First appearing in 1996, Lara Croft has been cemented as a female icon of entertainment for 27 years now. How she rose to prominence is very different from how she’s been able to remain an incredibly popular and instantly-recognizable character, with the aesthetics of Croft, specifically, being updated across all mediums over the last decade. You can see the distinct swing between the Crystal Dynamics creations in her home medium, as well as on the big screen with the swing from Angelina Jolie – who now launches conservation initiatives in the Yucatan Peninsula – to Alicia Vikander.
Even the perceived personas of the actors and their filmographies before taking on the part of Lara Croft hint at the changing form of the character. Jolie was a veritable sex symbol in celebrity circles, starring in the likes of Gia, Mojave Moon, Fox Fire, and Girl, Interrupted before her 2001 role in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Vikander came into her 2018 movie Tomb Raider having been praised numerous times by critics for her performances in award-bait films like Testament of Youth, Ex Machina, and The Danish Girl.
Here’s how Lara Croft has not only remained a female icon through the years but was drastically adapted to suit the ever-changing times to remain so appealing to all audiences.
Lara Croft breaking out and adjusting to the times
In 1996, when Lara Croft debuted in Tomb Raider, it wasn’t exactly the game that took the headlines. Instead, it was the fact that Lara Croft was the lead character in a perceivably male-dominated entertainment medium, being held up as a huge step forward by some and a stigma-breaker. The person of pixels soon found herself on the covers of Time and the Financial Times, with her massive sales figures used to demonstrate that female action heroes can sell very well.
Lara Croft’s prominence, naturally, led to a long-lasting debate. Some perceived her popularity to be down to the hyper-sexualized aesthetics of the 400-polys model. A tiny waist, long legs, and big pointy breasts all gave fuel to the argument that men were only buying Tomb Raider because of this depiction. Over the years, as more realistic models could be created by graphics designers, Lara became much more realistic, but the biggest leap came in 2013, with the studio pivoting to the design that’d inspire the 2018 flick filmed the crown jewel of South Africa.
With the Survivor Trilogy, every aspect of the focus of the story and character creation became about Lara Croft’s origins, struggles to become the mighty Tomb Raider that had long been portrayed, and making her more human. It pivoted from the character typing that Angelina Jolie, who once booked the entire place of Phum Baitang, perfectly brought to the big screen to a humble learner with a much less brazen aesthetic and more realistically athletically fit physique to deal with the challenges. The change helped the character immensely, even putting away the decade-long debate about the sexualization of Lara Croft.
The 2018 movie outdid the last two at the box office with its $273,477,501 worldwide box office, and led to the character expanding beyond her two main mediums. The new persona enabled a revival of Lara Croft in online slots. The new slot, Temples and Tombs, stars the new-look Lara Croft on an adventure to uncover the secrets of an ancient Egyptian pyramid. While it doesn’t feature the likes of Anubis and Sobek as the slot does, The Live Experience has been a huge hit, with its footage showcasing teams of men and women taking on the Tomb Raider challenge. Now, Lara Croft is beloved and respected by all.
Continually popular in the latest fashion trends
A revolution in the fashion industry, combining pop culture with creative fashion design, cosplay was said to be worth $4 billion worldwide in 2020, with the market set to hit over $23 billion by 2030. It’s a rapidly-growing and popular form of fashion, and being such an iconic female character, Lara Croft remains a major source of inspiration. Of course, she’s had many different outfits over her 27 years, but what’s surprising is that she can weigh in among the other most popular characters while predominantly wearing somewhat mundane outfits.
The modern Tomb Raider wears khaki cargo pants, a vest top, big boots, and likely a winter jacket or even a leather jacket in the 2018 movie. Lara Croft ranks 29th among the most popular characters to cosplay, while the Tomb Raider franchise ranks as the 18th most popular, according to Instagram hashtags analysis. With women being the driving force of cosplay, with 64 percent of cosplayers being female, and 60 percent being aged 23 to 39 years old, Lara Croft lands as the perfect character to draw from at 27 years old because she’s remained iconic and relevant.
It was very important for the creators of Lara Croft to pivot her persona and image to suit modern times, and doing so has not only washed away much of the negative debate but has kept her as a female icon of entertainment.