And Tomb Raider is Finished

Here is my number one favorite thing about this game right now:

All the white dudes bite it.

There might be other things going on that are worth analyzing in more detail, but I’m just so giddy that in a story where half the cast is white and male, only people of color and women survive to the end.  Yes, Lara’s still got a little bit of the weird white savior thing going on (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional, but that’s an inevitable side effect of having your protagonist be the only white person who lives to the end of the story), but overall it’s good.

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Though he’s only important for a brief portion of the game, this guy attains hero status way faster than Lara, and then he dies. (Image credit: Lara Croft Wiki)

As for my favorite line, let’s go with “How often does a guy like me get to be the hero?” as said by the nerdy tech guy just before he sacrifices himself to let Lara escape from a sinking ship.  My immediate answer: “All the time.”  Although the other deaths are satisfying in how they impact Lara’s character arc (I’m still giddy over the total reversal of killing men off to give a woman some serious feels), this guy’s pretty much a nonentity until his section of the story.  You find a journal from him at some point that indicates he’s had a crush on Lara for a while, and he went to get his plot coupon to try to impress her.  Lara’s suitably dismayed at this guy’s idiotic decision to put himself in danger for the sake of scoring points with his unrequited crush, but perhaps even better is that this whole dynamic comes out of nowhere for the player.  It was an instance where I really was able to relate to Lara, because I didn’t get any romantic vibes from the guy up to that point in the story, so I was very surprised by his sudden declaration of love intense interest.  I’m just disappointed that the writers chose to give the guy a heroic sacrifice instead of having Lara successfully rescue him and then give the talk about how he’s kind of dumb for going off alone, and no, she’s really not interested in him like that.  Killing this white dude off just felt a little bit too much like wish fulfillment.

To unpack that a little bit, what I mean about wish fulfillment is that this scenario feeds into the male fantasy of committing the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect a beloved.  It revels in the glory of such a sacrifice, but also has the added bonus of leaving the man completely absolved of responsibility for how his actions impact the beloved.  It’s not selfless to imagine giving up your life for someone, because then you don’t have to continue the fantasy into the time beyond that where the other person has to go through grieving and try to manage any loose ends your sudden death may leave behind.  It’s a failure of empathy, and one of the cheapest hypothetical commitments you can make.

So yeah, I would have liked to see Lara save the guy’s butt, and then have him be forced to deal with the fact that he did something stupid and that he’s not going to win the girl (because this is her story and she doesn’t need to be won by anyone).

On the subject of Lara being treated like a badass, she does get more respect in the game’s climax as the cultists finally act like she’s really a major threat (it only took murderating several hundred people by herself), so I’m more happy about that.  It would have been nice if the narrative had been structured so that it wasn’t a case of Lara going and saving her kidnapped best friend (unless Lara had a male best friend, in which case, yes, please do that because gendered tropes need to be played with) at the end, but I guess you can only do so much when you write a story that’s about a woman fighting against a bunch of men who are threatened, and at the same time worshipful, of female power as represented by the ancient Sun Queen.

Final verdict: it’s good.  I liked it.

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