Thursday, June 14, 2012

and now it chills me to the bone

Couple things for today. First, Oopskate 2012 is tomorrow; while I've never actually made it to one of these events, it's a great all-around excuse for a party, and it's also a fundraiser. This year, it benefits the American Porphyria Foundation.

Now, I want to state up front I don't have porphyria. How'ver, one of the strains of the disease, erythropoietic protoporphyria (or EPP) causes an intense and painful allergy to sunlight. And I grew up in a family in which sunlight allergy is rampant--from the aunt who broke out in weeping hives if she was outside, to the friend of the family with a similar condition we would literally wrap up in blankets if we were taking her somewhere during the day.

Also, unlike other, better-known ailments, porphyria is one of those where (aside from the skin allergies; there's more than one involved) for the most part, sufferers don't look like they're suffering. As detailed on the Intertwingled blog that Axi linked, there can be an insane social stigma associated with diseases that don't manifest in wounds, weight loss, hair loss, sunken eyes--anything the average person can point to and say "See? They're sick, what's your problem?"

Add that to the fact that the only exposure the average sort gets to porphyria is wild legends ("Porphyria causes vampirism! And turns people into werewolves! I heard it somewhere!") or television episodes where the sufferer is killing people for whatever reason (CSI's season one episode, "Justice is Served", featured a sufferer who was killing joggers, apparently due to her illness), and it becomes this outlandish, alien thing--most people will as easily believe that a sufferer is insane, and just being dramatic, over actually being impaired.

I'm going to try to make at least an hour of the event--it starts at ten pm SLT, goes to whenever everyone gets tired--but I won't lie, I'm not feeling up to people currently. Emotionally, I'm a basket case. I won't lie about that, either.

In other news...yeah, finding out about this on the Escapist did not improve my mood. Basically--to bring anyone who hasn't been following this story up to speed--the designers behind the Lara Croft line of video games have decided she needs to be "punched up", or something, to appeal to today's crowd of gamers. What's the way they've decided to do this?

Well, the answer is obvious, isn't it? Have her raped and tortured.

Now, in the trailer's favor, if one watches it unemotionally, I'd hazard a guess that she wasn't raped at all; in fact, that the one man who was interested in forcing her, she killed. And pretty obviously killed. It's also been interesting to watch as the designers behind the game switch from the stance of "We have her raped" to "It's dark material, she nearly gets raped" because of the barrage of shrill outrage being leveled at the company.

That being said...Susan Arendt in that article is practically feverish with joy over Croft being assaulted:
"I see a young girl faced with dramatic adversity, an adversity so extreme she couldn't possibly imagine it, let alone expect to find herself faced with it. I see a girl who's alone, hurt, and terrified. I see a girl who's ill-equipped to face the challenges before her. But most importantly, I see a girl who keeps getting up. Not because she's some kind of warrior badass, armed to the teeth with martial arts skill, years of combat training, and a gun the size of a Buick, but because there's work to be done. If Lara is ever going to get home, if she's ever going to be safe again, she has to get up."
While I grant the point that what keeps people drawn to the Croft line of games is that she doesn't give up (because what video game character ever gives up)--well, that and her steadily decreasing costumes enhancing her more adult attributes--this sort of 'yay for adversity' cheerleading just pisses me off.

One of the first rules of writing is to destroy our characters. That sounds unbelievably harsh, and it is. But the point of developing plots is putting people we've created, perhaps care for, possibly even love, into situations that would drive the bulk of us barking mad. While I understand, intellectually, why Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix picked the attempted rape, torture, and massive injury of a younger Croft to drum up in-game support for her, I think both Arendt and the developers themselves misunderstand the relevance of rape in this culture.

By and large, the bulk of male gamer culture is still pretty pro-rape as a concept, at least verbally. While they may be good, decent men individually, get gamers into a clump and it quickly becomes a game of who raped who harder. On a very primitive level, gamers demonstrate exactly what rape is: power used to humiliate. And as power used to humiliate, that humiliation doesn't end when the rape's over--while it goes without saying that the woman (or man) who's suffered a rape is changed, their interactions with other people are also changed by it. These individuals stop being people, in a sense, and become labels, pretty clearly defined. One of those labels reads "that poor girl", as if she will never evolve past being that injured plaything. Another reads "Well, but she was asking for it", as if by choice of outfit, makeup, even perfume she put herself in harm's way by her own volition. The outcome of that label is distance--because if the victim was complicit, they're not a victim anymore, are they? If they were complicit, then they "kinda deserved it", right?

And it bugs me that Arendt buys so completely into this concept. Regardless of the fact that the game designers tell us that she's absolutely not raped--and the official trailer only shows Croft killing that one guy--there's evidence from other areas that that clipped scene in the trailer is part of a larger, gang-rape (or at least, gang assault) section from the game's introduction. (No word yet on whether that's a cut scene, or a playable scene; my money's on cut scene.)

Moreover--even though the developers retracted their official position, changing it from an implied rape to an implied sexual assault, Arendt's pom-poms are waving because of how amazing this makes the emergent Lara Croft. She gushes about how wonderful it is to have a strong, female protagonist who's been through hell, who's walked those forty-seven miles of bad road, to get where she is today. Why, she's a positive role model for all young women, isn't she? This story is universal, and positive, and should be celebrated...right?

No. Not right. It's so not right to celebrate this. Women can be strong without being forced at gun-point--or penis-point. Personally, I'll take the eternally reincarnated Chell from Portal over this new Lara Croft any day--because you don't have to put a woman through hell just to get people to care about her. And you certainly don't have to applaud implied rape as a means for character growth. Frankly, Ms. Arendt should have known better--after all, she works for a site whose original income came solely from game reviews.

To break into cliché for a moment--that's no way to treat a lady. And Ms. Arendt, of all people, shouldn't be cheering from the sidelines on this one.

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