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croft’s sexuality March 27, 2007

Posted by jenniferlewk in Tomb Raider 2.
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I quickly want to discuss an alternative way to view the film Tomb Raider 2 through a societal lens before heading straight to the male/female lens.

 The film’s premise is that an earthquake struck an area in Greece—the earthquake destroys a great temple, which happens to hold in it the oracle to Pandora’s Box. We see the earthquake through the eyes of wedding guests. Indeed, as the camera zooms in on the wedding, the couple is dancing and laughing–nothing appears to be treacherous. However, right after a woman asks the DJ to switch from classical and traditional Greek music to a hip-hop modern song, the earthquake strikes. Thus, a woman unleashes this “Pandora’s box” to lead to death and despair (and the beginning of Croft‘s mission) because of her desire to have something untraditional at the wedding, something belonging to the world of the future. Also significant culturally is that the, the “good guys” in the film are white and are are aided by the helpful, docile native. Conversely, the bad guys are Asian (an economic threat to the US) or mixed (the head bad guy does not phonetically look “Asian” upon first glance)–stating that worse than another race taking over is a mixed race, a half-breed.  I know these points are brief and scattered, but I think it is interesting to look at the film through this broader cultural lens before analyzing more critically Croft as a female action hero.

This class is entitled, “Girl Power,” so I do want to look at the male/female dichotomy in the film.  Croft starts chaos number 2 when she is trying to steal the oracle. Much like Eve reaches for the apple, Croft eyes the oracle with a (albeit moral, she is after all, a good guy) eye, it is her hand that grabs the oracle that starts the destruction of the temple. Aside from the obvious Pandora’s Box–a box which was opened by female greed (Adam and Eve, anyone?), Croft cannot and does not want to escape the fact that she is female. While much of her identity has been constructed by society (she wears the clothes she is given/are available to her…it isn’t her fault she has a gorgeous body, long eyelashes, and full lips) the setting heavily influences her agency. Indeed, in the moment of her greatest battle thus far in the film, she is underneath a mall. Although she is fighting for mankind, women are shopping above her (reinforcing the status quo that she, as a female superhero, is trying to deconstruct). While the location of the battle was not Croft’s choice, it was the conscious decision of the directors/screenwriters. Indeed, it seems as though Croft willingly partakes in her feminine image through her diction when she is gathering weapons for the upcoming battle between good and evil, Croft replies that she is merely, “accessorizing.” It is almost as though we as an audience are not supposed to forget that she is female.

 

Nonetheless, because she kicks ass while remaining feminine, the audience leaves with a positive view of Croft as both a woman and as an action hero… I think that the directors do have a feminist stance. Indeed, a little girl helps Croft with her video message by providing her with gum. The little girl is also is also the one closest to the circle that the oracle creates, thus revealing that women will continue to save the world. Also, the directors do comment on the sanctity of marriage—the first scene starts the chaos (perhaps stating that the marriage ceremony is antiquated and should be destroyed) and the last scene mocks it once again. We follow the two men’s fear and hysterics of their getting married through the camera angle as they run to a jeep driven by a woman. A woman helps them run away from marriage, an institution that is has historically asserted masculine power while simultaneously reinforcing a woman’s subjectivity. Croft’s rushing away from the marriage site shows viewers to view carefully this infrastructure that reasserts women’s passive role in society. Unfortunately, her clothing and figure make it hard to view her as an action hero–she will always be sexualized.

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Comments»

1. sindhub - March 28, 2007

I have to disagree about the last point about the directors having a feminist stance. While it may be ’empowering’ to see Croft kicking ass, I think the reason that the movie wants us to feel positively towards Croft both as a woman and as an action hero is ultimately to sell tickets, and that only happens if we use Croft’s/Jolie’s sexiness…which means using her femininity and focusing on her body’s aesthetic in addition to its power. It’s great that women are being showed in power in these girl power movies, but I can’t think of a single really, really popular, well-known movie where the female hero was not only powerful, but didn’t also conform to conventional standards of attractiveness (that being femininity). I feel like this is so that the female hero isn’t TOO threatening to the audience, whereas a more masculine one would be because she would threaten the notion of gender (like Butler talks about…).

2. andyw - March 29, 2007

I would tend to agree with sindhub’s characterization of focusing on the sexuality of Croft’s body. I also think that the sheer ridiculousness of her actions prevents the audience from taking her seriously. Certainly there are ridiculous scenes in movies like Casino Royale, and other Bond films, but I think this film takes the absurdity to a whole new level (unlike erinsull, I think that the “hilarity” of the shark scene is quite intentional) to make it so that the audience isn’t threatened by Croft. (I could be wrong, I haven’t seen that many Bond films, but I’m pretty sure there is a significant qualitative difference.)

I also don’t think I agree with the idea that the film upholds a simple racial layering of white, non-white, mixed (in descending order of goodness). (I could be completely wrong, but isn’t the main bad guy white? At the very least he looked very white, and his sidekick is certainly white. However, I probably just missed something.) There are certainly racial overtones to the movie, but I think that, for instance, the black tribespeople are certainly held above the Chinese. (Of course, it’s problematic that the tribespeople are described in a way that is probably racist. But that doesn’t deny the point that they are elevated above other races to such an extent that they are valued as highly as whites – and possibly more highly than the Greeks, since Croft seems to care more about their deaths.) I also find Angelina’s racial ambiguity in the movie very fascinating (as well as the very odd and shifting accent that she uses), but I will confess complete ignorance on this subject. (To such a great extent, that I’m pretty sure I don’t understand what the term white means in the above post. Would Russian be white? Greek? Scottish?)

Finally, the point about the film criticizing marriage. First, I’m not sure that it is possible to affirm the opening scene as a criticism of marriage; I think it would make more sense to view it (as it is viewed in the post’s first paragraph) as an odd condemnation of breaking with tradition. They die not because they are at a wedding, but because the lone woman starts a modern song and the wife gets really excited about it. For the last scene, I’m not sure how to read it. Are they running away from a marriage between themselves, in which case their running can’t be understood as a denial of the institution of marriage but rather as a cheap laugh from homophobia? Are we supposed to think, or at least get the intimation, that there are homosexual overtones, or am I just making this up completely? And it isn’t a woman who is running away from marriage because it’s a bad institution. If I’m wrong about the homosexual overtones, then it is two men running away from two women, presumably for fear of being trapped by them. In other words, it might be “feminist” because it shows a kind of power that women have over men, but that power is through the institution of marriage and not in rejection of it. I do think that marriage plays an interesting role in the movie (it does start and end it) but I don’t think it is one of simple rejection. (Obviously, I’m being lazy right now and not coming up with what I think it does mean, but oh well…)


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