Shoulda seen this one coming....
First and foremost, you should see this clip. It's the "trailer" for the video game "Resident Evil 5", the fifth installment of the popular game series about rampaging zombies and the people who blast them. You do the blasting. Most of the time:
So, as you can see the "new hook" this time seems to be that the story takes place among the more poverty-ravaged parts of Africa (NOTE: the actual location MAY be Port au Prince, Haiti, not Africa,) and features as it's star series-mainstay Chris Redfield, still wearing his police-style S.T.A.R.S. gear. The overriding aesthetic looks to be on the lines of "y'know how the poorest parts of Africa have constant issues with AIDS and other disease outbreaks? Well, what if it's zombies instead!!" Or, to put it another way, players will take the role of a white, military-uniformed hero character in Africa who, at least in the trailer, will have to shoot his way through wave after wave of snarling, beastial, subhumanoid zombie hordes... who are predominantly black African villagers.
Gee... you don't suppose anyone's going to... well... jump to conclusions and have a friggin' COW over this, do you? ;)
Sure enough, GamePolitics (http://gamepolitics.com/2007/08/01/african-womens-blog-critical-of-resident-evil-5-trailer/) and best-gamer-blog-on-the-web Kotaku (http://kotaku.com/gaming/zombie-racism/black-looks-on-re-5-racism-284725.php) are both reporting on the blog BlackLooks (http://www.blacklooks.org/2007/07/resident_evil_5.html) where blogger Kym Platt did, in fact, have a cow... and the following to say about the trailer:
"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."
*Sigh.* School-shootings, bullying, neighborhood violence, obesity... and now RACISM joins the club of "stuff getting blamed on video-games." As you might imagine, the comments section over at BlackLooks got pretty heated once gamer-blogs picked up the story, though it's worth noting that overall the level of discourse was (trust me) quite reasonable and intelligent for a political blog talkback, as gamers mainly took Platt to task for a lack of understanding of the series, conclusion-jumping and the unavoidable question of why she's apparently not bothered by the mass-killing of ALL zombies in video games instead of just the black ones. Unfortunately, despite a (comparitively) low occurance of trolls a flames in the talkback, BlackLooks has (as of this writing) shut down the comments and, thus, the discussion.
For the record: While I "get" where Mrs. Platt is drawing her pre-emptive outrage from, it's jumping the gun, plain and simple. Bottom line is, equality has to cut in multiple directions and NOT all of them positive if it's going to mean anything. Saying that one race shouldn't be placed in villianous roles is the well-meaning flip side of saying that it shouldn't be in heroic roles, and you can't invite one exclusion without letting the other in at the same time. While realizing that personal history DOES matter and perspective is important, if it's 'okay' for the "Blade" films to feature Wesley Snipes' black hero slicing through legions of predominantly white/European vampires, then it also has to be 'okay' for "Resident Evil 5" to have a caucasian hero versus predominantly black zombies. It'd be another story, in both cases, if there WAS a deliberate racial subtext to it... but there wasn't in "Blade" and so far there doesn't seem to be any here.