Spoilers!–for the ending of Shadow of the Tomb Raider
So I can say, in regards to this game, one last time,
I’M SO CONFUSED!!!!
First, you’re right. That wasn’t so bad. Died, maybe, three times, not counting this one jumpy climby bit where I died four or five times just because I was tired and being stupid. And, get the nice thing out of the way, the images of primitive zombie orcs overrunning the helicopters and stuff was very cool, especially as it meant that I didn’t have to fight the helicopters.
But in regards to narrative, I think the word is “wut.”
As for the thing I understood, Roarke’s death was a bit anticlimactic, wasn’t it? Shit, I don’t even think I took out the turret. I just shot dudes until Crimson Fire there took him out. I didn’t even get that it was Roarke until the radio chatter said so.
So…it was real? And, if it was real, why is she just sitting there with it on a table in the after credit scene? (Did you see the after credit scene?) And, what, she sacrificed the god? But not herself? And did she know that was what was gonna happen or was she prepared to die? And how could everyone shrug that off two days later? Shit “Two days later…..” is a shitty device.
It didn’t even make sense as a metaphor. She was…what, divesting herself of the past, maybe? But how is that a sacrifice? It freed her. She still remembers her family. She didn’t sacrifice anything. And so, ok, gets rid of shadow, but then, what was Amaru trying to do? What’s the opposite of what Lara did? How’d this save anything? How didn’t it? And what would Unuratu had “sacrificed?”
Just, the fuck, man?
And what was with the after credit scene? She, what, came to terms with her past by sacrificing…what? She said goodbye to her parents so that she would be cool with sitting at dad’s desk becoming, what, a professional Tomb Raider? “Have a tomb you need raided? Call the best. Lara Croft, LLC.”
Just, the fuck, man?
Usually we are very good at looking at a mess of tea leaves and seeing all sorts of patterns. But man, this just looks like someone hasn’t cleaned out the teapot in way too long.
You start with the coherent analysis. I’m stuck on “Just, the fuck, man?”
Yeah, I was also a little confused. By which I mean almost entirely confused. As best I can tell:
–The danger was real, in that there actually could have been an apocalypse
–The person controlling the box at the critical moment got to decide whether or not the world was ‘remade’
–It was maybe remade according to some personal specification of that person? Like, Trinity could have a world ‘without sin,’ Amaru could defend Paititi, Lara could have…gone back in time and had her family? I guess? [Or at least, the box seemed to promise that…it remains unknown whether or not the person would actually have gotten what they wanted.]
–That person had to ‘sacrifice’ their deep desire for whatever it was in order to avoid destroying the world
–That person also had to be willing to sacrifice their own life, although apparently the willingness was enough (shades of Abraham and Isaac?)
I don’t know WHY any of this stuff is true, but that’s what I got from the story.
Like you, I found the end battles fine. Befriending the orcs (CALLED IT) was an interesting development, and they were certainly helpful later. I like to imagine what became of the survivors…I mean, they don’t have to guard the box anymore, right? So do they come to the surface and try to integrate into society? Stop cutting off their lips and stuff?
Or are the dagger and the box still around, and the orcs grabbed them and hid them again so some other tomb raider can find them another time?
And yeah, I’m fairly baffled by “two days later.” What happened in that two days? (Maybe that’s when the orcs grabbed the box and the dagger and ran off.) Was she unconscious? Healed of a sucking chest wound by magical energies? Or did the dagger never even stab her because it dissolved first or something? Who knows?!
And at the very end when she’s at the table in the office and we see her childhood art…what? I don’t know.
I guess…she saved the world, made peace with her past in the process, and went home to set up her own personal tomb-raiding business, as you say. Happy ending.
Odd, ill-explained happy ending.
Best I can do, man.
But Jonah and Abby, that was nice, right? He found love…definitely not with Lara. Safest way to go, really.
