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Resident Evil Five and Racism

CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
edited February 2009 in Games and Technology
I think this deserves its own thread. A mod can lock it if not.
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/resident-evil-5-hands-on-chapter1to3?page=3
There's also the spectre of the old racism debate, hovering the background. That debate is only going to get louder and more urgent once the game is released, and is being covered beyond the cosy world of the specialist gaming press, since there's imagery in here that goes beyond the general air of foreign menace that caused a ruckus in the first trailers.

One of the first things you see in the game, seconds after taking control of Chris Redfield, is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it's never revealed, but these are not infected Majini. There are no red bloodshot eyes. These are ordinary Africans, who stop and stare at you menacingly as you approach. Since the Majini are not undead corpses, and are capable of driving vehicles, handling weapons and even using guns, it makes the line between the infected monsters and African civilians uncomfortably vague. Where Africans are concerned, the game seems to be suggesting, bloodthirsty savagery just comes with the territory.
'Resident Evil 5' Screenshot 5

Later on, there's a cut-scene of a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men. When you attempt to rescue her, she's been turned and must be killed. If this has any relevance to the story it's not apparent in the first three chapters, and it plays so blatantly into the old clichés of the dangerous "dark continent" and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s. That Sheva neatly fits the approved Hollywood model of the light-skinned black heroine, and talks more like Lara Croft than her thickly-accented foes, merely compounds the problem rather than easing it. There are even more outrageous and outdated images to be found later in the game, stuff that I was honestly surprised to see in 2009, but Capcom has specifically asked that details of these scenes remain under wraps for now, whether for these reasons we don't know.

There will be plenty of people who refuse to see anything untoward in this material. "It wasn't racist when the enemies were Spanish in Resident Evil 4," goes the argument, but then the Spanish don't have the baggage of being stereotyped as subhuman animals for the past two hundred years. It's perfectly possible to use Africa as the setting for a powerful and troubling horror story, but when you're applying the concept of people being turned into savage monsters onto an actual ethnic group that has long been misrepresented as savage monsters, it's hard to see how elements of race weren't going to be a factor.

All it will take is for one mainstream media outlet to show the heroic Chris Redfield stamping on the face of a black woman, splattering her skull, and the controversy over Manhunt 2 will seem quaint by comparison. If we're going to accept this sort of imagery in games then questions are going be asked, these questions will have merit, and we're going to need a more convincing answer than "lol it's just a game."
Capcom has to realize how much potential controversy this has. Regardless of whether it is intentional, it does seem to use racist imagery like Croal said.

Couscous on
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Posts

  • KarlKarl Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Well no one in spain got thier knickers in a twist about RE4 did they?

    The only people here who do will be people who actually haven't played the game. Just like with mass effect.

    Spoiler:
  • cloudeaglecloudeagle Zhu-Li, do the thing! Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Exactly. If people can freak out over implied alien sex in Mass Effect (that turned out to be harmless), they can freak out over this. Mark my words, somebody's going to raise a stink.

    Edit: Karl, read the OP again. There's a reason no one in Spain cared about RE4.

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  • LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I wonder if the bad guy leader is going to be white. I think that'd raise even more awkwardness (sup Kurtz?) and really hope that isn't the case.

    I can see where the author is coming from, and wonder if campcom did this intentionally or it's just a side affect of their Japanese backgrounds.

  • troublebrewingtroublebrewing Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    this is stupid.

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  • KageraKagera Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Is it racist if it actually happens?

    I mean, I'm pretty sure there's violence in Africa.

    Or, you know, anywhere humans are.

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  • darleysamdarleysam Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    It's not stupid, it's asking for trouble.

  • cloudeaglecloudeagle Zhu-Li, do the thing! Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    See, they could have gotten around this by having you team up with an actual African woman, but Sheva's so light-skinned, I didn't realize she was black until I read this article. Yet none of the infected seem anywhere close to that light-skinned.

    I doubt it was intentional at all, but this is going to go bad places.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The main thing in RE4 that could be considered very offensive against the Spanish might be that the dungeon was too much like something out of the inquisition. The village was supposed to be a backwater village with the regular Spanish guys that got killed off at the beginning. In RE5, you have a sidekick who looks like she got dipped in tea.

    There is a reason why Far Cry 2 didn't cause nearly as much controversy among gamers.

  • EndomaticEndomatic Registered User
    edited February 2009
    I mean, I'm pretty sure there's violence in Africa.

    Probably the reason it's in the game. Some people will choose to look further than that and imply that Capcom did the same.

    I'm sure someone has been placed in a sack and beaten somewhere in Africa throughout history.

  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    this is stupid.

