Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Jenni M

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Jenni M
Interviewer: Kelly M
Interviewee: Jenni M
Date(s): February 22, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Tomb Raider
External Links: In the Spotlight: Jenni M – The Archaeology of Tomb Raider, Archived version
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Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Jenni M was conducted in 2014.

Some Excerpts

When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?

Lara and I got off to a rocky start. For several years after Tomb Raider was released, I ignored and disdained that ‘big-chested bimbo’ who seemed to be splashed across every magazine and advertisement at the time. Then, in 1999, I bought my mum Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation for a joke after she’d commented, ‘Hmm, that looks like fun!’ at one of the game’s TV commercials. It may have been around the point when Lara exclaims, ‘You know me, Werner – a regular virtuoso!’ that I became irretrievably hooked. To my everlasting joy, this ‘big-chested bimbo’ turned out to have a brain, dry wit, and none of the damsel-in-distress clichés that had dominated female characters, in most creative genres, for far too long. Here was a character I could really root for, and the beautiful environments and puzzles only made me eager to continue exploring.

How has Tomb Raider changed your life?

Tomb Raider has opened many unexpected doors for me. In 2005, I quite casually offered my vocal skills for a friend’s custom level purely on the basis that ‘I’m female and British – does that help?’ Since then I’ve voiced Lara Croft (and several other characters) in dozens of fan-made works, from custom levels and trailers to cartoon series and podcasts. Without this opening, it would never have occurred to me to try out recording voice-overs. I now have my own spot on a professional voice-over website and, although it doesn’t bring me much work, it’s something I’m still quite proud of and would like to build upon in the future.

Tomb Raider has also been important in boosting my writing skills and confidence. Writing has always been important to me, but Lara Croft’s character and universe have been invaluable about teaching me the practicalities and technical aspects of writing, as well as being great fun!

I also have Tomb Raider to thank for introducing me to many extraordinarily gifted, generous, kind, and creative people. It’s pure magic to work with them – simply priceless.

What are your thoughts on Lara’s image? Is she simply the product of a sexist gaming industry or can she be seen as a positive role model?

Originally, I would have said that Lara Croft’s image was quite badly abused by the popular press simply to excite pulses and drive sales. Even the Legend-Anniversary-Underworld reboot didn’t divorce itself from the ‘sex sells’ message. The Japanese dress in Tomb Raider: Legend was a case in point. Even though the over-sexploitation seems to have largely calmed down, even the 2013 reboot couldn’t escape some sexually-orientated jibing on forums and in the press (e.g. the controversial ‘rape’ QTE). As time goes on, I hope that the emphasis/trend to sexualise the appearance or behaviour of Lara is consigned to the dustbin, and that goes for all female characters in the game and film industry.

However, the character of Lara Croft was and continues to be a universe away from the popular media portrayal of her. Magazines might have had her blowing provocative kisses, but the character of Lara is more likely to roll her eyes at such irrelevancies and get on with the mission in hand. She’s tough and highly intelligent, observant and curious, practical and courageous. These are qualities that are sexier and more attractive than any kind of body-image could ever be. I think she’s an excellent role model.