Are the Brutal Tomb Raider Death Scenes Sexist?
The new Tomb Raider is a reboot to a well-known and beloved series, enlightening us with the backstory to how Lara Croft came to be so skilled at what she does. From the minute Tomb Raider appeared on your television screen, she was shooting wolves in the face and managing to scale rocks and walls unclimbable to the normal NPC. Seeing how Lara came to be “that type of Croft” is the core of this Tomb Raider, and it seems to be hitting its mark considering all the praise it’s received and the big financial success it’s enjoyed.
Despite the rocky start, advocates for the game claim that this Tomb Raider is more mature than its predecessors, while still not losing the fun fans enjoyed of the original. But one thing that’s caught the gaming community’s eye is the absolutely brutal and gut-wrenching death scenes Lara is subject to in the game.
Should you fail to push a button at the right moment during a quick time event, or you just weren’t shaking that analog stick quickly enough, you witness a horrifying end to the 21-year-old’s life, time and time again. These scenes have populated YouTube and Tumblr with videos and gifs alike, as they are definitely something to cringe at, something Conan O’Brian will agree with.
Given the nature of these deaths, and Tomb Raider‘s history, one has to wonder: are these death depictions actually in themselves sexist? Despite critics praising Crystal Dynamics for bringing more personality to Lara’s character, it may seem like the developers found a way to bypass just blatanly sexing her up in shorts by having most of her deaths ending in penetration (dare I say almost phallic-like in nature?).
Right from the start, that is after you’re treated to a top view of her falling into the sea, you witness Lara dangling upside down from the ceiling. In her attempt to break free she ends up impaling herself on a sharp stick. While trying to find an exit, if you fail to get away from a grizzly looking man, he stabs Lara in the abdomen with a bony axe. Later on should you get caught by some men that have tied Lara and her colleagues up, she’s penetrated by several arrows.
A few minutes after, Lara can be chocked to death by a man seemingly making advances on her beforehand (maybe fulfilling some form of erotic asphyxiation?). Then of course there’s the infamous stabbed in the throat by a sharp stick while falling down a mountain, which happens yet again when in a river. Even more impaling occurs afterwards, this time when parachuting through trees and failing to navigate correctly to avoid a branch that strikes you in the abdomen.
So… are these death scene depictions phallic-like, therefore sexist?
Of course not.
Lara has always been subjected to some morbid deaths, being ripped apart by a shark and falling on spikes comes to mind. Now they’re just in stunning HD and more detailed. If there are no complaints when these type of fail death sequences occur to male protagonists, the scenes in the new Tomb Raider should be acceptable too. Granted even I’m disturbed by these depictions, but not because they’re in any way sexist, they’re just simply a horrible way to go.
I’ve seen some complaints surface on how this is too much gruesomeness for a Lara Croft game, to which I say that’s as silly as I tried to make this post sound. We all know Lara grows up to be an adventurer, even if she fell into her first dangerous voyage inadvertently, and this (unfortunately) comes with the territory. Survival in the wilderness is no easy task, and mixing that with strange individuals who persist on hunting you down will obviously make matters worse. The scenes are in fact necessary to portray just how perilous her journey is, and her sex does not downplay the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore, the deaths in no way glorify violence. The developers worked hard to make these scenes as uncomfortable to watch as it must be for Lara to experience.
Though Lara’s past will still serve as an example on the exploitation of feminine looks in exchange for male attention in video games, accidental or otherwise, at least this iteration treats Lara more for what she is: an action hero (well, her transformation into one), not a female action hero. This means taking the same risks male heroes take, with the same dire consequences. Once named by Time Magazine as video games’ first sex symbol, Lara is moving forward to be treated mainly on the merits of her adventures.
Thanks for indulging my hidden rant, hope you enjoyed it 😉