    I agree.

    There are only going to be 3 types of people that will raise a stink about this game.

    White people who have way to much white guilt over slavery.

    Black people who act like slavery was 20 years ago.

    and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson

    The average, intelligent American, no matter their skin hue, will give no thought to some perceived nonsense about a work of fiction.

    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
  • CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    In the demo all the badguys have bright red eyes to make it clears they're all no longer human, and shit, they threw in a lot more white people in the crowd. They need to shut the hell up.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The average, intelligent American, no matter their skin hue, will give no thought to some perceived nonsense about a work of fiction.
    Man, Birth of a Nation and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips was awesome.

  • LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    cloudeagle wrote: »
    See, they could have gotten around this by having you team up with an actual African woman, but Sheva's so light-skinned, I didn't realize she was black until I read this article. Yet none of the infected seem anywhere close to that light-skinned.

    I doubt it was intentional at all, but this is going to go bad places.

    It almost certainly was intentional. Hollywood does this all the time. It's basically a concept known as 'but not too black'. In which you get some black characters with a really light skin tone, so they attract a black audience, without being too black that the white audience is turned off by them.

  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    ITT we don't make it to page two before someone Godwins it?

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  • EchoEcho very gravitas Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited February 2009
    Leitner wrote: »
    It almost certainly was intentional. Hollywood does this all the time. It's basically a concept known as 'but not too black'. In which you get some black characters with a really light skin tone, so they attract a black audience, without being too black that the white audience is turned off by them.

    Hey, if it works for the president...

    And no, I don't see the outrage when you're doing pretty much the same things as in RE4.

  • cloudeaglecloudeagle Zhu-Li, do the thing! Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Leitner wrote: »
    cloudeagle wrote: »
    See, they could have gotten around this by having you team up with an actual African woman, but Sheva's so light-skinned, I didn't realize she was black until I read this article. Yet none of the infected seem anywhere close to that light-skinned.

    I doubt it was intentional at all, but this is going to go bad places.

    It almost certainly was intentional. Hollywood does this all the time. It's basically a concept known as 'but not too black'. In which you get some black characters with a really light skin tone, so they attract a black audience, without being too black that the white audience is turned off by them.

    Well, by "intentional" I meant "blatant racism." But you're exactly right, Sheva just having a light tan is likely the result of not wanting to offend picky white people.

    And the red eyes won't do squat to prevent griping. "Holy shit, they made black people into demons!"

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  • KageraKagera Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    And you would have done the same in RE 1, 2, and 3 had RE4 been the first game in the series.

    Also...Sheva is black? I thought she was Hispanic.

    “This is America. We’re entitled to our opinions.”
    “Wrong. This is Texas. And my opinion is the only one that counts."
  • darleysamdarleysam Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Like the article says in closing, if we're going to have images like this in games, we're going to need better justification for it than "it's just a game!".

    Sure "it's probably happened at some point in Africa, chill out" might be true, but it's hardly a stellar reason.

  • mystic_knightmystic_knight Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So racism against Spanish people is okay because they weren't treated like animals by white people?


    Racism is fucking racism. There isn't any racism that is better than others. Oh, that Spanish guy with an axe sure is funny. Oh, ha ha, white people have flat asses and good credit. Oh, ha ha, what makes the red man red, indeed, Disney's Peter Pan. Don't come tell me RE5 is racist and ignore 50 Cent's game because it's the other way around.

    People need to stop being so upset by matters of race. Calling out everything that could be racist in some form is just another form of racism, you're still treating people differently because the color of their skin. These people wouldn't be getting upset if Chris was shooting white people, and THAT is actually racist.

  • troublebrewingtroublebrewing Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    darleysam wrote: »
    Like the article says in closing, if we're going to have images like this in games, we're going to need better justification for it than "it's just a game!".

    Sure "it's probably happened at some point in Africa, chill out" might be true, but it's hardly a stellar reason.

    I don't think there needs to be any justification at all.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So racism against Spanish people is okay because they weren't treated like animals by white people?
    The Spanish people are a race now? The villagers were implied to have been perfectly normal people in an extremely rural area... with a large military base and a huge castle. Nobody accused RE4 of having a good plot. I think Spain is generally touchy about the inquisition and the dungeon might have used that kind of imagery. I don't see much else. I don't think many people have any stereotypes of Spanish people other than as speaking in funny accents, being sexy, and the inquisition.

  • XtarathXtarath Registered User
    edited February 2009
    So racism against Spanish people is okay because they weren't treated like animals by white people?


