The Golden Rule is one of the oldest tenets around. There's a variation of it in every religion's text and it's the one moral argument that everybody can agree on. However, I think it needs to be revised a bit. There should be two Golden Rules, as I've outlined here:
The necessity of this second Golden Rule came to mind again when Square Enix released another trailer for their new Tomb Raider game. For those who haven't been following the development of this title, every subsequent trailer has been worse than the last, until finally E3 footage came out that was nothing but wall-to-wall clips of heroine Lara Croft getting beaten, impaled, ripped open, falling from great distances, and set on fire, all the while breathily moaning in agony. In the words of Destructoid.com, "it sounded like hell trying to have sex with itself."
I've tried to stay optimistic. When the first preview was released and Lara was all bloody and bruised, I thought "these are just the action points; we'll see some of the actual game soon." Then another trailer appeared and it was Lara getting abused again, only more frequently. Then another appeared and it was even worse, followed by a creepy interview with executive producer Ron Rosenberg that went so far as to suggest attempted rape is in the game (some have argued that was just Kotaku twisting his words, but at this point, I wouldn't be suprised at all). There's no room for doubt anymore. This is the game. Maybe the play control and the play mechanics will be so addictive that the subject matter can be overlooked -- that's lookin' on the bright side, right? -- but....ick. I'm no longer waiting for this game as intently as I once was. It's not the first time she's suffered at the hands of her designers either.
In 1996 UK video game publisher Eidos was entering the brave new uncharted world of 3D by putting together an Indiana Jones-type game, and it would have starred an Indiana Jones-type hero, but the creative team thought it might be more interesting to use a British woman instead of an American male. Toby Gard first put Lara on paper and surnamed her "Cruz," but it didn't sound right. He plucked "Croft" out of an English phone book instead.
The original Tomb Raider came out and became one of the games that defined its generation. Toby was very proud to have made such a difference....until he noticed Eidos was just using Lara for her body, marketing her with pinups, suggestive phrases, and calling special attention to her chest area. This made Gard resign from the company in digust over what they were doing to his character. Well, Toby, if you didn't want your character exploited, maybe you shouldn't have made her a young rich curvaceous globetrotting adventurer with a silky exotic accent and breasts twice the size of her head. I mean, you can't say the temptation isn't there.
And it created a problem right away. When any heterosexual male sits down to write for Lara Croft, his mind immediately goes to whatever titillates him, not necessarily what the best plot or storyline would be. And because human sexuality is so anarchic and chaotic, the results could be anything.
The unfortunate result is that the grand majority of Tomb Raider stories are terrible.
At the same time the initial batch of games were being released, a Tomb Raider comic book came out, using a separate continuity. This is what Top Cow came up with for their version of Lara's origin story:
This whole thing really bugs me. The writer knows enough to realize Lara could not have become the archaeological genius she is overnight. But he also thinks she was originally a vapid spoiled brat for some reason, so he tries to have it both ways. The teacher compliments Lara on her smarts, and then berates her for how dumb she is. She shows incredible knowledge of ancient civilizations yet at the same time reads nothing beyond "fashion magazines." THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
Also, the fact that Lara wants to go to a cotillion so badly leads me to believe the writer doesn't know what one is. At a cotillion you sit at round tables, drink tea from cups sitting on doilies, and talk with old ladies. There is no other activity possible; that's all you can do. I'd take my homework over that.
In Top Cow's origin, Lara was traveling on a private plane with her parents and fiance, heading home to England about to get married. The plane's engine's blew up and sent it crashing into the frozen Arctic, killing all but Lara. From this point she was stranded for weeks, struggling to survive, and fending off hungry wild animals (including a Yeti). To make a long story short, Lara liked the whole experience so much that she decided to do it over and over again for the rest of her life.
That isn't even the most unbelievable thing. This is what she was wearing on that plane ride:
Keep in mind, her parents were not only on the plane but sitting right across from her.
And after the plane crashes, this is all she has on for weeks. In an Arctic blizzard. I don't care how "tough" Lara is, she has a human body and she could not avoid catching hypothermia after just an hour out there.
