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“The Lara Croft 30th Anniversary Special Issue”

Guest Editors: Amanda Phillips and Josef Nguyen 

This intersectional, international, and interdisciplinary special issue approaches the fictional figure of Lara Croft as a cipher for unpacking the shifting landscape of feminism(s) and media cultures over the last three decades.

The year 2026 marks the 30th anniversary of the 1996 release of Tomb Raider and the introduction of the widely recognized and influential fictional figure of Lara Croft to players and audiences. Critics and publications immediately praised the Tomb Raider game for its mechanics and controls, advances in 3-D graphics, virtual environment design, and atmosphere and pacing. Yet, as the protagonist of the series, Lara was immediately contentious and controversial. Unlike many women characters in video games at the time, she had a complex backstory, plenty of tools and skills at her disposal, and was the lead in her own game. She was also well known for her improbable bosom and short shorts.

Lara became a provocative global cultural phenomenon, beloved and reviled by audiences and critics. Her image spread rapidly across various non-gaming media, including films, television series, animations, novelizations, and magazines. In fact, she earned the Guinness World Record for Most Magazine Covers for a Videogame Character, from Game Informer to Playboy. Like her creators, Lara’s audiences also objectified her through various means, including usercreated “Nude Raider” mods to reskin the Lara avatar in the nude.

Consequently, the most enduring lines of feminist inquiry directed toward the Tomb Raider franchise debate the promises and failures of Lara as empowering representation, as gunwielding action heroine, and as hypersexualized woman. Academic and popular critics have endlessly debated her body’s curves, the contours of her personality, and the ups and downs of her narratives: she has been and continues to be a site of debate, of defense, and of refiguring feminist thought and politics in 21st century media cultures.

Most previous commentaries on Lara Croft have left her racial and cisgendered identities unremarked upon and undertheorized, even though white savior, colonial looter, and cisnormative bombshell are core parts of her heroic appeal. Additionally, even though Lara’s reach and impact far exceeds gaming, most Lara Croft scholarship is centered in the field of game studies. This special issue hopes to bring together perspectives that can reevaluate Lara as a figure structured by and in tension with white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy, as well as an icon that exists across a broad spectrum of media formats and cultural contexts. We are particularly interested in critical race theory, trans studies, crip theory, and postcolonial perspectives on the past 30 years, and imagining the next 30 years, of Lara Croft.

In addition to traditional research articles, we are particularly excited about including videographic and other multimedia formats of critique. This can include but is not limited to videographic and photographic essays, interactive scholarship, critical game design, and fanvids as vernacular criticism. Criticism in forms beyond the traditional research article will still undergo peer review appropriate to their formats.

Potential Topics for Research Article and Media Submissions:

    ● Trans and queer interpretations of Lara Croft
    ● Critical race and ethnic studies critiques of Tomb Raider
    ● Postcolonial and decolonial critiques of fantasies of archaeology in Tomb Raider
    ● Disability and crip critiques of Lara Croft
    ● Lara Croft as star and celebrity
    ● Actors and models performing and embodying Lara Croft (e.g., Angelina Jolie, Alicia
    Vikander, Minnie Driver, Shelley Blond, Nell McAndrew, etc.)
    ● Transmedia history and adaptations of Tomb Raider (e.g., games, films, television
    series, novelizations, animations, etc.)
    ● Technological innovations of the Tomb Raider franchise
    ● Marketing, advertising, and the consumption of Lara Croft
    ● Precursors to Lara Croft; Lara Croft as precursor (e.g., Indiana Jones, Ellen Ripley, Tank
    Girl, Sarah Connor, Rick Dangerous, Bayonetta, Nathan Drake, etc.)
    Tomb Raider, pornography, and the sexualization of Lara Croft
    ● Lara Croft-inspired fandom, fan practices, and fan media (e.g., cosplay, vidding,
    streaming, fiction, art, modding, etc.)

Interested contributors should contact Amanda Phillips and Josef Nguyen directly, sending a 500-word proposal and a short bio no later than June 30, 2023 to both [email protected] and [email protected]. Contributors will be notified by July 31, 2023; article drafts will be due by March 1, 2024 and will be sent out for peer review.The special issue is planned for publication in Summer 2025.

The guest editors are maintaining a working bibliography of feminist writing about Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise. Feel free to contact them via email to receive access to this reference or with any other questions: [email protected] and [email protected].

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