    Racism is fucking racism. There isn't any racism that is better than others. Oh, that Spanish guy with an axe sure is funny. Oh, ha ha, white people have flat asses and good credit. Oh, ha ha, what makes the red man red, indeed, Disney's Peter Pan. Don't come tell me RE5 is racist and ignore 50 Cent's game because it's the other way around.

    People need to stop being so upset by matters of race. Calling out everything that could be racist in some form is just another form of racism, you're still treating people differently because the color of their skin. These people wouldn't be getting upset if Chris was shooting white people, and THAT is actually racist.

    Quoting this so I don't repeat it in slightly diffrent words.

  • The_ScarabThe_Scarab Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    scarab you have mental problems
  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Man you know what could have solved all this?

    If resident evil made their zombies fucking zombies seriously, they've been leeches, Plagas, nano-whosits... I loved RE4, but I kind of think it would have been cooler with actual rotting-flesh zombies powered by dark forces.

  • cloudeaglecloudeagle Zhu-Li, do the thing! Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    Actually N'Gai Croal is one of the most respected game journalists out there. When he talks, people listen.

    And sure, if you know the plot of the game you know it's not intended to be racist, but you expect people to take the time and learn the plot before reacting? Imagery is powerful, and it'll almost certainly overwhelm the context here.

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  • DashuiDashui Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The game takes place in Africa. What do people expect the natives to look like? Purple? Green? I really don't think Capcom is one for blatant racism.

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  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    Croal is also a hack journalist?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1W6aPbZ9c&feature=related
    The game has spear chuckers wearing grass skirts at 2:30.

  • chamberlainchamberlain Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Man you know what could have solved all this?

    If resident evil made their zombies fucking zombies seriously, they've been leeches, Plagas, nano-whosits... I loved RE4, but I kind of think it would have been cooler with actual rotting-flesh zombies powered by dark forces.

    The pro-zombie movement is coming for you. You hate zombies and want to kill them? What about their rights?!You are worse then hitler.

    The list never changes: http://www.infinitebacklog.com
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  • The_ScarabThe_Scarab Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    cloudeagle wrote: »
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    Actually N'Gai Croal is one of the most respected game journalists out there. When he talks, people listen.

    And sure, if you know the plot of the game you know it's not intended to be racist, but you expect people to take the time and learn the plot before reacting? Imagery is powerful, and it'll almost certainly overwhelm the context here.

    The OP is not Croal.

    He had a similar article a while back that was against comments of racism, merely highlighting how some people might perceive it as racist imagery, but they shouldn't.

    I know who N'Gai is.

    scarab you have mental problems
  • XtarathXtarath Registered User
    edited February 2009
    Couscous wrote: »
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    Croal is also a hack journalist?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1W6aPbZ9c&feature=related
    The game has spear chuckers wearing grass skirts at 2:30.



    So did Indiana Jones.

  • kriegskriegs Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Kagera wrote: »
    Is it racist if it actually happens?

    I mean, I'm pretty sure there's violence in Africa.

    Or, you know, anywhere humans are.

    Beat me to it. Hell, Manhunt was totally racist against white people, doing all that killing and whatnot. White people are so violent, clearly.
    Spoiler:

    This entire issue is ridiculous. As with every other game EVER that had a controversy like this, what is going to happen? Nothing. People will bitch and moan, but ultimately nothing will happen.

  • GlalGlal Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Echo wrote: »
    Leitner wrote: »
    It almost certainly was intentional. Hollywood does this all the time. It's basically a concept known as 'but not too black'. In which you get some black characters with a really light skin tone, so they attract a black audience, without being too black that the white audience is turned off by them.
    Hey, if it works for the president...
    And no, I don't see the outrage when you're doing pretty much the same things as in RE4.
    As in, "the public didn't care with RE4, so they won't we RE5" or "if it was okay in RE4 it means it's okay in RE5" or what?

  • InzignaInzigna Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I don't know much about Africa, but I'm assuming that everyone else EXCEPT Africa is making a huge fuss about it. If it's true, I find it extremely amusing.

    camo_sig2.png
  • CrazybearCrazybear Registered User
    edited February 2009
    I think we need to wait until the full game is out and all the scenes in the game have been viewed before passing too much judgement.

    I mean the article is hinting at some scenes later in the game that are really bad, but we have no idea what they are.

    But have we come to a point where someone can't produce a work of fiction that shows people of color in a negative light without people screaming racism? I mean, the game is set in Africa, there are black people in Africa, hence the bad guys just might happen to be black. And yes, the main character is going to have to kill them as part of the game.

    So what is the answer? Never set any kind of game in Africa ever?

