Published: 17 November 2021
“A famous explorer once said that ‘The extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are.’” 
In a man’s world, it can be difficult for any woman to truly be extraordinary in this sense. As with any minority demographic, women are often stereotypically portrayed in the media and their accomplishments downplayed, compared to the nearest majority representative, in this case man. Even despite the opposition, there have been a number of women throughout history to break this mold, to leave lasting impacts and to serve as positive role models: Amelia Earhart, the Williams sisters, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey, Lara Croft. Okay, that last one’s not actually a real person, but her contribution to society is arguably just as impactful. Well, probably not, but read on!
Anyone who’s into gaming, Xbox, or primetime TV has likely heard of Croft’s latest expedition in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider.” The third installment of the second reboot to the franchise, which began in the spring of 2013 with “Tomb Raider (2013),” brings with it a new Lara with less experience and a more emotive and relatable character. But before moving on, let’s take a quick tour of Lara’s history so far.
Lara first graced the world of gaming in 1996. Toby Gard, the lead graphic artist of British game developer Core Design, created Lara Croft as the lead protagonist of the series. Originally envisioning a male, Indiana Jones-esque character, he was advised to go in a more original direction. Several iterations later, Laura Cruz was born. But then in an effort to appeal more to an American audience, they altered her background and name; thus, the Wimbledon-born Lara Croft was…born. Her story goes along the lines of being the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Himalayas, leaving her with naught but her wits to stay alive. This experience caused her to shun her “posh London girl” upbringing, instilling in her a thirst for travel and discovery of the world’s ancient secrets.
Seventeen years and two reboots later, an icon was born. Again. 
Rihanna Pratchett, the writer for the latest installment of Lara Croft, describes the game as being much more narratively relevant than any of its predecessors. Lara is always depicted as a beautiful, athletic, multilingual archaeologist with a penchant for fighting tigers and witty one-liners. Most other games focused more on her bust than her background. That is where the second reboot differs, firstly giving Lara more realistic proportions and secondly allowing players to experience Lara’s origin story, rather than leaving it up to exposition. While this version of Lara is less experienced, she is also much more relatable as a result.
“We took what people think of as Lara Croft – her traits like bravery, resourcefulness, resilience, independence, strength, etc. – and we rewound those traits until they were just below the surface,” says Pratchett. 
“There is no bravery without fear.” 
At the start of 2013’s Tomb Raider, Lara is a naïve, young girl with little clue on how to make it on her own. After being shipwrecked and stranded on an uncharted island – separated from her crew, no less – Lara must find the will to survive against forces of nature, wild animals, and dangerous inhabitants with a frightening mission. Each experience the island throws her way pushes Lara to her breaking point and further; again and again. She starts off lacking confidence in her abilities (and, admittedly, competence) but gradually comes to terms with what she must become in order to come out alive. 
Positive and influential role models are invaluable to a younger generation’s development. Lara Croft can be seen as such a role model, albeit a fictional one. Despite negative criticisms framing her as an over-sexualized, male demographic exploit, Croft has paved the way for many confident and capable female characters in gaming, changing the way people view what a woman can be capable of.
Media coverage of women is underwhelming, stereotyped, and underdeveloped. This day and age has seen more prevalence, but progress often has the habit of overshadowing how much farther should be gone. These sources of information teach us that women should be valued for their physical traits more than anything else. 
These habits are ingrained in our very culture. Boys are taught to be strong, dominant, leaders. Girls grow up believing they should be submissive, well-mannered (that’s not a bad thing, though); and worst of all, women are typically not thought of as leaders or pioneers. From the moment we are born, it begins. Blue. Pink. Messy. Clean. Firetrucks and footballs. Toy houses and dolls. Bread-winner. Trophy wife.
Even skilled woman athletes are often portrayed suggestively (think: tennis). The issue of the matter at hand is portrayal; either negative or lack thereof. And the message – women are just as capable as men – suffers as a result. 
My grandma’s favorite color was blue, by the way.
Why tell the story of Lara Croft? Strength, willpower, success… It’s all within us. No one comes in to this world full of talent and making headlines. We all have that potential for greatness but we have to find it within ourselves; woman or man.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about my favorite character in gaming, this source is a good place to start: https://tombraider.wikia.com/wiki/Lara_Croft_(Survivor_Timeline)
- Crystal Dynamics. “Tomb Raider: Underworld–Cave Egress.” Digital image. Eidos Interactive. November 21, 2015
- Crystal Dynamics. “Tomb Raider 2013 Box Art.” Digital image. Square Enix. November 21, 2015
- Tomb Raider. “Tomb Raider [NA] ‘Turning Point’ Debut Trailer.” YouTube video, 3:05. Posted May 31, 2011. https://youtu.be/RN7_8Yholm4
- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. “Lara Croft.” Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. January 12, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lara_Croft
- Pitts, Russ. “Rhianna’s Rise: Meet the Writer Behind Tomb Raider.” Vox Media, Inc. September 3, 2014.
- Crystal Dynamics. “Lara Versus Bear.” Digital image. Square Enix. January 14, 2016. http://www.polygon.com/features/2014/9/3/5850182/rhianna-pratchett-rise-of-the-tomb-raider
- Crystal Dynamics. “Tomb Raider (2013).” Video game. Square Enix. March 5, 2013
- “Media Coverage of Women and Women’s Issues.” © Media Smarts. http://mediasmarts.ca/gender-representation/women-and-girls/media-coverage-women-and-womens-issues
- Crystal Dynamics. “Lara at a Cave Entrance.” Digital image. Square Enix. December 1, 2015