Re-sounding the Gendered Hero in the Voice of Lara Croft
This chapter argues that the vocal performance of Lara Croft’s character in Tomb Raider 2013 manifests a particular type of media femininity requiring her fear and fragility and contrasts with similar games featuring male leads. Extending the discussion of the male gaze to sound brings new insight to the relationships between a character’s look, her movements and mechanics, and her vocalizations, to embody the character’s gender or act as gendered corporeality. The chapter argues that by virtue of being sound “effects,” women’s voices and feminized sounds in games draw on and solidify some of the most deeply entrenched gendered norms of sound design and voice-over work. Lara Croft’s excessive breathiness, as well as the overuse of environmental reverberation, codes her gendered sonic position as “feminized.” Players experience Lara Croft’s vocalizations as coded with abundant emotionality and fragility—sounds of strain, inner monologue, gasps, reactions, and battle cries—especially when compared with a similar narrative and game character, Nathan Drake, from the Uncharted series. By comparing the gendered sonic positioning of Lara and Nathan, the chapter shows her embodied vocal fragility by linking these characteristics to a transmedia historiography of feminized vocal typologies.
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