By mystakin 1 Comments
I'll start this blog by admitting this is more about wrestling than video games. Technically, what I discuss could apply to any game or piece of media with women characters, but Lara Croft seems like the best analog to the type of persona I'm discussing. Gender issues in media may seem like a tired topic to most on the Internet at this point, but perhaps some positivity will prove to lighten the mood. Obviously viewpoints are all my own and subject to criticism, I don't speak for every person in the world who wants strong female characters in media. Anyway, enough preamble.
As you skip through your first Chikara wrestling show, things may seem a little odd. A tag team of a baseball and football players wearing cartoonish outfits secure a victory of a two occult demon worshippers. A trio of masked men with outfits and names derived from ants take on a bizarro version of themselves. A man in a red tie and wild hairstyle strums a guitar while leading a chorus of fans in a song about coming to Chicago Ridge. It's immediately obvious Chikara is not the kind of professional wrestling you were used to. Your main event for the evening? "The generic luchador" El Generico vs. "The queen of wrestling" Sara Del Rey.
Professional Wrestling has a horrendous history when it comes to female representation. The WWE alone has had story lines involving necrophiliac rape, business related miscarriages, and more skin than a Playboy magazine. Although they've cleaned up their act in recent years, the women's division in WWE is in shambles and hardly passes as entertainment. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found out Chikara's women wrestlers are respected on the same level as their men. Sara Del Rey vs. El Generico, a mixed gender singles match, headlined above contests involving the tag team and solo champions in Chikara at the time.
Let's break down why this match is an example of women characters done right, starting with Sara Del Rey's ring attire. While a lot of her body is exposed in her outfit, it doesn't feel overtly sexual. Her top covers her entire chest, revealing no cleavage, and her bottom doesn't ride up her ass and covers her body tastefully. Areas that aren't concealed are assumably bare to show off her fit figure and muscles. This is wrestling, after all. Intimidation is still an inherent quality. A woman can show off her body without being a sexual object, and this is an example of that very thing.
Next, let's consider her offense. She executes a variety of attacks on Generico including power moves like suplexes and the LeBell lock, a submission hold currently used by WWE superstar Daniel Bryan. The crowd is never lead to believe her moves only happen by chance, pure luck, or mistakes by the male performer. Sara outsmarts, outpowers, and outperforms Generico on occasions throughout the match because she is a talented wrestler. Viewers know that if she wins, chances are it's because she earned it and not because she lucked into a victory.
Finally, we have to remember that she's not invincible. Generico, despite initial misgivings about wrestling a woman, puts up a strong fight against Del Rey. Multiple Yazuka kicks to the head, a variety of slams, and even Sara's own suplex finisher are employed by Generico in an effort to put the queen of wrestling down for a 3-count. Sara's chest starts to turn a crimson red from all the chops Generico administers throughout the match. Despite the punishment Sara takes, she never appears to be in so much danger she's lost control. "Let's go Sara," chants fill the arena many times throughout the main event, a clear indication that the crowd believes she is, in fact, capable of winning the match on her own.
So how does this all play into Tomb Raider? Mostly for this quote from Ron Rosenberg "When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character... They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'" Lara, much like Sara, shouldn't need to be protected. We all know Lara is the same badass, killing-dinosaurs-with-dual-pistols chick from the Playstation One days. We shouldn't be expected to believe she needs to be saved. There's nothing wrong with showing vulnerability in a female character, but when that vulnerability exists only for pity, the character never enjoys empowerment. Hopefully this quote is just one big misunderstanding and when the game hits next year, all my worries will be washed away. I'm still very excited for the Tomb Raider reboot, I just hope the new Lara has a little bit of Chikara's Sara in her.
You can watch highlights from the Chikara match here (as long as you can put up with Senses Fail)