PS3 Attitude

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Friday, 9 May 2008

Racism in Resident Evil 5? We think not...

This website is called PS3 Attitude for a reason - I guess it's about time we exhibited the 'attitude' part of the title...

Cast your mind back to E3 2007. The Resident Evil 5 trailer was shown for the first time to the masses.

I have a question for you.

What did you see when you watched the trailer?

I will answer that question myself before this article is finished, but let's just put this trailer in the correct frame to begin with.

This is Resident Evil 5. The clue is in the name. It's not actually the fifth game in the series (there are more than that, of course) but it is a continuation of a well-known franchise.

The location is E3 2007. It's a gaming show. It's all about the games.

So this trailer doesn't need to fill us in with reams of back-story detail about 'good vs. evil' or 'humans vs. zombies'. We don't need to know that a virus is killing humans off only to bring them back as the undead, because we gamers already know this. And the location of the premiere of this trailer put the message out loud and clear to the correct target audience.

But in the 21st Century, such trailers don't stay local for long. The Internet made the trailer, and the subsequent 'extended version' available to the masses.

What did 'Black Looks'1, a blog devoted to African women, see when they watched the trailer back in July 2007?

“The new Resident Evil video game depicts a white man in what appears to be Africa killing Black people."

"This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people."

This view of the trailer is, in my opinion, a racist view. I'll explain why later.

Of course, the view of the Black Looks blog writer is inaccurate in any case. The story of RE5 is set in Haiti, not Africa. The game is going to be 18-rated and 'M for Mature', so it is not marketed to children or young adults.

What did Ragnhild Mogren, a teacher at Stockholm University and being interviewed by kezins.com2, see when she watched the trailer?

"Question: What does a person with no understanding of the Resident Evil franchise, as a game series, think about this piece of film?"

"Answer: If I should interpret this trailer from a hermeneutic perspective, that my previous understanding and knowledge plays a huge part in what I actually see here, then this piece of film is very racist."

Hermeneutics is an ancient term and was originally the development/study of theories around the interpretation and understanding of writings. The word is being used in a broader sense here, but the view of Ms. Mogren is still a racist view. Again, I'll explain why later.

What did N’Gai Croal3, Newsweek's gaming journalist, see when he watched the trailer?

"I looked at the Resident Evil 5 trailer and I was like, 'Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game'. The point isn’t that you can’t have black zombies. There was a lot of imagery in that trailer that dovetailed with classic racist imagery. What was not funny, but sort of interesting, was that there were so many gamers who could not at all see it. Like literally couldn’t see it. So how could you have a conversation with people who don’t understand what you’re talking about and think that you’re sort of seeing race where nothing exists?"

"This trailer says to me that the black people here are portrayed as Neanderthals, quite frankly. This white figure, on the other hand, is very good looking in terms of the norms and rules of what a good looking man is supposed to look like in our society, even if it’s completely unrealistic. The trailer shows political power in that it presents a sense of historical colonial suppression."

Of course, N'Gai is wrong and, I have to report, this is a racist view also. I'll explain why in just a moment.

In terms of his specific points, it worries me that he believes certain characters in the game are portrayed as Neanderthals. They happen to be Haitians who have contracted a deadly virus and are, to all intents and purposes, 'dead men/women/children walking'.

I've seen people look worse than this when all they have is the 'flu.

Their race is not the reason they don't look so good - the fact that they're infected and zombified are the reasons they look a bit 'peaky'.

And yes - the imagery does have history. A terrible, horrific history perpetrated by truly evil people. But perpetuating the mistakes of the past and attributing images to times gone by are the not the way forward for society. Let me explain by telling you...

What did I see when I watched the trailer?

I'm a gamer. I understand the RE series. I know the story. The location of the trailer's premiere targeted me personally.

But even despite all the back-story knowledge and the targeted advertising, there is one thing that makes my view of the trailer different to all the people mentioned above.

I truly didn't see the colour of any character's skin.

I saw 'good vs. evil'.

I saw a man trying to stop the onslaught of a deadly virus that could wipe out humanity.

I saw a character with the drive and heroism to attempt to save us all from evil.

I didn't see black. I didn't see white. I didn't see slavery or oppression.

So I ask, who, out of all the people who have discussed the trailer (including myself), are the racists?

Comments please.

Black Looks blog
Part 1 of an interview at
MTV multiplayer interview with N'Gai Croal

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Blogger Torey said...

