Was Lara Croft a rape victim?

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft


Remember Lara Croft?

She’s the smart, sexy and strong British chick who made archaeology cool by racing around ruined tombs and retrieving rare artifacts.

Sure, she’s an animated character but that didn’t stop generations of men – and women – falling for Lara’s particular brand of bad-ass.

Even if you weren’t a gamer, it was hard to miss Angelina Jolie donning the tight black tank top to play Lara in the 2001 movie Tomb Raider. It was one of the few successful game-based movies ever.

But that was then and this is now.

And the year 2012 has turned Lara Croft ‘the hero’, into Lara Croft the victim.

When a new Tomb Raider game was announced, naturally fans expected to embark on more daring adventures with their heroine. But when the trailer surfaced recently, there was a decisive shift away from Lara’s bravery.  Instead of being tough, in the initial scenes, she is shown injured, bleeding, and tied up. Then she is shown being attacked by a sexual predator.

This, the creators say, is her “origin” story, taking players back to the moment when Lara first became a killer. When she had to choose between being raped or fighting back.  The moment that apparently made her into the brave woman she is famous for being.  The moment her whole future became about the man who attacked her.

The motivation behind showing this particular part of her fictional story, says Ron Rosenberg (executive producer of Tomb Raider) was so players “will want to protect” Lara Croft as she is “turned into a cornered animal” by the threat she faces from the male. This, they believe, makes her easier to relate to.

Adds Brian Horton from Crystal Dynamics , “our number one goal was to have an emotional connection with Lara. In order to do that, we had to make her as believable as we could.”

I don’t know about you but showing Lara as the victim of sexual violence didn’t make her any more believable to me. I had no problem believing that she was brave on her own, without being driven by her terrible treatment at the hands of a sexual predator. No problem believing a woman could be courageous without a man making her that way.

What I do have a problem with is the idea that a woman’s bravery is defined by how a man treats her; that a male has absolute power to control a woman’s sense of self-worth and indeed motivate her whole mission in life with his actions. Not to mention the fact that if Lara doesn’t fight back against her attacker, she will be raped. This scenario puts the responsibility for her assault squarely on her own shoulders. It suggests that if she is raped – it is because she did not fight hard enough.

Somehow, I don’t think Angie will be putting her hand up for that role.

Lucy Chesterton is the entertainment reporter for Mornings on the Nine Network and starts work at a ridiculously early hour. You can find her on Twitter here.

What do you think of Lara Croft’s back story? Is it believable? Does it make her more or less appealing to you, as a character?