First, a little background for people who aren't immersed in comic books. Comic books have certain cliches. These things have become so common that, when you see them, you just shake your head and go, "That's the best you could come up with?" For example, new comic book superheroes, their first heroic act depicted in a comic is usually stopping a mugging in an alley. Comic books are chock full of these "drag and drop" writing elements, from stopping a mugging in an alley to bickering with teammates to "I'll kill you but first I'll tell you my evil plan" to whatever.
The next thing to keep in mind is the inherent misogyny of mainstream entertainment. Although a lot of progress has been made, for the most part, women still exist in the media for the entertainment of male readers and not to be themselves. Men simply are heroes. Men simply are competent. Men simply are. Women need reasons and excuses to be what they are. Women aren't strong because they are strong, they are strong because of some trauma in their histories that makes them react that way. That isn't even their real personality, it's just a reaction to keep the world at bay for fear of being hurt again (see also: tsundere). The US version of Prime Suspect, the female central character was changed from simply being a good detective to she was sent to the department as punishment for having an affair with a superior officer. Producers felt it would add an extra layer as she proved her worth and everyone realized they were wrong to not look past her history, but it's still pretty insulting.
Women aren't allowed to simply be.
Everybody still with me so far? That's good!
In comics, there is a general cliche for why women become superheroes. The reason is frequently one of two things -- either A) they lost a family member to violent crime (revenge) or B) they were raped (revenge). I point out that the 90's revival of The Huntress had both: her mafia crime lord family was killed, and she had also been raped. She couldn't simply be someone determined to stop the evil around her, oh no. She had to be motivated by some outside force to do so.
Offensive? Yeah. But what do you expect from an industry that routinely uses violence against women as entertainment for readers and as a cheap plot device to motivate male characters? This is where the whole "women in refrigerators" thing comes from. Women in comics are the red shirts on Star Trek -- they are there to be used and discarded.
And now, my situation. My mentioning to others that I'm working on a Toob Raider comic book has brought about a revelation that frankly makes me sick, and it concerns the source material, Tomb Raider. Eidos Interactive created the character of Lara Croft back in the Sega Saturn/PS1 days. Now, yes, she was clearly intended to get a rise out of the guys and guys reacted with the immaturity everyone expects. But plenty of girls started playing the title, too, because they could project through the female character. Lara Croft was one of the first true crossover successes in video games, a gutsy competent adventurer who was brave, smart, and strong.
Crystal Dynamics got the brief to start devving the Tomb Raider games, and found themselves stuck in the past. With the advancements in 3D adventure games, Croft still had her tank-like control scheme and standard "find the switch" environmental puzzles (I personally think 2 was the high point for Tomb Raider adventures). After The Last Revelation, an attempt was made to reboot the franchise, take it in a fresh direction, give the controls a proper update (FINALLY!), and make the franchise the leader instead of the also-ran again. Well, it's not working out so well, so they are deciding to reboot the series again with Tomb Raider -- Crossroads. And things were looking good. The trailer ran at E3, people were talking, and anticipation of the new game was rising.
And this is where we hit the grass.
Alpha work on the new Tomb Raider project started in 2010. And in June of this year, we got an update. Producer Ron Rosenberg of Crystal Dynamics revealed that they were trying to make the character of Lara Croft even tougher and give her more backstory to make her more "real". And how are they going to do this?
Lara Croft is going to be raped.
No. I'm not kidding.
One of the levels in Crossroads has her cornered by island scavengers who will attempt to rape her. Oh, don't worry. She won't be raped.
If you can beat the level.
“She is literally turned into a cornered animal," Rosenberg explained. "It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.” Realizing that maaaaaaaaaybe some people might have a problem with this, Rosenberg further explained that, despite the open misogyny of the comics and all the Rule 34 of the character, this is not meant to project certain sick fantasies, oh Heavens no! "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. She’s definitely the hero but, you’re kind of like her helper. When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”
This kind of "I'm a male and must protect her" not only wasn't necessary to begin with, but is extra insulting, in that it basically says that without a male motivated to protect her virtue, Lara Croft is doomed. Doesn't matter that, in the first game, we saw she not only found but possessed the Ark Of The Covenant, even Lara Croft needs a big strong man on her adventures.
And not to belabor the obvious, but rape is one of the most frequent things the entertainment industry trots out for conflict for female characters. It cuts back to my complaint that the things that happen to women in stories are things that would NEVER happen to guys. Power Girl's ongoing series, for example, had a villain trying to swap his mind into her body and a space prince who wanted Power Girl to bear his children. The Tomb Raider comic book frequently features Lara Croft being thrown through the air by an explosion while arching her body sexily and one time going undercover as a belly dancer in a harem. That shit doesn't happen to Batman. And men are never at risk of rape or being used. When beaten up, villains walk away from men. They don't take them and confine them so they can be further abused. Women are constantly being treated as possessions and maybe not always, but frequently must be rescued. Usually by other superheroes. MALE superheroes.
I've heard women tell me that we guys just don't understand women and we never will.
Things like this make me think they are right.