I’ll….go with that. It makes some sense. I’m not sure how you “got it from the story,” as the story didn’t really, you know, SAY any of that. Crimson Fire doesn’t say “I will show you something, and you must choose between it and, like, everything.” And if Amaru desperately wanted to save Paititi, then THAT’S what he would have had to sacrifice, so that wouldn’t have been a good plan to save Paititi….
I dunno, man.
You did call it with the orc queen, and I give you props, I do. I must admit, I was sure we’d have to fight her.
That would have been awesome if, in the end, we saw a couple of them in Paititi there trying to fish or something.
But, who knows about the dagger and the box?
I do! In the after credit scene, Lara has them. Or, at least, the box. There’s a shot of it! There’s this big pan over all her/Lord Croft’s stuff and the very last thing is the box.
Which…you know, in a game where “The hero is also the bad, evil, plunderer,” having a scene where she’s happily displaying plundered objects jars a bit with the themes we’ve discussed. “We are terrible too….but hey, here’s a happy ending where we have all the neat stuff! Whoo hoo!”
This game was inconsistent.
And yes, that was quite the two days to just bloop over. And what of Trinity? What of a lot of things?
I’ll take your explanation, though. Mostly because I can’t do any better. I’ve been trying to think on it, but the more I think on it the more confused I get. That’s never a good sign. That does not speak well of the game.
And finding love not with Lara IS the safe way to go for Jonah, but it was also a dodge. It was, once again, using the Sassy Woman of Color to make it so the Cool, Big Hearted Man of Color didn’t wind up with the White Female Hero. Here we have the hero embracing love, wanting to be with the living, in paradise. Usually, that story ends with a smooch, right? The kiss at the end. But the only kissable option for Lara is big, gruff, brown Jonah. And the game was all “Can’t have that!” Music swells, our two heroes decide to embrace love and being with the living, she moves in and “Oh, wait, shit, sorry Lara I have a date. With someone who isn’t white.”
This game’s writers have a lot to answer for.
Well, I think it was meant to be a sort of “you have to choose between what you want for yourself and what is better for the rest of the world.”
So Lara could have chosen her family and maybe somehow wound up with them in some other reality, but the rest of the world would have been subject to the apocalypse. And I think it’s implied that Amaru could have saved Paititi, in some form, like maybe he could have wound up in a reality with only Paititi, while the rest of the world had been destroyed, or something.
I think maybe it’s saying that you have to be noble enough to weigh the entire rest of the world, as it is, with all its flaws and sorrow, over your own idealized vision of it or your favorite things about it.
I get this more from familiarity with similar narratives than because it was spelled out here, though. I mean, we have Unuratu telling us we have to be strong and resist temptation, and we know Trinity and Amaru want specific things from the ‘remade’ world, and we see Lara being sort of tempted by (a better version of?) her family in her childhood, and I mostly filled it in from there.
Oh yeah, that’s right, she did keep the box. I do remember that. So definitely nothing left for the orcs to guard, then. I hope the Paititians welcomed them warmly and taught them how to fish and hunt capybara and tolerate sunlight.
Hm. Good point about Jonah and Abby being kind of a cop-out. I mean, it’s also true (I think?) that Lara Croft doesn’t have a history of ending up with a romantic interest, so we could argue that the game steered Jonah away as much because Lara can’t have love at all, as because she can’t have nonwhite love. But you’re right that it looks awkward.
It’s interesting, even if we assume the reason IS because Lara can’t have love, because why can’t Lara have love? There’s such a long tradition of action heroes ending up with a hot woman on their arm as a reward for the suffering they’ve undergone, that it seems like that trope could easily apply here, but no…ending up with a hot man is not allowed.
Probably partly because of double standards: the hero can have a different hot woman after every adventure if he wants, but if the heroine does that she’s a slut, and while Lara may dress suggestively (especially in the original games), she’s probably actually saving herself for the right man (maybe YOU, the male player!).