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  • urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I have a friend who I talk with about this sort of stuff, who is black. Obviously since I'm white it's really hard to know how it would feel for that sort of thing. I mean, 99% of all games the bad guys that I shoot are normally white. Now here comes this game that introduces people from Africa and we have to shoot them as a white character.

    My friend said it shouldn't be a big deal overall, but it will probably end up that way. He played the demo with me and said it was a little odd at first because he's never really played a game where he's shooting other black people. But really, it's a moot point. Because if they would have colored their skin white, it would be the exact same game.

    But people will make a HUGE deal out of this issue and Capcom will get hurt by it I'm sure.

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  • GyralGyral Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I'm calling it now: Resident Evil 6 to feature Muslim/Arab Not-Zombies and the final boss is Mohammad. That's probably the only way Capcom tops the fervor over RE5.

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  • InzignaInzigna Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Shoot the white Africans, that's the way to go.

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  • wasted pixelswasted pixels Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The trouble here is that everybody involved -- from your typical PAer to N'Gai Croal -- can recognize that there's no actual racist intent in any of this, but it's still causing controversy because of "how it looks". Nobody is saying "this is bad because it is racist", it's always "this is bad because it could be mistakenly perceived as racist by people less familiar with the source material".

    That's a motherfucker of a slippery slope right there.

    BTW, I got a message from Obs that equated installing OS X on a PC with car theft, murder and rape. Is he normally like that?
  • DusT_HounDDusT_HounD Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    "One of the first things you see in the game, seconds after taking control of Chris Redfield, is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it's never revealed, but these are not infected Majini. There are no red bloodshot eyes. These are ordinary Africans, who stop and stare at you menacingly as you approach. Since the Majini are not undead corpses, and are capable of driving vehicles, handling weapons and even using guns, it makes the line between the infected monsters and African civilians uncomfortably vague. Where Africans are concerned, the game seems to be suggesting, bloodthirsty savagery just comes with the territory."

    Er, didn't the villagers at the start of RE4 seem pretty normal, staring menacingly at you, using weapons and driving vehicles? I thought they only broke out with the redeye after dark?

    Or would that just upset the whole argument?

  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    cloudeagle wrote: »
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Yeah, this isn't racism.

    It's a bunch of hack journalists wanting controversy where there is none.


    It's a horror game. Black/white/hispanic or whatever the villagers are going to be fucking creepy.

    Actually N'Gai Croal is one of the most respected game journalists out there. When he talks, people listen.

    And sure, if you know the plot of the game you know it's not intended to be racist, but you expect people to take the time and learn the plot before reacting? Imagery is powerful, and it'll almost certainly overwhelm the context here.

    The OP is not Croal.

    He had a similar article a while back that was against comments of racism, merely highlighting how some people might perceive it as racist imagery, but they shouldn't.

    I know who N'Gai is.
    http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2008/04/10/newsweeks-ngai-croal-on-the-resident-evil-5-trailer-this-imagery-has-a-history/
    I think, again, the point is not that Capcom can’t or shouldn’t make a zombie game set in what appears to be an impoverished country where the majority of residents are black. I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is that if I was Capcom, I wouldn’t have suggested to put out that trailer. I would have said, “You know what, this has tremendous capacity for being misunderstood, and we want to signal that this is not what you might think it is” — and they didn’t do that. That’s what I’m saying.
    “This imagery has a history. It has a history and you can’t pretend otherwise.”

    It’s like when you engage that kind of imagery you have to be careful with it. It would be like saying you were going to do some sort of zombie movie that appeared to be set in Europe in the 1940’s with skinny, emaciated, Hasidic-looking people. If you put up that imagery people would be saying, “Are you crazy?” Well, that’s what this stuff looks like. This imagery has a history. It has a history and you can’t pretend otherwise. That imagery still has a history that has to be engaged, that has to be understood. If you’re going to tread, if you’re going to engage imagery that has that potential, the onus is on the creator to be aware of that because there will be repercussions in the marketplace.

    I don’t know how Capcom feels about it. I think releasing that game is going to be very difficult. I think there are people and organizations who aren’t very understanding of games that if that imagery is brought to them they’re going to be like, “Wait, hold up. I don’t know how you could put that out.” Then you have to say, “Does Wal-Mart want to deal with that? Does Target want to deal with that?” I’m not saying that censorship is the answer. I’m saying that the same rights that allow Capcom to put the game out are the same rights that allow people to bring pressure on people who might release that game. This is why it is important to whoever works in the American office of a company like Capcom to be able to show this is the history, this is where this comes from, this is where we need to be more sensitive. I’m not sure they’ve done that yet.
    He doesn't say it is racist, but he does say it has a history, and they should be very careful not to offend people.

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