Is Lara Croft simply a man in woman’s clothing? March 28, 2007Posted by sindhub in Angelina Jolie, gender, La Femme Nikita, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider 2, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
Throught Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, I was struck by how ‘masculine’ Croft’s behavior and personality were. And I don’t think I would have been as struck by this trait of hers if we hadn’t seen Besson’s Nikita before this. Whereas Nikita feels remorse and questions the violence she has to perform, Croft almost ruthlessly kills the bad guys off, one by one. And while all Nikita really wants is to be married with Marco, Croft is apparently afraid of commitment and getting too close to anyone, only to be betrayed again in the end by her love interest and forced to kill him.
So the masculine qualities that Croft has: adventurousness and risk-taking, stubbornness/resolve, ass-kicking, technologically adept, etc. And of course, she’s the one in charge of the men on her team; she decides what they’re gonna do and tells them what to do, not the other way around. There are only two other substantial female characters in the movie (the old lady who greeted them in the mountains, and the little girl who gave her her bubble gum); for the most part, Croft is surrounded by men, and the movie consistently makes her look like the stronger person. Her sidekicks are made to look effeminate: the two Greek men at the beginning flirt with her and have such little chance that they are jokingly rebuffed; her techno-whiz sidekick can’t stand up to Pryce and his henchmen, may not be able to fly the helicopter, and in addition to the other sidekick, is unknowingly all dolled up for marriage in the end. And, Croft doesn’t seem to feel much remorse over the deaths she’s caused–she never even mention her sidekicks that were killed at the beginning. Croft is even dominant over Terry when they’re making out–but it turns that she was just using her sexuality to manipulate him into a position of weakness (literally–he’s on the bottom).
After we talked in class on Tuesday about how Nikita’s reluctance to perform violence was a French thing, I noticed more and more while watching Tomb Raider 2 that some of Croft’s more masculine qualities might be seen as stereotypically “ugly American.” Namely, the pigheadedness of not showing the remorse for the deaths of her sidekicks from the beginning, and the recklessness and show-off-ness with which she sets off around the world (e.g. the motorcycle scene with Terry, and the big splash on the boat when she’s first seen in the movie–it was just so unnecessary!) However, as the movie went on, we saw some character development that showed more feminine qualities–the respect she had for the family in Hong Kong and the Masai tribesman (including the remorse she felt at their deaths, which she must have felt were her fault), her camaraderie with the little girl in the Hong Kong family, and the decision to not open Pandora’s Box for fear that it might lead to the deaths of millions of innocent people. And of course, her passive/sexual use of her body to handcuff Terry.
I found Terry to be a really interesting character. While he was physically strong, he was mentally and emotionally weak; he had betrayed his country and sidekicks in the past, and now he couldn’t resist the power that Pandora’s Box could offer him. He denigrates Lara’s “idealism” and slaps her, and is about to kill her–but of course, she kills him first. For me, this contrast between the too-pigheaded man and the more conscientious woman is ultimately what keeps Lara from simply being a woman in man’s clothing or different from other action heroes only in that she’s objectified for her body. I’m not sure if I would call this feminist, but I do think that Lara is a good model of a balance between masculine and feminine traits.