Probably also partly because the original games that established the tradition of Lara not having a love interest certainly assumed a generic straight male player, and further assumed that this player would not see winding up with a handsome man as an appealing reward for trials undergone. (Maybe if she wound up with a beautiful woman!–but that would prompt another set of protests.)
Ok….I can see that as her Big Choice. But I give you this because of your incredible ability to read between the lines (and tea leaves). I’m not forgiving the game, because it made you do that.
But even if I concede that’s the message….
A) when it comes to Lara, big deal. She gave up an idealized life so that everyone could survive, yes, but based on what happened two days later and beyond, her life was pretty damn cushy. This wasn’t some “I will die and suffer so everyone will be happy instead of being happy myself.” This was “I shall be happy in this way so everyone else will be happy instead of being happy in that way and have everyone die.” Oh no, she had to settle for a mansion and shit. Poor dear.
Even Jodie didn’t have that particular choice in Beyond. She could have gone to live in a pretty, happy afterworld with everyone, or she could stay and BE UNHAPPY for a long time before being pretty happy with the guy. Lara would have been EXTREMELY selfish if she was all “A mansion isn’t good enough for me. Die, y’all.”
I’m not sure about Lara and love. I never played the other games.
True, it would prompt other protests if she wound up with a woman. And that might be it, the male player. Or the male developer, for that matter, being weird about it.
Because, now that I think on it, I can’t remember a game with a female lead that ended with a smooch or whatever. Well, a female lead that was given, not chosen (my Evelyn ended up holding hands with Sera, but that doesn’t count because I chose it, and non linear, and Sera is not a guy). Aloy? Alone. Chloe? Going off with her friend, not a lover. Jodie? Wound up with a guy, but only after a lot of misery and a sense of “settling,” not triumphantly smooching.
That’s very true: does the heroine EVER end up with a love interest as a ‘prize’? I can’t think of an instance offhand.
Male developer/assumed male player is probably a lot of it, but yeah, I’m going with double standards too. Not only in the sense that a female protagonist who ended every game with a different hot dude would be seen as slutty and therefore less admirable/sympathetic as a character, but in the sense that we have a whole cultural narrative about how women are supposed to approach romance, and that is, very seriously.
Women are thought not to WANT to just grab the nearest hot guy as a fun reward for making it through some situation. Women want Lasting Love. Women want Commitment.
We kind of expressed that ourselves when we talked about how if Lara and Jonah get together, Jonah’s probably doomed: we assume that only tragedy and death could separate them if they were to become romantically involved (and that, for narrative purposes, Lara would be single again in a later game).
Obviously, they could never get together for a while and then just break up! Obviously she could never adventure if she had a boyfriend/husband! He’d have to die!
Now granted, killing off love interests to ‘free’ the protagonist and/or give him or her (but usually him) a reason to go questing for vengeance is a longstanding tradition that is by no means limited to female characters, and in fact is more often applied to male ones. We would have been just as worried about Joanie if there was a chance of her becoming involved with Larry Croft. She’s doomed! But that’s mostly because they’ve known each other a long time and the relationship would necessarily be complicated by a shared history. It takes a big event (like one party’s death!) to tidily get out of a serious, complicated relationship. (Breaking up, divorce, that’s so dull and non-heroic.)
At least there’s also this competing tradition of the random girl who accompanies the hero for one adventure and winds up with him at the end and then presumably just goes her own way before the next installment. I don’t THINK we’re meant to assume that every Bond Girl dies between movies. They’re free to move on with their lives, because the relationship was uncomplicated. (Obviously, the woman he actually married had to die. The moral is, DON’T GET SERIOUS WITH THE HERO. Even though, as a woman, your sole motivation is presumably to snare a strong, manly and successful mate and the hero will therefore be utterly irresistible to you. It’s a bit of a bind.)
