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Note: Spoilers for Tomb Raider

Butch:

Got to the boat, watched Alex die, watched it sink, that’s it.

Nice touch on her finding the mirror and revisiting that shot from the prologue. The difference in reflection. Nicely done. And maybe they changed this from the PS3 version, but when you come out of that cutscene the first thing you see is a vivid shadow of yourself with the bow on your back and your hand gripping your wounded shoulder projected, distortedly on the wall. It was beautiful, beautiful art design.

So again we have a distress/rescue scene. And again, Lara, our female knight, failed. Failed! Dude died. Just like Sam would’ve. Whatchu make of that? She’s not much of a hero now, is she? Juxtapose that with Alex’s “How many times does a guy like me get to be a hero?” line (while he’s heroically shooting dudes and she’s running away) and the fact that HE gets the reward of a kiss. Hmm.

Also, I kept getting Sam and Alex confused and I finally figured out why: They both have rather gender neutral names. When I noticed that, I started to ponder. Think that was on purpose?

Feminina:

I think a Larry Croft could also have failed here (whether rescuing a male or female Alex), because male heroes often can fail, especially when secondary or tertiary characters are involved. It just gives them extra motivation to ramp up their rage and energy and what-not for the big finish. Giving those secondary or tertiary characters a chance to cover the protagonist’s escape and die heroically is also a time-honored custom. So this felt fairly standard to me in terms of narrative.

It is interesting that Sam and Alex are both gender-neutral names, and are both people Lara tries to rescue…not sure what we can read into it, but I’ll have a go:

Maybe they wanted to make sure Lara didn’t try to personally rescue any really MANLY man (rescuing the whole crew together is different, since Jonah is pretty big and manly), lest this be perceived as a threat to the ideal of manly man-ness.
Similarly, she shouldn’t rescue any really womanly, super-feminine distressed damsel, lest it cast Lara too much in the manly role herself.
By putting both of her ‘recue-ees’ more toward the middle of the gender role spectrum, they avoid having to directly address the cliches associated with this storyline.

How’s that?

Butch:

Not bad. Not bad. I’m not sure if it was even intentional. But it did raise eyebrows.

Jonah is an interesting dude. He’s rather passive for the big guy. And even talks about killing himself in one of the journals. Which isn’t so typical.

I suppose [the Alex bit could have happened in other stories]. I’ll see how it progresses. The last thing Lara said before I called it a day was “I can’t let any more people die.” Which was interesting. Again with the guilt. She didn’t LET anyone die, did she? They killed him. Would a male hero have said that? He would’ve been angry at the bad guys. Lara is, once again, internalizing.

Feminina:

I think a classic manly male hero COULD say, “I can’t let anyone else die!” but he’d probably say it in a different way. I can imagine a jaunty, almost upbeat delivery, like “I’m here to save the day!–no one else will die!”

Whereas Lara’s delivery, as you say, is more “it’s all my fault so many people have died, and I have to stop letting that happen.”

Jonah is an interesting character. He’s big and strong, so you’re not worried about him in the way you would be if he seemed more physically vulnerable, but he’s not really a do-er, so he never becomes a challenge to Lara in the leadership role. He seems like a fatalist: if we’re going to die here, so be it.

So the challenges to her authority at the moment are Reyes and Whitman, and we know Whitman is an utter weasel even though he is nominally the leader of the group.

Butch:

She was really guilty. That wasn’t so cool.

Reyes intrigues me. Someone is a bad guy. I just know it.

Feminina:

That is a question we’ll have to debate when you’re done: who is the bad guy?

I mean, Matthias–duh–and Yamatai as the shadowy figure behind him (but mainly him in terms of who we have to fight), but one kind of expects an internal bad guy as well, a traitor within the group.

Whitman is the obvious choice, but he seems TOO obvious. You kept suspecting Roth, probably largely because Whitman is too obvious, but Roth died a hero, so he’s out. I mean, Whitman is definitely a total weasel (although at this point in the story there is still the possibility that he could redeem himself, most stereotypically by sacrificing himself to save Lara and/or the others, but since Alex just took that role, this becomes less likely), but is he a true villain?

Is there a villain?

Butch:

I am pretty much assuming [an internal traitor]. And that Matthias turns out to not be as bad as expected.

I’m sure there’s a villain. But I did malign Roth. Sorry, Roth. Glad you were there for me.

The more I ponder, the more annoyed I am about the kiss Lara gives Alex. We all know love/sex is often a reward given by the damsel to the hero. So the kiss is off putting. It makes Lara more of the reward giver and Alex more of the hero, which isn’t right. If he had used his last bit of strength to grab her and plant one on her, fine. I’d be ok with that. But the smooch/reward to the male person who is “being the hero” (despite the fact that Lara saved his ass, or at least fought her way in to try to save his dumb ass) didn’t ring true to me. It was a bit of a cop out.

Feminina:

I didn’t actually notice the kiss that much. It would be kind of funny if they just thought “there has to be a kiss in here SOMEWHERE” and made it that (since she’s not likely to end the game locked in a passionate kiss with the rescued Sam–although that would also have been an interesting direction for the story to go).

Butch:

HA! That would’ve been awesome. It was just a little kiss on the cheek. Hell, if I was Alex I’d be all “Jeez, girl, I’m about to die and I’m still in the friendzone? Thanks a lot.” So it was easy to miss. It wasn’t all music swelling plot like.

Feminina:

I’m not actually arguing that that’s why it’s there, though, I think you’re right in that it is more representative of a reward or consolation prize for Alex (“sorry you’re dying, but here’s a kiss”), which is a fairly standard way to present a kiss in an adventure story and doesn’t break any new ground.

Butch:

It was very much that. Or felt like that. Which was so tropey as to be out of place. Jarring.

Feminina:

Again, it’s not something that especially annoyed me, but I can see what you’re saying: it seems formulaic and casts Lara, even if only slightly, in the role of Dispenser of Romantic/Sexual Favors, which is a typical female role, but not one we’ve seen her in up to now, and not one we particularly needed to see her in here.

Butch:

Yup. I mean, there’s NO love interest. She’s been pretty asexual up to this point. All we’ve heard about her social life is the Sam document in her cabin (right before the Alex bit) where Sam talks about going on adventures with Lara and having to drag her to clubs and making her flirt with hot guys because all Lara wanted to do was study ruins. Which hardly makes her a dispenser of romantic rewards. Hell, it was almost as if the game was saying “Hey, THIS Lara is different. THIS Lara might be pretty, but she is NOT the Lara that posed for Playboy in the 90s (this actually happened. All pixelated. About as sexy as turkey pot pie). THIS Lara isn’t a sex object. THIS Lara doesn’t even CARE about sex.” And then we get a kiss. Even a little one. And it was jarring. I mean, sure, a sex scene out of the blue would have been more so, but to have HER initiate a kiss still didn’t seem on par.

Feminina:

One could argue that they’re just trying to show another side of her character, and/or that she’s trying to comfort Alex as best she can in circumstances where she has very little to work with, etc. That might or might not be a satisfactory explanation.

Butch:

But again, the journal entry showed that side. Or lack of it. Odd writing in an otherwise well written game.

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