In his article “Lara Croft: The Ultimate Young Adventure Girl,” Kurt Lancaster details the sexualization of the famous Tomb Raider protagonist Lara Croft. An interesting aspect of this article is the shift in focus Lancaster takes with regards to the way Croft is sexualized. While most people discuss Croft’s sexualization from a design standpoint—her bust line, her wardrobe choices, etc.—Lancaster focuses on the strategies employed by Tomb Raider’s developers to sexualize Croft for profit.
Though now Tome Raider is developed by Crystal Dynamics, at the time of the article’s publication, the Tomb Raider franchise was developed by Core Design Ltd. Core Design was not afraid to show off Croft’s body. A prominent image on the official Tomb Raider website was that of Croft lying seductively on a canopied bed in a provocative black evening gown.1 The image was used to entice the (assumed) male player to come and “play” with Croft by focusing entirely on her sexualized body rather than the adventure or action she undertakes.
This image is not the only way in which Core Design sexualized Croft to sell the Tomb Raider games. At major gaming expos, such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Core Design would hire models to become a physical embodiment of Lara Croft, thus affording characters a physical embodiment of their sexy dream girl.1
In my opinion, Lancaster’s 2004 article shows how far the Tomb Raider franchise has grown. As mentioned in my previous posts about Tomb Raider, Croft’s sexualization is already downplayed in the reboot, with more realistic body proportions and clothing choices. Crystal Dynamics promotional work for the game, such as the game’s 2 E3 trailers below, also focus less on Croft’s sexualized body and more on her status as a survivor.
In this way, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have taken a great leap forward by focusing promotion of the Tomb Raider franchise on Lara Croft’s status as a female action hero, rather than as a sexy adventurer. Though the Tomb Raider franchise was built on Lara’s status as a sex symbol, it appears that developers are slowly moving away from this stigma to create a more fully developed and feminist approved female videogame character. If this would have been possible without the franchise’s pre-existing success through the sexualization of their character, however, remains to be seen.
- Lancaster, Kurt. “Lara Croft: The Ultimate Young Adventure Girl. Or the Unending Media Desire for Models, Sex, and Fantasy.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, vol. 26, no. 3, 2004, pp. 87–97. www.jstor.org/stable/3246480.