Anyway, asides aside, the point is that there is no comparable tradition of a cute guy who accompanies the heroine for one adventure, winds up with her at the end, and then is never seen again. Even if Lara and Jonah had just met in this game, we’d be kind of concerned about him if he got involved with her, because we would assume the relationship was serious: she wouldn’t get into it otherwise.
Because women really only want Serious Relationships.
And hm, the flip side: men NEVER actually want Commitment or Serious Relationships, because that is not manly.
I give props to the Uncharted games for bucking this trend with Nathan Drake and Elena. If I recall, we didn’t talk all that much about their relationship, but when you think about it, it was actually kind of a nuanced portrayal of a couple who get together, have some rather serious issues, but care about each other and eventually make it work in the long term.
But you can still have Lasting Commitment with a kiss at the end. MY Geralt wound up with Triss and hot cakes. Nathan Drake ended up with Elena and a kid for heaven’s sake. Happily ever after doesn’t have to be a different hottie at the end of every game. (And before you’re all “But Chloe,” he never did END UP with Chloe. At the end of two, she walks off and Sully goes after her, and she disappears in the middle of three.) Drake wound up with Elena more than once. It can happen. And that’s in a practically identical game to this! They broke up, got back together, even had awkward scenes with Chloe in them. Ended up together.
Whereas women don’t even get THAT. Even when we have an image of a couple hugging each other on a couch playing video games, then a fade to their kid, that’s in a game with a MALE hero. Women heroes just end up alone.
But, well, to stick with the adventure genre, what you’re describing here is the grand daddy of these games: Indiana Jones. He ends up with a different hottie at the end of each movie (except three, where the hottie goes nuts and dies). I think it’s even established that Marian has gone her own way for some reason. So that can happen.
Also, Geralt. Remember, if you end up with Triss, as I did, you learn that the ONLY reason he ever loved Yen was an enchantment. He was loyal, really, to Triss all along.
Except when he was banging Keira Metz. And all those hookers.
But it is kinda interesting that you can end a game, as a woman with a male lover, in games where you pick your gender. You’ve had happy straight endings playing Bioware games and Bethesda games as a woman, right? Shit, you even ended up with different dudes in the ME games, right? (Although the way they made that possible for you was killing Thane….hmm. But that didn’t have to happen. You could be with Garrus the whole time, right?)
Oh, I wasn’t saying ALL stories about male heroes necessarily end with them smooching an interchangeable attractive woman. As you pointed out, there are plenty of counterexamples. Pretty much any game we’ve played, really. (Except for all those hookers…ha.)
I was just saying that the final smooch with an interchangeable attractive woman is a time-honored trope for male characters, and not for female characters.
I think part of the issue is that we don’t even really have much in the way of tropes for the end of adventure stories with female protagonists, because we haven’t had a critical mass of them yet. Currently, as you said, the common ending is “no-romance, she goes off alone or maybe with a friend,” but we don’t have all that many examples to look at.
And to be clear, I’m not arguing that games SHOULD end with the female protagonist embracing a random hot dude as if she’d won him like a trophy. I imagine they could, if it made sense in the context of the game and story, and that could be fine with me, but I also don’t mind if she goes off alone or with a friend. It can be good, really, in that it supports the idea that a female protagonist doesn’t need a romance in order to be a valid character, anymore than a male one does.
But as you say, it’s interesting that that seems to be the default, so far. Let’s not entangle our female characters with relationships! You know how emotional women get about relationships. So much drama.
I think RPGs where you design your own character are a different (also interesting) topic from stories with a single scripted main character, and I’m not sure we can say much about one based on each other. Giving a player the option to design a character and then have that character seek romance or not is a lot different from writing the story of a single specific character who seeks romance or not. Choice vs. just-how-the-story-goes can make a big difference in terms of our sophisticated analysis.
We were only talking about the endings. I’m SURE Geralt straightened out his ways once he had cakes.
It’s true, even in games, like this one, that scream for it, the woman doesn’t get her end-smooch.
