Video games get a lot of flack — particularly from “higher” forms of media, like film — for their treatment of women.
These criticisms aren’t unfounded. As an industry, games have a long way to go and a unique set of challenges before it fixes all the deep-rooted issues with portraying women as tantalizing slabs of meat for men to gawk at.
But it might be time for Hollywood to get off its high horse and reckon with its own pretty abysmal objectification of women.
After all, film was the original medium to spark the term the “male gaze.” Coined by feminist critic Laura Mulvey, it describes how shots and camera angles are almost always entrenched in viewing the world (and women in particular) from male perspectives.
The latest poster for the Tomb Raider movie reboot, starring Ex Machina actress Alicia Vikander, makes it seem like Hollywood now has a thing or two to learn from video games on this front.
The poster sees Vikander striking a very typical ‘Badass Lady’ pose. But it’d feel a lot more empowering to us lady folk if it’s main focus wasn’t squarely centered around her prominent derriere.
Don’t get us wrong: Vikander looks rad as hell, and we’re glad her rippling (likely digital) muscles are also heavily featured in the shot. But the character of Lara Croft has come a long way since her origins as a boobified female action game heroine, created as a fantasy plaything for teenaged boys. And to be fair, this film poster has come a long way from the days of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, too.
But it still undermines much of the progress that video games have worked hard to make in terms of their approach to Lara Croft as a character. In the recent reboot series by Crystal Dynamics, Lara is far beyond serving as a pair of tits and ass. This early look at Hollywood’s approach doesn’t bode well for Warner Bros. picking up that mantle.
Just look at the posters for the 2013 video game reboots as a comparison:
In both images, Lara is not striking some ass-front pose that’s all too familiar for action heroines. Neither make this professional tomb raider seem like she’s posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.
Instead, the images feature her in active poses, either about to slice some dude’s neck with an arrow or actually covering her famed chest size to put pressure on an open wound. Both focus on her actual badassary, rather than just her assary.
Then there’s the cover art of 2016’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, which goes to even greater lengths to not objectify its protagonist:
Again, Lara Croft is shown in action rather than passively striking a luring pose that only feeds into male concepts of female empowerment. I mean, you can barely even recognize that it’s Lara in the 2nd shot for the video game poster.
Finally, there’s the cover art to the 20 Year Celebration version of Rise of the Tomb Raider. A comparison of this poster with Lara’s male counterpart from the Uncharted action adventure series just goes to show you the effort the industry is making to ensure female protagonists get equal treatment.
It’s a rare occasion when a medium as old as film must take lessons from a medium as new as video games.
To be fair, the video game series hasn’t always gotten it right. A look back at 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld shows a Lara Croft who is literally just a pair of boobs, thighs, and ass — while removing her face entirely. If that’s not reducing women to a bunch of body parts, I don’t know what is.
But we’re just hoping Warner Bros. doesn’t erase all the progress made by games to cast Lara in a new light, as an actual person rather than just a dude’s wet dream.