Isn't the setting in Africa or something? Now I have never been there... but I am pretty sure there are not very many white people. I feel they were trying to be realistic in this game. I mean... big surprise... a US military man fighting in another country... "hard to believe".

09 May 2008 14:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that white people are always racist. They need to just shut up and take it. Those days are over and anyway in africa is blacks killing blacks not white killing blacks. Maybe we should change the lead character to a black dude

09 May 2008 14:19  
Blogger Torey said...

I agree... I think it would be more "politically correct" to have a black US military man. If they did... then end of discussion.

09 May 2008 14:26  
Anonymous Ganaesh D. said...

I'm a gamer. Whether I'm a pro at it or not is not the question here. The only game from the RE series that I've played extensively is RE4, but I've read and seen enough of the game to know the general summary of the series.

So what did I gather from the trailer? Very simple. I saw a game that, if developed properly, has the ability to get my heart pumping, make me curse and scream and generally scare the shit out of me (which is what an RE game, and by that extension, all horror games are supposed to do).

No racism was evident. Nothing of that sort. I guess this is one of those things that you could only truly "get" if you're a gamer... but N'Gai Croal is a gamer, too. Why did he misinterpret it?

An interesting question that will undoubtedly cast unnecessary negative light on what is shaping up to be an impressive game.

09 May 2008 14:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people make me sick. It's a damn video game. Grow the fuck up. He's killing the people who are infected, you morons. Besides it was a damn trailer, RE4 had all kinds of colored people, guess what language they spoke, spanish. Please do all of us true gamers a favor, stay away from our video games, because you people take blow something that doesn't make sense out of proportion.

09 May 2008 14:54  
Blogger Torey said...

"You people make me sick."

Who are you referring to when you say "you people make me sick"? If you are going to make a comment... why hide behind your Anonymous name? Attitudes like that are why there is racism in the first place.

09 May 2008 15:00  
Anonymous Paul said...

Wow...I can't believe that people can be so damn childish still. Ofcourse there's another attack on a video game b/c someone is to fucking close minded to understand what is going on. Of course people are saying that this is racist b/c black people can't just GROW THE FUCK UP!!! Get over the slavery bullshit that happened hundreds of years ago. When is that shit ever going to blow over? Is thousands of generations going to be set back b/c some fucking racist finatics and stop being idiots? What about all the black rights that black people have? Haven't we given them enough for them to stop bitching about this? Jesus christ some people are just pathetic.

09 May 2008 15:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off Iam "black" and that trailer didn't offend me!...but i could see where it got out of hand...RE has always been the best franchise to date. But be realistic "ITS A GAME" not a racists wet dream by far alot of games are racist in this century GTA being 1 i truly understand the controversy surrounding this game and i hope it clears soon! a gamer would see it for what it is..a game...only the ignorant would see it for more than what it is.

09 May 2008 15:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius(me): So basically every one who says this is racists says if your in Africa where the game is set and everyone turns into zombies then you better make damn sure that the only zombies you kill are the zombies the same colour as you.You see the thing is if you were put in this as a real life situation and you were white, then I'm pretty sure your motive for killing the zombies trying to kill you would be to save yourself not a racist attack. I talk to a black man in my work and told him about this game, the "anti-racist" views on it and he says that's Bull$*** , he says that he totally agrees with my view, colour isn't always a motive it could be over a girl it could be over a car accident, but they always label it as a hate crime: Its time to stop splitting people in to groups, all hate crime laws and anti racist do is support the idea that blacks are different from whites. It isn't about race only someone who was racist would think Resident evil is about the colour of your skin.

09 May 2008 16:41  
Anonymous Reesimo said...

The setting is Africa, right? I think they have a couple black people there, if I'm not mistaken. Chris has always been white, hasn't he? Or did he pull a Michael Jackson? I'm kinda black myself--mom's white and dad's black/American Indian. I didn't feel threatened when I watched the trailer. I didn't feel that the trailer was in any way racist. But I understand why some consider it racist. It's simple. There are a lot of stupid people in this world. That's it.

10 May 2008 21:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

being a gamer has nothing 2 do with it asshole... every 1 has there own opinion... im sure if ur great great grandpa was beaten evervday by a white man u wud c da trailer differently...stop looking at it frum a game prospective and look at it from a regular 1... there iz no doubt the trailer iz racist tho that waz probably not RE5 intentions

11 May 2008 07:30  
Blogger Raedyn said...

As Reesimo said... there are a lot of stupid people. The last anonomous comment poster is one of them. Idiot.

11 May 2008 18:05  

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