Report from Penny Arcade
Another grim and rapey reboot of a character that, for better or worse, was created as a symbol of female power. I'm prepared to be righteously disgusted.
I've never been a huge follower of the Lara Croft games; I prefer to make my own characters. Still, the character herself is or was interesting. So she was made to be sexually appealing to male gamers. So what? There's something wrong with kicking ass and looking good doing it?
There's something about making a character like that much younger and less skilled that I intensely dislike.
It's not about realism or artistic freedom; it's about genre. Lara Croft was a major figure in a recognizable genre about intrepid and omnicompetent explorers; she was an Indiana Jones figure. Rape doesn't really fit well in the genre, any more than it belongs in a superhero comic, a Robin Hood story, an Errol Flynn style swashbuckler, or a Flash Gordon type space opera.
This doesn't mean that rape does not occur in the quasi-modern world that's the typical superhero setting. Rape was quite common in medieval England, too. Among historical pirates? Probably several times a day. And humans being what they are, it won't have gone away in a Flash Gordon future either.
So what? All of these arguments boil down to "rape is real, so we get to use it." Yes, rape is real; it happens. This isn't about reality; it's about genre, which means it's also about the reasonable expectations of the consumers of fiction. Readers turn to genres they enjoy because they reasonably expect a certain kind of entertainment from it. Date rape is a serious problem that is part of our world. This does not mean that Harlequin romances will be made deeper or more interesting by adding it to their plots.
Likewise, the notion that Lara Croft becomes more interesting by turning her into a rape victim and a damsel in distress from the slasher genre is rubbish.
Writers who inject grim unpleasantness into the genres in the name of "realism" are taking a stance that they're deeper, more engaged, and more 'relevant' than the writers who founded the genre and created the market niche they're working in. My creative genius excuses me from creating what you thought you were getting on the cover. This is a sort of consumer fraud. Writers who adopt this pretentious stance need a stiff round of axhandle therapy.