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Tomb Raider fans are having none of it.
A YouTube personality with a sizable audience suggested over the weekend that Alicia Vikander will not be considered a good Lara Croft when her film opens Friday because her lean, athletic body does not match the sexist, over-the-top cartoon version of the initial video game character, introduced in the 1990s.
“Do I have to be the asshole who says her tits are too small for me to see her as Lara Croft? Do I have to be that guy? Do I have to be the one who fucking says it? I guess I do. Sorry,” tweeted ?TJ Kirk aka The Amazing Atheist. He has more than a million YouTube suscribers.
Backlash to his comment was instant.
Fans of the video-game series and the kick-ass female adventurer lit into Kirk, calling his observation misguided and ignorant.
“When Tomb Raider was released in 1996 [for console and PC], Lara Croft’s boobs were triangular. Let’s stop acting like the size/shape of a woman’s breasts predict her ability to play Lara Croft. It doesn’t really matter whether you ‘see’ Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft… she is, deal with it,” wrote one user.
A Lara Croft cosplayer said she is unconcerned with what online trolls say about Vikander’s take on the character.
“The people talking about Alicia’s boobs being too small…. well, their opinions do not matter and neither do they, because this movie is not for them. It’s for us. #tombraider #tombraidermovie,” she wrote.
Another pointed out that Vikander’s version of the character comes from the 2013 game reboot, which was far less sexist than earlier installments.
“Dear fanboys, if you’ve never played this game and have no interest in doing so, quit whining about Lara/Vikander’s boobs. Your opinion is not valid nor wanted. #TombRaider,” the user noted.
To be sure, the Lara Croft of the original 1996 Tomb Raider console and PC games had overly exaggerated proportions, a cartoonish quality that its original developers have said was the result of the restrictions posed by 32-bit consoles.
Because long hair was difficult to realize in early video games, the developers amped up Croft’s breasts and hips in order to telegraph that she was a woman.
Of course, collaborators on the original Tomb Raider have said the voluptuous design helped sell the games. “There was a difference in the way the character was in the game and the way she was represented in the advertising,” original Tomb Raider designer Heather Stevens told the New York Times in 2016.
But as the years wore on and graphics quality improved, the body that Croft’s designers proffered became a symbol of the video game industry’s commitment to male consumers over their female players.
Academics wrote a number of papers arguing whether Croft was a feminist hero or, as one scholar put it, a “cyberbimbo.”
Angelina Jolie wore a 36D padded bra and donned hot pants for her roles as Croft in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, even though Jolie wasn’t originally so into the latter idea.
“They all knew that in casting me I was going to want her to be a woman that I’d like, that I didn’t find stupid, that I didn’t find demeaning. We weren’t even going to put the shorts on. But I felt we had to for the game,” the actress told the Boston Globe in 2001.
Croft’s proportions suggested that to get male and female gamers interested in a female heroine, she had to look like a sex symbol in addition to being a capable fighter.
Croft’s body has continued to be a battleground among video game publishers and players. In 2013, publisher Square Enix debuted a Tomb Raider reboot that featured a younger, less curvy but also less capable Lara Croft.
Women who might have been interested in the more realistically proportioned Croft were put off by descriptions of this new character.
“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character,” executive producer Ron Rosenberg said at E3 in 2012. “They’re more like, ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'”
Rosenberg’s comments were widely criticized for appearing to suggest that designers were looking to satisfy a heterosexual male player, rather than a larger diversity of playing audiences. And besides, Croft didn’t stop being objectified: Her shirts were still low-cut and she bent down a lot.
The new Lara Croft has the opportunity to refresh the character with modern acknowledgment of the power women hold beyond their sex appeal, and according to some critics, it has delivered: The Los Angeles Times‘ Justin Chang lauded the film for course-correcting Croft’s outfits, while Slate‘s Inkoo Kang asserted that the film displayed powerful bodies instead of sexualized bodies, and related it to the opening sequences on Themyscira in last year’s Wonder Woman.
The film isn’t all woke: Vikander has said she wore a padded bra to further resemble the buxom video-game character. But this Oscar-winning actress’ take on Lara Croft represents a step in the right direction, showing that body type doesn’t make the heroine — but rather spirit, persistence, curiosity and a thing for subterranean graves.
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