How Lara and Nilin make me wonder about women leads
I’ve been reading a few things about female protagonists in games (although evidently not as much as I’d like to get a broader picture), and wondering about the reasoning behind making a protagonist a man or a woman, and what would make a “good” protagonist (BTW I don’t have the answers to those questions).
The other day I was reading this article because the title sounded extremely interesting because the main character in our game, Enola, is a girl (and also because the game itself looks cool) However, then I saw this:
And I think that’s where I stopped reading.
As a storyteller, and a writer, I thought this was a very limited view of the protagonist, or rather, I found it to be something that limits what the character is/can be. To tell the truth I was hoping for some very enlightening explanation as to why they had decided to use a woman, and then I get the “we wanted to see the private life, and see her kiss a guy.”
Just a quick note, I am most certainly not one of the “gimme more strong women in games!!!” advocates, so I’m not exactly on anyone’s side.
Anyway, I got the impression that the protagonist’s gender must be defined by what the character does: “it kisses someone, ok then it has to be a woman,” “it can carry an entire tree with one arm, then it has to be a man,” “it has body augmentations, clearly a man,” “actually has a life, woman,” “it smiles, a woman because real men never smile.”
However in Silent Hill 2 we have this dude looking for his dead wife and trying to become some dude’s best friend by going “you’re beautiful, no matter what they say!!!” Using the logic above, we needed a female lead because the protagonist obviously had feelings, something a male character should NOT have.
As I said before, I find Remember Me very interesting, and I have nothing against the devs (if anything, my only complain is not being able to play the game right now), so I don’t want you to think this is some sort of “you’re wrong!” argument. I’m just expressing my opinion.
I also read this article the other day, and it made me wonder why Lara gets a lot more scrutiny than male characters, because she’s a woman (and I began remember how many times I’ve read the same “yes, but is she authentic/strong/whatever?” arguments before).
Note, I don’t have the answer yet.
However, I do think it has something to do with players/critics/people looking at characters not for what they are, but for what they want them to be, talking about the character development, the arc, how does she react to this or that scenario, combat skills (or lack of), sexuality, looks…
But the question still stands: Why? If the general public doesn’t care about X male character being too though, rude and joyless, why do they care so much about Lara Croft not being “Croft enough”?
And another question: Does all this scrutiny come from men who’d like her to be more Laraish and left Croftish. Or does it come from women who are still after the holy grail of strong female leads, who think she should be more Croftish and less Laraish (let me know if you figure out what the hell that was supposed to mean).
It’s like critics know more about the protagonist and its inner workings than the person who actually gave birth and wrote that character (something I, as a writer, find rather insulting).
Instead they should just let Lara Croft be Lara Croft, which is what she’s meant to be.
So out of a few things I’ve read, these two made me wonder about female characters, but also made me worry about them because the main character in Enola happens to be a girl. I am worried not because I feel responsible to make a strong female protagonist. I am worried because I think some day people will examine her and wonder how strong of a character she is, if she’s too sexy or not sexy enough, if they are pleased with her behavior and reactions, why she has a certain sexual orientation (she’s a lesbian, there I ruined the game for you, uuuuuhhhhhh), just because she has boobs.
In short, I think some day she will no longer be “my baby” to become “what others think they should be because they clearly know her way better than me.”
Do I feel responsible? Short answer: no. Why? First, because I can’t take the idea of scrutinizing a lead seriously, when it’s based on gender and not something that’s actually important; and second, because the writer is ‘god’ when it comes to the story and the character is built around the different elements that comprise the story.
And going back to the first part of this post: the lead in Enola is not a girl because we wanted “a certain level of intimacy,” but because her reactions, actions, and emotions become a hell a lot more interesting when they belong to a woman (and I know it may be a vague answer, but at least it’s a spoilers-free answer).
Have a nice week.