Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Stella

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Stella
Interviewer: Kelly M
Interviewee: Stella
Date(s): July 20, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Tomb Raider
External Links: In the Spotlight: Stella – The Archaeology of Tomb Raider, Archived version
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Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Stella was conducted in 2014.

Some Excerpts

How has Tomb Raider changed your life?

TR has changed my life in many ways. First, there’s the fact that I’ve been able to turn my walkthrough sites into a second job. I have degrees in English and journalism, but my primary job as an artist’s assistant is mostly hands-on. Being a webmaster gives me a chance to do more writing and focus on my own creative work instead of someone else’s. And who wouldn’t want to get paid for playing videogames?

Even more important are the many friendships I’ve forged with other raiders over the years. I’ve known a few of you from the beginning, like Katie Fleming, who shares with me, and Tom from, who’s always been there when I needed a hand. Some of you I’ve met in real life; most I haven’t, but I treasure all my Tomb Raider friends. Being a part of this wonderful community is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Were you interested in archaeology before discovering Tomb Raider? Have the Tomb Raider games and films inspired you to learn more about ancient history?

I’m not a huge archaeology buff, but I grew up with a history teacher father and an artist mother, so we always had lots of interesting reading material around the house — art books, atlases, National Geographic, and so on. We lived in Asia for several years when I was young, and my parents always encouraged me and my sister to respect other cultures and to be curious and creative. In those days, you could toss kids out the door and let them play outside unsupervised. So we had our share of wilderness adventures as well. ;)

I have always been fascinated by ancient artifacts, especially the “shiny stuff,” like the treasures of the Egyptian pharaohs and the intricate carvings and mosaics from pre-Columbian America. But even the most unassuming artifacts can hold special power. I saw the Venus of Willendorf when she visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Many people don’t realize she’s only about 4 ½ inches tall, but just being in the presence of something made by human hands more than 25,000 years ago was absolutely transcendent!

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?

I’d have to say both. I cringe when I see some of the early marketing efforts, but it’s important to distinguish between the advertising and the games themselves. The in-game Lara is quite different from the pin-up. It seems like the “sex sells” angle must have backfired in two ways: Gamers who thought they were getting a sex kitten would have been disappointed by the sarcastic, take-no-prisoners character in the game; and the boob-a-licious marketing probably turned off a lot of players who actually might have enjoyed the games.

I also think it’s important to distinguish between sexuality and sexism. Lara’s sexuality is not necessarily a negative. She’s attractive, sexy, even flirty at times, but she’s not a coquette. She owns her sexuality. It’s part of who she is, but it doesn’t define her, and it’s not the biggest weapon in her arsenal. It makes her character more complicated rather than less. It also sends the message that if you happen to have breasts, it doesn’t mean you’re a bimbo. Smart and sexy are not mutually exclusive.

I also want to touch on the notion that, as female protagonist, Lara is someone players want to protect. I believe this idea was first introduced by Mark Cohen in Lara Croft: The Art of Virtual Seduction, but it came up again recently amid the controversy surrounding the “first kill” scene in Tomb Raider 2013. When the online community erupted over Lara’s being assaulted by a creepy islander in the “Crossroads” trailer, the game’s Executive Producer, Ron Rosenberg suggested that, “When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character. They…want to protect her.” This is complete bullshit. Players don’t want to protect Lara; they want to be Lara. This is just a stupid way of saying that male players can’t identify with a female character. If female players can identify with Nathan Drake, Gordon Freeman, or whomever, then male players can certainly identify with Lara.