Reclaiming Lara Croft

Reclaiming Lara

Okay, so this blog post is liable to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway: “old” Lara Croft (Old Lara) as a character was better in many ways than “new” Lara Croft (new Lara).  Old Lara Croft was portrayed as a “sex symbol” by the media of the late 90s & early 2000s in order to understand this new female character representation in gaming that had traditionally been infused with male characters and male sensibilities.  Old Lara was a breaking of the stereotype, but paradoxically a part of the stereotype in that it was her gender and sexuality (unrealistic proportions) that marked her as an unrealistic construct.  New Lara is meant to counter this: a realistic representation of a feminine body type and a new, more “realistic” backstory.  However, as both old and new film adaptations have shown, people (including the team at Crystal Dynamics currently tasked with developing new games) don’t really “get” Lara Croft and what makes her tick.

Mind Over Matter

Lara Croft is brilliant and I don’t mean that in the “great” sense of the word.  No, I mean it literally.  She is brilliant and much like another British-created character, Doctor Who, she is the “smartest person in the room.”  The Doctor works because he is a “madman in a box” while Lara Croft never was given that one sentence that summed up her character.  For me, Lara Croft is a “raider of Tombs.”  This is where so many representations of her go wrong–they neglect to give her a reason for her to raid tombs (a why is she doing this/why does it matter).  Tomb Raider 2 (from Core) and Tomb Raider Legend (Crystal Dynamics) are the purest expressions of why does what she does and what is at stake if she fails in her quest.

Some might argue that the new games (the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider), the subsequent sequels, and the newest movie (sans Angelina Jolie) depict a better “version” of Lara, but I argue that’s not true.  Lara, who is emotionally blasted from killing a deer in the 2013 reboot, is not much different than stereotypical representations of females of the past.

Puzzles, Traps, Solutions

Everyone keeps making the same mistake of comparing Lara Croft with Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones movies) or Nathan Drake (Uncharted video game series), when her true comparison is Doctor Who. In every room, Lara is (as is the player through the extension of agency) looking for the “exit” or the solution to the puzzle, trap, or what have you. Once located, it becomes a “game” to figure out how to get Lara from point A to that exit.  However, you (the player) and Lara (the character) go into the situation believing and expecting that there is ALWAYS an exit and always a SOLUTION to the problem, so long as you can reason it out.  This is exactly the same characterization used to describe The Doctor: “he always wins because he always assumes he’s going to win”  (paraphrased from Series 9, Episode 2, “The Witch’s Familiar”).  Lara goes into any situation knowing there’s a solution, she just has to find it. Again, she’s smartest person in the room–no matter her physique.  Now we just need for Hollywood to discover this fact and for Crystal Dynamics to rediscover Lara as an actual “Tomb Raider” instead of just relying on it as a “brand name” used to market and sell games in the “franchise.”

Sidney



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Doctor Who: Series 1 Mini-Review

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So, I’m re-watching Doctor Who again from the beginning as I would like to do an academic paper on it in the near future (especially in light of the casting of Jodie Whitaker as the first female Doctor).  I finished the first season of the show’s reboot from 2005 with Christopher Eccleston playing the Ninth Doctor and this is a mini-review of the season (full disclosure–I’ve seen this season already, back in 2005, although as I’ve noted before, this was before I understood how British TV worked and so I thought I’d missed episodes when in fact, I hadn’t).

Series 1 Grade: A (Excellent)

Is this season perfect?  No, it isn’t, but it re-established Doctor Who in the public consciousness and brought a clever, fun, and sometimes dour Doctor to the screen.  I’d only seen 1 or 2 episodes of the Doctor before this (I distinctly remember a story involving K-9), but as I was a child and had little reference for a time-traveling alien who changed his faces, I wasn’t able to become a “Whovian” until this reboot hit the air waves.

Eccleston has a pluckiness that he infused into the Doctor’s personality.  Eccleston’s Doctor could be dour and serious as the situation called, but there was an attitude of irrepressible joy (almost puckishness) in the delight that he got from traveling time and space in the TARDIS, captured perfectly by his catchphrase of “Fantastic!”  Billie Piper as Rose was also a great companion.  It is been note that the audience sees the Doctor and the world the eyes of the companions and Piper’s Rose has both that wide-eyed wonder and plucky demeanor that allowed me to become part of the Doctor’s circle.  The stories were varied and (mostly) hit for me, with only the odd episode just out of tune here or there.  While there were a few “dark” episodes, they mostly tended toward the lighter side during this first season with a recurring “motif” linking the episodes (I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen the show).

In closing, I really liked what they did with Series 1 of the show and watching it again reminded me of why the show managed to grab me as an adult in the way it couldn’t when I was a child.  More emphasis on characterization, storytelling, and special effects were able to pull me deeper into the story than ever before.

No Spoilers, Please!

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Image Source: Larkable.com

Wow. Just wow (but not in a good way).  So the first part of the two part storyline for the Season Finale of Doctor Who released over the weekend and it contained three MASSIVE revelations (i.e., spoilers to the story).  Do you know that I was “spoiled” on 2 of the 3 spoilers by people on YouTube?

Now, you know me, when I “review” something on this blog, I go out of my way to give “impressions” rather than actual “specifics” in order not to ruin the experience for others.  I HATE spoilers, unless I go looking for them.  What makes the spoilers for Doctor Who so  onerous is that I didn’t want to be spoiled.  I avoided looking at the “Coming Next Week” portion of the show (this is the first season I’ve actively avoided it), just so that I would have no clue as to what was coming next.

I’m trying to figure out the reasons (rhetorical) why someone would choose to be a part of the “spoiler” culture.  I understand that there are a group of people who get enjoyment for ruining things for others–but that’s not the sense that I get from the YouTuber who put the “spoiler” in the “thumbnail” for her video.  I had no choice to get spoiled because she put a spoiler not inside her video, but on the outside wrapping (as it were) to get people to click on it and watch her video (no, I do not subscribe to this person’s videos, but YouTube so “helpfully” put her video in my “recommended” feed, not recognizing that her thumbnail gave me way more of the story than I wanted).

I don’t think there was any malice in her video, but a kind of unthinking blindness to the fact that while you may know and want to discuss the story (before it is released), others just want to watch the story and then discuss afterwards.  I don’t want to paint her as just an unthinking fan (she did put the spoiler) in the thumbnail image for the video, so there was some forethought in the matter, but I think it was more of “isn’t this so cool,” rather than “I know more than you,” type of thought.

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Image Source: Radio Times

Either way, however, knowing ahead of time really blunted my enjoyment of this week’s episode (made worse that it wasn’t me who went looking for it).  I knew who the villain was and was able to make the deduction of what was going on about twenty seconds too early and figured out two of the three big reveals too early.  Not sure how I’m going to dodge the season finale’s spoilers, but starting next Thursday I may have to go on media blackout.  It’s pretty bad that it has come to this just to avoid knowing what’s going to happen in a story.

People always talk about the advantages of social media, but they never mention the disadvantages.  I remember when social media (or The Web 2.0 as pundits called back in 2010) was supposed to revolutionize the web.  Well, if this is the revolution, then I want to revolt against the revolution.