I realize it's not abnormal for modern comic books to pull this kind of cheesecake, but this is the most nonsensical example I've ever seen. Why is she in nothing but a bikini to begin with? In front of her freakin' parents? I know this is hard to fathom, Top Cow, but there's a time to dress scantily and THIS WAS NOT THE TIME. Would it kill them to drop the eye-rolling male fantasies just once in the face of all logic?
It only gets worse when, inevitably, kinkiness is thrown into the mix. Let's say someone is about to write a Tomb Raider story and has a sneezing fetish (they're real). He writes something where Lara starts sneezing over and over, uncontrollably. She finds out she was cursed by the Sneezing God and ventures to the Temple of Ah Zhoo to fight a huge monster with a gigantic nose that sneezes to attack. In his mind, he's thinking "Whoa, this is the best story ever written!!!" For everybody else, not so much.
Channeling a fetish to create stories or art isn't always a bad thing. For example, to pick something completely out of thin air, let's say there was somebody whose fetish was water. Water is one of the trickiest things to draw, but because this person's mind is wired to study water more intently than the average artist, he can draw uncannily accurate and beautiful underwater scenes. By contrast, though, let's say there's also someone whose fetish is DRAWING POPULAR CHARACTERS DROWNING IN QUICKSAND STEP BY STEP UNTIL THEY DIE. In this case.....I'd keep that interest to myself.
Do you see where I'm directing this whole essay?
Whether Rosenberg admits it or not, he wouldn't be making a violent, grimy, punch-the-girl-make-her-moan game if he wasn't getting somewhat of a kick from it. Like I said, when most people have taken charge of the Tomb Raider license, their minds have drifted to their own personal fantasies, which they have vicariously put Lara through. Rosenberg thinks his game is an improvement over all other titles in the series because the player will form an emotional connection to the main character out of "wanting to protect her." Thing is though, do you agree? Have you ever felt a desire to "protect" Lara Croft? Has there ever been a demand for such a thing? Or is it just in his head? I don't play games to "protect" the characters I control; that's just silly. I don't feel a need for it and neither do most others. But Rosenberg wants to protect Lara. He wants it very badly.
Actually, come to think of it, I do want to protect Lara. From this guy.
Obviously he's created something that'll offend a lot of people, but he doesn't care about them, or what they think of him, or the character he's screwing up. He's thinking about how much he likes seeing Lara get pummelled, and he's gonna make that the entire subject because he's in charge and it's his viewpoint.
The common rebuttal to this is, "well, it's natural." So's poison ivy.
SEXUALITY DOES NOT KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG. PERIOD. Its only goal is to get you to ensure the continued survival of your species, and it doesn't care how. Putting the opinions of your sex drive higher than that of your brain has resulted in so many calamities throughout history it isn't funny. Families have been ruined, careers have been destroyed, and in the worst-case scenario, there are people who take their urges so literally that they'll act on them whether they know the target of their affection or not.
Taking the advice of your libido at face value can get you in a lot of trouble, and I find it mindboggling that with all the advances humanity has made, they still haven't collectively figured this out.
Personally, I'd love to write a Lara Croft story (at least one that could be considered canon). Characters with premises this outrageous and high-concept usually don't become iconic or popular the way this one did. There's a lot of potential to write some real high-octane impossible adventures and get away with it. Most people take the wrong approach, though. They think of Lara as a desirable object first and a human being second. The script for Alien was written gender-neutral and the actors decided on later; as a result, those characters all feel real. They were written not as men and women, not as attractive and ugly, but as people. It's also possible for Lara to feel real despite her over-the-top surroundings. That's how you make your audience care about her. Not through hitting her, good heavens.
Who knows? Maybe the game does have a good plot. Maybe Lara ISN'T written degradingly in the game, and this has all been a misguided marketing tactic. If so, then these trailers should have emphasized it and avoided rants like this from being posted. And they shouldn't have given that nut Rosenberg a mike.
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