The Sexual Assault of Lara Croft

Lara Croft, the iconic self-sufficient video game character and, more recently, film character, is often noted for her curvaceous figure and has served as somewhat of a sex symbol over the last two decades. Some gamers have lamented that she has been objectified so readily over the 16 years since the original Tomb Raider video game was released. To be fair, Lara Croft has also afforded the gaming world with a female figure full of abilities and empowerment, filling a necessary gap for video games produced in the 90s when the presence of female figures were scant.

Now it appears that the producers of the Tomb Raider game want to add another layer to her back story. The Guardian reports that the new and rebooted version of the Tomb Raider, due to come out in the relative future, will include a scene in which the heroine will be cornered like an “animal” while aggressive scavengers attempt to sexually assault her. She will be forced to either fight or die during her assault.

So, what is the reasoning behind the creation of such a back story and the actual portrayal of it in the new game? According to a statement made by the executive producer, Ron Rosenberg, the goal is to make Lara Croft a more human, maybe even vulnerable, character that gamers will want to “protect” and empathize with as they play the new game. The New Statesman quotes Rosenberg as saying:

The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualised version of yesteryear. She literally goes from zero to hero… we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.

There are many dangerous avenues of reasoning behind this statement. First of all, is it necessary to impose the sexual assault of a female character on her in order to strip her of her sexuality and to increase her human approachability? Does humanity stem from a female character’s ability to be dominated and subjugated? Finally, are the options for female characters to be either a sexualized vixen or a damaged assailant? Editorials from the Guardian, the New Statesman, and Destructoid point out that Rosenberg seems to be suggesting that this extra back story will suddenly change the way Lara Croft is viewed as a female character for all gamers.

Is this the best way to portray the horror and aftermath of such brutality on females? Admittedly, we need to address issues of sexual violence and abuse in our culture at large. A handful of movies and stories have actually attempted to tackle the brutality of such acts. Stieg Larsson’s thriller trilogy and his vengeance-seeking heroine, Lisbeth Salander, in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a current example of a popular book and movie series that has illustrated the brutality of sexual abuse.

So we might ask, what is the difference between adding Lara Croft’s near-rape to the video game and enjoying the film or novel versions of Lisbeth Salander’s attacks? The worry is that such a cursory story addition in a video game may just make the physical and sexual attack of Lara Croft a spectacle and a piece of entertainment, thereby trivializing the real impact of rape on survivors.

Many commentators feel skeptical that such a move on the part of the producers of the video game will actually get into dialogue with the issues of rape in current society. The addition of the story could, in theory, push players to consider the impact of violence on women, but from what can be garnered from the interview with Ron Rosenberg, it looks as though the game will use the narrative of sexual assault primarily for entertainment’s sake.


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Photo Credit: Nicholas Wang

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Fadi M.
Fadi M.3 years ago

Colleen P. "Fadi M. what if the gamer has a rape fetish?"

Well.. I guess then it would be Game Over, unless the gamer hopes for another scene and fights off the first attack (after having allowed/watched it for several times).

And of course the obvious damage happens through the subliminal message sent to the subconscious mind of a male/rape fetishist (as you referred to it). The message says there are other men who think like you, you are not alone, rape could be part of a game or entertainment, and it’s not that bad after all.

Kelly Rogers3 years ago

Bullshit, she will not be a more sympathetic character. It is legitimizing violence against women. There are other ways to make her more human than to make her a survivor of an act of hatred and power over women. It is teaching a whole new generation women are not human and it is o.k to commit a violent crime. This is Bullshit. Obviously, he has never been in prison and raped

Linda W.
Linda W.3 years ago

Wow ~ what a really bad idea

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia3 years ago

Are there boundaries that are respected anymore? I am all for free speech and so forth, but shit like this makes me believe there is no hope for the human race.

Scott R.
Scott R.3 years ago

Lara is my favorite game character of all time. I think It's amazing the makers of the new game have moved so far away from the over sexualized Lara. She beautiful, and seems like a real living breathing person now. I think people should google "Tomb Raider Crossroads trailer" and watch for themselves. This is an origins story. So people can find out how Lara became so Bad Ass! And while the assault is disturbing. It's not unrealistic or far-fetched to think something like this could happen especially given the context of this STORY. I can't wait to play this game and watch Lara kick the crap ou tof any who tries to mess with her.

Samantha Christopher
Samantha C.3 years ago

Adding a near rape experience to Lara's backstory is dumb and pointless. As a female gamer Lara Croft is a heroine to me. Doing this is going to turn me off and I won't buy the game!

Rachael Yiddell
Rachael Y.3 years ago

Laura Croft is a bold, brave and competent woman. She would never allow herself to get in a position where rape was a possiblity or where she was that vulnerable. In the past some impressionable game players have attempted to emulate game actions. Such a scene could initiate imitation in real life. I, for one, would not buy a game with that action in it. That’s like having James Bond assaulted by homosexuals.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley3 years ago

This "idea" is not new--sex and violence, what's new about that?
"We're sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again"--can you say "sadistic", Mr. Rosenberg? Quit thinking with your joystick!

Rebecca Smith
Rebecca Smith3 years ago

This is quite sickening, I can't believe that they are thinking of doing that..

Kathryn Pierce
Kathryn Pierce3 years ago

So when are they going to start showing the male characters being raped to make them "more human, maybe even vulnerable"?