First up: Laura Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo by Helen W. Kennedy
Right from the title Kennedy sets up her topic: which is Laura Croft? A feminist icon that female game players can claim as an identity marker or yet another objectified female representation to be gawked at by the traditionally male gaze?
Kennedy refers to Laura as both "an object of representation [and] spectacle" and as an avatar that "disrupts the relationship between spectator and spectacle" (Kennedy 1).
What Kennedy is doing is fairly obvious: she sets up a bimodal system that people are comfortable with - that a character can either be object or representative - and then subverts this system by calling up a spectrum effect which she has dubbed "bimodal" character. Her appeal does not lie in only an objectified avatar but as an identifiable creature to the feminized viewer. Such characters, like Lara Croft, are important as a revolution of the modern game-play era. Not just men and not just women were allowed to enjoy playing as Lara Croft -- Kennedy implies that the company Sony realized they could appeal to both audiences in one go - by creating an attractive hyper feminized (as in boobs) body with the ability to act out scenarios and activities previously only available to the male body. Lara is able to go into a male game-space, dungeons, tombs, jungles - the explorer's quest-- as no female avatar had done in the same way before.
That is not to say she is not still a problematic character as a representation to females. She is playable because she has been made masculine. She has little in the way of a romantic love interest and, like most female avatars, lacks a male body to gaze at (in the same way the female love interests of male avatars -- in all media, film, tv, art and videogames-- are).
Kennedy also brings up Mary Russo's term "stunting bodies" which are defined as "female figures which, through their performance of extraordinary feats, undermine conventional understandings of the female body" (Kennedy 3). In such an action genre, where most straightforward masculine subculture lies at its most obvious, Lara is cast as an other in sharp relief to her world. Her otherness objectifies her and causes a look upon her, yet it is also her retention of both otherness, while dominating in a natural setting, and her triumph in this traditionally masculine space, that allows her to be seen as a feminist icon. She goes into the man's world, and comes out of it no worse off.
Wait, you mean... this cartoon isn't accurate?
I enjoy a good women's suffrage cartoon every now and then.
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