> Les numéros > Scumgrrrls N° 4 - Automne / Fall 2003

I want to be Lara Croft but...

Lara Croft est de retour ! Egérie cyberféministe àlaquelle on rêve de s’identifier ou fantasme masculin stéréotypé ? Le débat est ouvert…

The confrontation with the shark is not innocent or arbitrary. Just like one of Jan De Bont’s previous film, « Speed », « Tomb Raider II - The Cradle of Life » works as one : it’s got to keep on moving threatening to die at the shortest suspension of movement, contrary to one of the film’s key moments when Shadow-Guardians hunt & kill moving bodies and absorb them into the stones. Movement is then the first key word ; boats, cars, trucks, bikes, planes, parachutes, walking, running, swimming or fighting help finding the true pace of the film. In a nutshell : speed.

Of course, it is pure spectatorship pleasure as well, long desired by feminist theorists since the 70s, this delicious sensation of loosing touch with oneself and endorse the personality of a beautiful, clever and powerful being. No need to slip into the body builded and slimy skin of a middle-age and monosyllabic man or to choose to be on the evil side of a perfect female icon ‘who likes the car and the gun’‚ and makes her boobs look bigger in order to escape police patrols ; we are Lara young, stubborn, gifted and sublime Lara (or her alter-ego Angelina Jolie). This identification part goes along with the incredible pleasure of seeing conventions exploding at the face of the world ; strange and sharply ironic transition between the young and now wise daddy’s girl who gently accepted to wear a dress at the end of the first episode and the ‘dynamitage en règle’ of the Greek wedding in the first sequence of the second part… without even mentioning the spectacular arrival of Lara, queen of the waters.

Pleasure also to watch and identify oneself with a somehow complex character : an action woman - whose powers seems to be endless, weaknesses fading into the background as unimportant and unnecessary details- but also, again, a cyber woman and a goddess. Still cyber she is, despite the definitive « action hero » similarities, showing traces of a constantly reconstructed body - through the extended guns hanging at her thighs, or the applied virtual eye which allows her to reach her team. As her predecessors (from Ellen Ripley to Allegra Galler), Lara – as the cyberwoman she is – displays her mythical heritage ; she is the magnified echo of « Mother Nature », emerging from the sea, defying snow, walking the earth, climbing the mountains or mastering the skies of Hong Kong in a typically cyber « free fall ». Feminine symbols cling to her, just like in the first episode, circularity and spheric elements reflecting her wholeness (the ‘mati’‚ she is looking for which is hidden in the magical Orb, and the very precise shot where the orb zooms and disappears into her eye).

Besides she IS Pandora, both the most beautiful woman on earth, but also the most dangerous (first versions of the myth implied that there was no box and that it was the woman who concealed the danger) since she threatens to open up again the infamous box. In fact, contrary to what we may think or see during this beautiful scene in which we see hesitation reflecting in Lara’s eyes confronted with the glowing box, she opened this ‘box’‚ a long time ago, in a narrative as well as symbolic sense by trespassing every forbidden rule and endorsing all the thinking, acting and evolving characteristics of the male superhero. Hence the ambiguity of the character is still there, made perfectly transparent through the perfect antithesis of the title (uniting the tomb and the cradle). Lara, saviour of the world also provokes the death of her accomplices by her boldness in the Luna Temple sequence, or is associated with Pandora’s box. Death and the maiden again, with the army of stone soldiers with whom she ironically identifies in order to fight her Chinese enemy.

Pleasure indeed. Unfortunately, sex and humour seem to be snatched away from her, denied except for a few glowing moments especially when taking the role of a stone soldier or interrupting the family dinner on a Chinese bark in order to enter into communication with her staff, finding help in a little girl who handles her chewing-gum to fix the material. The only so called « sex scene » denies her grown up feminine identity by turning her into a rational and coldblooded warrior. Moreover, and once again the predictable way of previous cyber examples, Lara has to suffer the bitter end of such narratives. She can have the guns, fool and destroy the obvious enemy and find the treasure. But she can’t have the man (why would she want him in the first place is the real question considering the very tedious performance of the Scottish actor). She has to kill the one she loves – ironically the real box of evil in the story – in order to bury Pandora’s Box again and see it disappear in a bath of black acid. Saving the universe, once again, implies renouncing to the very expression of her feminine desire. But why deny my filmic pleasure in the first place for such a small compromise ? My advice is : Enjoy !