Lara Croft.
In the game, Lara sets off to finish her father’s research and find herself in the world of archaeology. Her ship and her team get wrecked on the cursed island of Yamatai. There, Lara is bruised, battered, kidnapped, and taken for a ride. A major feminist and legitimate criticism of the game is that Lara is treated like a delicate, fragile flower. The player is encouraged to “protect” Lara. The game features gruesome cut scenes and death scenes if objectives fail.
In addition, this game sets up that Lara is here for her father who has since passed. She never expected the supernatural to occur. She does not want to raid tombs or be in the danger she is. In previous entries of the game, Lara faces danger but it is always her own choice. She is searching for danger, here she is thrown into it. This game is a test of Lara’s ability to survive and endure more than her ability to treasure hunt.
While her motivations are vastly different in the rebooted games they speak to me personally. A Lara Croft that searches for danger is incredibly badass, for me personally but the Lara who overcomes unfortunate and impossible situations through sheer courage, smarts and determination is exactly what I needed.
As I was struggling to come to grips with my newly diagnosed illnesses and the wrench it threw into my life, I confided in Lara’s endurance and adaptability. Her experiences spoke to me in ways the previous iteration had not.
This version of Lara Croft is more soft-spoken. She is less of a femme fatale. Lara’s kindness and courage inspired me in my own life to always fight but have compassion. In the first game, this is evident by her relationship with Roth, her father figure, and Samantha, her best friend. She fights tirelessly for their safety at the peril of her own. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara continuously asks Jonah to leave her and save himself. She cares deeply for her friends.
Lara’s relationship with her Father is one of my favorite parts of the new series. A lot of fans complained when Lara uttered “I hate tombs” but I giggled. Lara loved her Father so much she finishes his life work and honors his name to the point it becomes her own passion. She continues his journey in hopes to keep him alive in her heart. Lara is a loving daughter who despite all her might is deeply kind.
Since becoming ill, I have learned the immense value and strength there is in empathy and kindness. Lara in Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider is defined to me personally, less by her victim status and more by her humanity.
Women much like any other group of humans are different, we enjoy different things and find courage through different avenues. We all have different experiences, backgrounds, and worldviews that shape who we are and what empowers us.
The Lara Croft who debuted in 1996 is not the same character we see today. Characters in comics, movies, and video games change over time through story arcs, reboots, and having been developed by different creative teams. However, the original iteration of Lara Croft is just as empowering to women as the reboot. Women can find power in both versions of the character for different reasons. For me personally, the 2013 version holds a special place in my heart.