So Ashley Valazquez of Not Your Mama’s Gamer, a feminist gaming blog, wrote an odd poem of sorts lamenting the fact that Lara Croft – a Tomb Raider – is fit enough to have a thigh gap. While she’s obviously having a bit more fun with it than the usual diatribes about this sort of thing, I still found it telling enough to wanna respond to it by way of translation. I’m going to break down each passage for you so we may gaze into the mind of somebody who plays games and ends up reflecting on their body. In poetry.
I also wanna preface this by stating I do not like the new Lara Croft. She’s ironically designed to cater to people like Ashley while abandoning the gameplay oriented elements of the actually good Tomb Raider Legend reboot. So keep this in mind.
The slippery slope of body positivity
Has never been more deterring than when
Gazing at the sun through Lara’s proclivity
To deny herself sufficient calories –
Ya know the body positivity crowd, particularly those who take shots at female game characters, have this really interesting perspective. You see, the Lara Croft that got her all poetic-like was especially designed to be as unsexy as possible while still looking like somebody who… well… raids tombs.
This means her cup size went down, her shorts are gone, cleavage is downplayed; BUT, she’s still gonna have to look athletic enough to be believable. There are women who look like the pic above. There’s women who look like Legend Croft in the intro pic at the start of this. But Ashley won’t accept this without positing that this Lara Croft, nay any woman who ‘somehow’ looks like this, is abusing themselves in some way. Not enough calories. Sure. But Ashley, she gets her calories. There’s no gap between her thighs. Those fit, slim women out there? They’re doing it wrong.
Ashley types more things:
On her search for Divinity
It was clear from the beginning
That body fat and masculinity
Were not sufficient representations
of a Woman’s sexuality –
I don’t think she used the words she actually needed to use here. I’m going to assume she means representing femininity? I dunno, but what I do know is people like her need to get over this belief that women in games are meant to represent women in general. This is why some people may wanna avoid using a female character to begin with. Male characters do not carry the burden of representing all men everywhere. And in fact their impossibly chiseled bodies, incredible feats, and unyielding fortitude are recognized as fantastical as to be known as power fantasies for men.
Think about that for a sec: Dante (Devil May Cry), one of the most badass gaming heroes of all time, will not be cited as giving men body negativity issues. He will be used, curiously, as evidence that men crave fantasy power trips. Bayonetta, his conceptual and spiritual successor, will however not be used as citation for female power fantasies. And in fact would probably be the kind of characters that makes certain people write poems.
If Dante were to influence a guy to think about his body, which can certainly happen, I’m willing to bet 40 pesos that the outcome of such an event would lead to that guy working out. Becoming confident. Trying to emulate Dante’s elements. Now we can talk about the ramifications of trying to achieve such a thing using a fictional character, but I’m certain we’d agree that even the attempt would leave us with a healthier, more self assured dude, right?
So my question is: Why is it so many feminists’ reactions to these characters, modeled after fit body types, are never to adopt the activities that may lead them to that goal? Why is it so… cynical? Treated as an attack on them? Treated as commentary on their bodies? Why do they think the appropriate response is to infer the motivations of the creators rather than, “Wow she’s tone. I’m going for it”?
Oh yeah, there’s more:
Tired and cranky, from slaughtering bears
And suspending in the air,
I reached down for my Bonbons and Ramen
cozily atop my un-gapping gammon(s)-
And wondered what of my full body figure
And why Lara Croft never ate dinner.
lol Yeah you tell that skinny bitch wazzup, Ashley. Starving herself when she could have had your ‘full body figure’. Where’s the mini-game where Lara purges the salad and coke zero she had yesterday? She’s obviously skipping meals to maintain that body – even though women who look like that aren’t skipping meals. The ones who aren’t suffering eating disorders. Because when you’re unhealthy, you can’t raid god damn tombs.
People who compare themselves to everything ever have a habit of protesting too much. In the above passage we have reference to ramen and bonbons atop her lap (the female doritos and mountain dew combo?). It’s one thing to not take Lara as a lightning rod to get you running and jumping, but to criticize from your couch eating bonbons wondering about your thighs – that’s beyond the pale.
To add on to an earlier point; some men see male game characters as power fantasies, and at best goals worth getting off their ass for. But these body positivity type women see female game characters… as threats. To be criticized and accused. “She’s not eating.” “That’s not a real woman.” “What about me?” *grabs bonbon* On what planet does this attitude, which considers infringing on the artists’ vision (because that’s where this leads), a solution rather than going for self improvement? She would be multiple degrees happier simply not internalizing the design of a fictional character, too.
Bushwhacked by the ghastly sight of society,
through her sundered thighs –
It was obvious that misogyny
Took the form of men who canonize
Chimerical, carcinogenic, images of women.
Chimerical? Chimerical, really? Is that what she wants to run with?
“Chimerical is an adjective that means produced by a wildly fanciful imagination. Use the adjective chimerical to describe something that is wildly fanciful or imaginative — like the chimerical illustrations of unicorns in a children’s book.”
Ashley considers this…:
…Tantamount to this…:
…Even though there are women like this:
Oh wait, she’s just another skinny bitch starving herself, sorry. Dem bonbons, tho. *high five*
Last verse, and I get a sense that she caught herself writing nonsense and went from whimsical to doubling down, preemptive defense and all:
Maybe they approbate the ersatz only:
Kitana, and Yuna, Catwoman and Clair Redfield –
Those bustling women with unbloused sex appeal;
But opaque and dim is their view of us mortal women
Who live not on TV screens and consoles
But daily ward off opinionated assholes
Who insist that women were fashioned for misanthropic peepholes.
Mortal women. Sure, we can reason that women who look like Lara Croft aren’t common just as Dante or Ryu aren’t your everyday dudes. I get that. But there is no such thing as some kind of obligation to represent the ‘mortal woman’, which I’m assuming is you, Ashley.You with your ramen and bonbons and thick body and poems – there should be no forced design to represent you. Because this isn’t about representation. It’s creator intent. If it makes you feel bad, you probably shouldn’t play it. And if it really makes you feel bad, maybe games aren’t for you.
But I suppose I’m the “opinionated asshole” now, right? Here’s the thing: Nobody’s insisting that women were fashioned for misanthropic peepholes (and what an interesting use of misanthropic there). Not me or anybody. The only person who argued this whole time what a woman should be, was Ashley. And if she feels earnest about it, she’s more than welcome to #ShipAGame, because game criticism ends where nebulous social political constructs begin. Pacing, map design, aesthetics; good. Sexism, misogyny, body shaming; #ShipAGame. Because we know where your flowchart leads to, and all the poetry in the world still doesn’t give you influence over free expression. Lest it be your own.
And a final aside,
Here lies another case where good is not good enough. Change is not change enough. I hate the new Lara design. It’s garbage. Boring. And the game itself is lacking. This reboot was exactly for people like Ashley. While Lara is still fit as a fiddle, they go out of their way to keep her as non-provocative as possible. Every promo shot is her bloody and dirty. She doesn’t make jokes. She’s no longer charming. And the gameplay is typical AAA quicktime silliness. And that’s all I got say about the new Lara Croft, but I can promise you’ll never hear me talk about her thigh gap.