Now that I think on it, this game kinda did the end-smooch, but it was for Jonah. The very last conversation in the game (before the credits) was Lara and Etzil teasing JONAH about JONAH running off with a woman. After all that, the game ends on Jonah’s love life, how HE gets the smooch at the end. Not Lara. Not Paititi. Not even that they saved the damn world. Jonah getting laid. That’s how we end this.
I dunno, man. For all the talk of Lara as a feminist victory, this game had a lot to answer for on the sexism front.
It’s true not EVERY game has to end that way, any more than EVERY game has to end with a man being running off with a hottie. Geralt didn’t have to. Drake didn’t every time. But some narratives scream for it, and still nothing. Lara and Jonah could have very easily ended up together. Aloy had about three or four different potential love interests, and got none of them.
I think it depends on the narrative. There are stories about male characters where it would make no sense if it ended all kissy. Take TLOU. If that had had the game all “Hey! You did it! Smoochy!” that would have been very weird. But it seems that when the narrative suggests romance for a man, man gets romance (or sex), but when the game suggests romance (or sex) for a woman, she gets nothing, either because of tragedy or because all the men are taken or something.
Even when the story has to contrive something! It seems Abby’s sole purpose in this whole narrative is to give Jonah someone to bang, thus diffusing any possible tension between Lara and Jonah. That’s it. What the hell else does she do besides give Jonah and Lara some reason not to end up together?
And choice vs. set-story, true, but my point is that created characters, or I should say created female characters, at least have the option to end up in a straight romance at the end, whereas scripted female characters never do. At the very least, Bioware and Bethesda give women a chance for romance. No one else does.
You know, thought: Maybe we’re focusing too much on the idea of “Can a woman get a man without being a slut?” and not enough on the other end of the equation: Society/games/whatever being ok with a man as a prize? “Prize” in and of itself is objectifying. Society has no problem objectifying women, but men? Less so. The hunky beefcake as a reward might not be something we see because we don’t think of hunky beefcakes the same way we think about women.
Indeed, in the first to ME games, Shep could be a gay woman but not a gay man. The man could get women as rewards, the woman could get women as rewards. And yes, yes, the woman could get a man, if you figure the possibilities it was more likely that the sex interest at the end was a woman, not a man.
So maybe it’s not just “women should want love, not sex,” it’s “Well, men aren’t something we objectify to that level.”
Oh, good point! I wasn’t even thinking about how Jonah finding love with someone else is still JONAH FINDING LOVE. And, as you say, his successful romance being almost the final note of the game.
The manly hero winds up with a hot woman he met during the course of the adventure, even when he’s not actually the hero.
While Lara, the actual hero, ends up alone. Entirely alone, because even her loyal platonic friend FOUND LOVE and went off.
Hm. Hm indeed.
And yeah, also a good point that probably a lot of it is also about how we’re not comfortable having “random hot guy” be a prize the protagonist ‘wins’. Because we’re accustomed to assuming that that guy is a character in his own right, a human being with his own needs and desires, not just a pretty trophy for someone to claim.
Unlike all those random women claimed by heroes over the years. I’m sure they were totally psyched about it.
Good points. Very good points.
And Lara, the actual hero, doesn’t even get the last word IN HER OWN GAME.
I think that’s it for brilliance. I’m trapped in the car again. Trumpet.
Someday you’ll need a car. To sit in.
I refuse to admit the car! Remember, my clever foolproof plan is to only allow activities they can walk to.
“Are the trumpet lessons next door? No? Then forget it. As a wholesome alternative, I recommend you go get in some fights with neighborhood dogs instead.”
But seriously, my clever foolproof plan is REALLY to make Mr. O’ drive them around while I am (so unfortunately!) still at work.
Ah Mrs. McP’s plan!
Well played. Well played.
Fights with dogs build character.
Sometimes I actually manage to learn from your tragic circumstances.
Not that often, but sometimes.