I tend to steer clear of controversial/hyperbolic writing mostly because I feel that, for the most part, it’s a cheap way to bring page views to a subject that usually doesn’t need that kind of attention. Of course I’m not immune to this and I’ve posted my share of inflammatory stuff in the past and regrettably it does seem to work. Thankfully I take little joy in it so my forays into that realm are usually either genuine grievances that have driven me to the brink of insanity or the only thing I can think to write about on the day. Don’t worry today isn’t going to be another installment in my rant series but it is going to be about the topic.
The latest PR disaster that I’ve been privy to (apart from that whole Charles Carreon vs The Oatmeal stuff) is the surrounding the upcoming reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Now the series doesn’t have the best reputation for portraying females in the greatest light. I mean sure Lara was one of the few female lead characters back when it was first release but it was painfully obvious that she was a woman designed through a man’s eyes. It didn’t help matters much that her bust size seemed to increase with every game that followed the original release. No the latest outrage comes from the trailer and one PR goon’s unfortunate choice of words.
Watching the trailer in isolation you’d say that the new Tomb Raider takes on the now popular “gritty, realistic” approach to the game experience and focuses on Lara’s origin story rather than just plonking her down on the next tomb that need raiding. There’s one particular scene in there that’s suggestive of what might happen to her when she defies her captures and unfortunately the executive producer Ron Rosenberg referred to it as an attempted rape scene. They back peddled like crazy of course, but that didn’t stop the Internet reacting with a furor that had them calling the game every bad word under the sun, most about how sexist the game is.
Now usually I’ll write this stuff off and leave the Internet to its own business but for some reason this really got to me. In essence all the people reacting to this were going on were a 3 minute trailer (which shows only a tiny fraction of the whole game) and an executive producer’s comments on what the scene meant. Is it really fair then to judge the entire game, the development team and the writers behind the story on these small pieces of information? Personally I don’t think it is as you’re lacking all the context that the game developers will provide to you, context that could very well wash away any concerns you have.
That of course didn’t stop people from throwing all sorts of crazy accusations at them. Whilst some of them were just plain strange like the noises Lara was making were too sexual (really? Did any of them play Uncharted? Because Drake makes pretty similar noises in that and no one thought that was sexual) to legitimate concerns that the writers were using rape as a shock tactic. Honestly if you watch the video without the preconception that “Lara done gonna get raped” it feels like a legitimate part of the story, not a cheap writing tactic used to shock the audience. The whole line that you can only have a strong female character through overcoming adversity like that depicted in the trailer also felt like people making broad generalizations without much thought to all the other strong female leads we’ve had in games leading up to this point.
Thankfully not everyone is taking such umbrage with this whole fiasco and their investigation into the whole thing shows that the netizens who reacted so strongly did so without knowing all the information. All the scenes shown there are Lara’s origin story, showing how she became the fearless Tomb Raider that she was in the previous games. The “rape” scene was anything but poorly written, in fact it’s the turning point where Lara comes into her own. I personally found the trailer be incredibly engaging showing Lara as someone who’s completely out of her element who has to work incredibly hard just to survive. It’s no like this story is unique either so it really feels like a case where the Internet just had to blow something up just for the sake of it.
Really when I look back at all the articles I read, all the ranty comments that I got drawn into I should’ve just taken them for what they are: reactionary sensationalism. For some reason the Internet culture revolves around it, jumping at any opportunity to get riled up or rally behind the cause du jour. I’d love to think we’re past that but when I can find 10 articles jumping on the flame wagon and only 1 presenting a rational case that understands both sides of the argument I have to wonder what this Internet culture has done to the integrity of these supposed media outlets. I probably shouldn’t blame the Internet either as sensationalist reporting isn’t anything new to the medium, but it sure does feel like it happens more often thanks to its always available nature.