Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Zombie racism?

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.

10 comments:

Joe said...

It really is ludicrous how people continue to jump the gun over stuff like this. By the way, do they know that the game was made in Japan?

T said...

Perhaps it is pre-emptive (although I'm curious as to how that applies exactly) but considering your example of Blade as depicting equality cutting both ways, can you honestly say you'd have no problem with it if history and entertainment for hundreds of years promoted the image of black people perpetrating violence against horrific savage white people in the name of peace and justice? Supposing the game depicting hundreds of Jewish zombies (which before you say it's ridiculous, there's a movie coming out called Night of the Living Jews about just that... hopefully made by Jewish filmmakers with a sense of humor) which an Aryan-looking hero then had to mow down with automatic weapons? Would citing that as offensive still seem irrational?

You might say that the difference is that there's no racist message intended here and while that's probably true, isn't it at least understandable that the association would still exist for African-American people and black people worldwide after so many years of demonization in mass media who would like to see more positive expressions of their race than a mass of slavering, mindless zombies? It's easy to say equality has to cut both ways if your racial culture haven't been on the short end of it for so long.

joe said...

"You might say that the difference is that there's no racist message intended here and while that's probably true, isn't it at least understandable that the association would still exist for African-American people and black people worldwide after so many years of demonization in mass media who would like to see more positive expressions of their race than a mass of slavering, mindless zombies? It's easy to say equality has to cut both ways if your racial culture haven't been on the short end of it for so long."

I hope you were joking...

T said...

No, I was quite serious. Why?

joe said...

Because you're completely missing two major points about all of this. The two most common sense, get over it and lighten up, points that sort of beg a "chill out"...
1. The last entry in the series took place in ofay Europe where you gunned down countless Spaniards of the White variety.
2. The game was created and developed in Japan. I really don't think it applies the same as if it were made in the USA. What, are the Japanese trying to "make white people rascist from a young age."

The whole thing is more race-baiting by the self appointed "Black Leaders" in order to try and gun up more rascism. If they didn't do this all the time they would be out of a job. Most young black guys are gonna buy this game and either not notice anything wrong, knowing full well that the last one took place in Europe, or maybe make a joke to their friends about how rascist they think the Japanese are. Guess what, they'd be right, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the whole thing is meant to be rascist. It's all quite rediculous in the end. Don't fall into the trap they're trying to lure you into. These people will blow up over anything and the only reason they still register in the news is people try to come up with their own reasons why they shuld be mad.

T said...

I believe you missed my point as well. I stated I don't think there was racist intent here. I don't even particularly perceive it as racist. But can I understand why black people might be offended considering the depiction of blacks in mass media over the years and the fact that it could be seen as reinforcing those stereotypes.

The content of previous games in the series hardly has much relevance since not everyone is going to view it in the context of the series. Hell, this might be the first game Resident Evil game some people pick up. As for your second point, the origin of the game's design is hardly relevant since as I stated, I don't think the game is racist but even if I did, there have been plenty of documented instances of racism against blacks by Japanese people as well.

And if you are in fact black, you may have a point but if not... isn't it a bit arrogant to assume how most black players are going to perceive the game? How can you say unless you come from the background and history that they come from?

And finally, I'm not falling into any trap which I must say comes across as a rather smug statement. I've stated these views and formed my opinions based on my own decisions. Just because they differ from yours doesn't make them or my line of thinking to reach them any less valid.

Joseph Valencia said...

t,

Don't act like this problem is unique to your people. We hispanics have endured an equal share of negative stereotypes. When you see a murderous druglord or a facist militant in an action movie, chances are he's spanish. When Cubans in Miami pleaded with Oliver Stone and Brian de Palma to include positive portrayals of our community in Scarface, they gave us the middle finger and moved the film's production to LA. If Tony Montana were black, I bet it would have been a different story.

The reason I can't identify with the "plight" of the black community is because many of the same bloggers who have touch upon the "racial insensitivity" in the RE5 trailer have also demonstrated indifference to the portrayal of hispanics in the fourth game. The hyprocrisy is just disgusting.

T said...

To clarify,

I'm actually white.

I agree with you in terms of hispanic stereotypes. You can ask Bob about the problems I had with the villain in Bad Boys 2.

I have not yet played the fourth Resident Evil game so I can't comment on that but if hispanics are portrayed in a bad light in that game I'm right with you.

Joseph Valencia said...

My bad.

I personally wasn't offended by the portrayal of hispanics in RE4, nor am I one to be offended by stereotypes in popular entertainment. I'm just pissed at how a lot of people in this debate brush over the fact they liked RE4 by implying that shooting spanish people isn't as disturbing as shooting black people. It reeks of dishonesty and double-standards.

T said...

Fair enough.