8. Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Sexist Fantasy?

In this episode Janine Engelbrecht talks about the famous video game heroine, Lara Croft. She discusses the old version of Lara Croft, and addresses the question we have all asked ourselves: Is she a feminist icon, or is she a sexist fantasy?

The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
8. Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Sexist Fantasy?

What’s in Episode 8, “Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Sexist Fantasy?”


Janine welcomes listeners and announces that The Sci-Fi Feminist will be moving from Anchor to Holosuite Media.

She also asks listeners to support her YouTube channel so that she can reach 1000 subscribers and monetise her account.

Janine’s personal history with Lara Croft

Janine explains how she got to know Lara Croft when she was 8 years old. She provides her personal account of studying Tomb Raider in her honours and master’s degrees in University. “I feel like we’re basically best friends”, Janine notes about her relationship with Lara Croft.

Old and new Lara

Janine explains how and why she divided the representation of Lara Croft into old Lara and new Lara. In today’s episode, Janine will be talking about old Lara and postfeminism, she notes.

Old Lara

Janine first encourages listeners to read her academic paper on Lara Croft if they like. She then gives background on Lara Croft and why Lara is so significant. Janine then talks about old Lara’s representation – her sexy body and skimpy outfit.


Like she does in the Wonder Woman episode, Janine provides all the key premises of postfeminism. Janine also gives some background on the first, second and third waves of feminism before talking about postfeminism. She then tries to map postfeminism’s relationship to other feminisms. Postfeminism is “kind of dodgy” is Janine’s conclusion.

The postfeminist Supergirl

Janine elaborates on Stephanie Genz’s notion of the “postfeminist Supergirl”. She then explains how old Lara is the epitome of the Supergirl in popular culture. The Supergirl, Janine elaborates, is masculine in her actions, but hyper-feminine in her looks.

Old Lara as a Supergirl

Like the Supergirl, old Lara is both a feminist icon and a sexist fantasy, as Janine explains. Here Janine reviews some of the main theories about old Lara. This includes old Lara’s translatability, her sexuality, and so forth. Janine briefly talks about the infamous ‘Nude Raider’ mod as well.

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft

Janine talks about Christina Stasia’s analysis of the Tomb Raider movies featuring Angelina Jolie. She briefly makes a comparison between old Lara and Katniss Everdeen too.

The contradictions of the Supergirl

Janine concludes this overall discussion by explaining how Lara is ultimately “unthreatening because she’s the impossible ideal”. For Janine, the type of woman that old Lara represent is idealised and does not exist, which is problematic.

Old Lara as femme fatale

Janine briefly notes what old Lara has in common with the 1950s femme fatale in cinema.

The relationship between film and video game Lara

The interesting relationship that old Lara has with real-life Lara Croft models and with Angelina Jolie is discussed. As Janine notes, when she was 8 years old, she thought that Angelina Jolie was really Lara Croft. The controversy regarding Rhona Mitra as a Lara Croft model is also briefly explored here.

Lara as a digital star

The final aspect of old Lara that Janine discusses is her digital stardom. As Janine explains, Mary Flanagan considers old Lara the first digital star in history because of her translatability.

Wrap up

Janine concludes by stating that old Lara is, like Wonder Woman, both a feminist icon and sexist fantasy. She thanks listeners for listening and live long and prosper!

Episode Credits


  • Janine Engelbrecht


  • Janine Engelbrecht

Small Print

The theme music is "Dashboard Light" by One Two Feet, and is licenced by Holosuite Media through Epidemic Sound.

This podcast is a fan production. All views made are that of the individual(s), and may not represent that of the podcast, or the Holosuite Media network.

The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
8. Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Sexist Fantasy?