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Racism In Resident Evil 5 27 Posts
Kratos

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23 October 2007 @ 8:21pm
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Racism In Resdient Evil 5

I wasn't sure if I should post this in the Gaming forums, seeing as it pertains to a video game. But seeing as it concerns racism as the main discussion, I posted it here. This is pretty interesting.

Only one of these scenes is controversial.I've been thinking for a while about how best to address the controversy surrounding the recently-released Resident Evil 5 trailer. The trailer, which depicts Chris Redfield (a white male) shooting black zombies in what appears to be Africa, has raised more than a few eyebrows. Kim Platt is one of many people who find the trailer disgustingly racist, and you can read her thoughts on the matter at her blog Black Looks. Racism is such an inflammatory topic here in America that I've thought pretty long and hard about how best to discuss this matter here without the debate degrading into personal attacks. I think that the problems that this country has with racism and bigotry are extremely important to discuss, but the internet has proven to be full of really offensive people, so I hesitated before posting this. Still, it's such an important topic that I don't think I can really ignore it.



Briefly, I want to describe the criticism against the trailer as I understand it. As Platt puts it, the trailer 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." I'm going to set aside the "marketed to children and young adults" part of her complaint for the moment, as it's a common stereotype that many non-gamers hold and doesn't really pertain to the real discussion here. Platt is echoing the reactions that many people have when they see the Resident Evil 5 trailer: a white guy shooting mindless black dudes is not socially acceptable in American society.

There are a few things I want to say about this controversy. We have had a pretty interesting discussion about this on the forum, and I want to sort of collapse my rambling posts from that thread into something more coherent here.

The first thing I want to talk about is culture clash. When I first moved to Japan in the late 1990s, I slowly experienced the sensation known as culture shock. In my case, it was a feeling of being perpetually off-balance, and it was caused by curious juxtapositions or behaviors of people in Japan that I couldn't quite explain. I made the mistake most people make when they visit a foreign country: I mistook superficial similarities in my own culture and the Japanese culture as proof that the people in Japan operate pretty much the same as people in America. I saw neat buildings and neon lights and people going to work every day and figured that Japan was pretty much like America except that they drive on the other side of the street. Culture shock began to take hold as I realized that while Japanese people do many of the same things Americans do, they don't necessarily do them for the same reasons. The critical mistake I had made was the assumption that I could look upon some superficial Japanese thing or event and somehow divine what the motivation behind it was. I can do this in America, but I eventually realized that I can't do it with any level of reliability in Japan.

Since then I've become a lot more conscious about how things I consider to be "common sense" may not actually be all that common outside of my home country. And that is why I don't believe that the people who made the Resident Evil 5 trailer are trying to be racist, even unconsciously. It's true that depicting a white man shooting African villagers is unacceptable in American society, but this video isn't the product of American people. America has a terrible history of racism, slavery, and subjugation, and our continued struggle with these issues as a culture is reflected in this controversy: clearly, the video invokes images that remind people of a not-so-distant past where this sort of thing may have happened not to zombies, but to real, living people. But the people who made the game that this video comes from have none of that history; Japan has its own set of problems with racism and xenophobia, but they are not the same shape as America's.

I think that people like Platt find the trailer so disgusting because they assume that anybody with common sense would understand that these sorts of images are bound to offend, and therefore they conclude that the people who made the video must be intentionally trying to offend--it seems like unabashed racism. But I think Platt has made the same mistake I did back in Japan: she assumes to understand Capcom's intent because she assumes that the cultural signals she is receiving are the same ones that were intended to be sent. But this isn't necessarily true; when dealing with a different culture, I don't think you can make any assumptions about what "common sense" is. And if you don't understand the motivation behind the work, I don't think you can justify the extremely serious allegation of racism.

Please note that I'm not trying to argue that the RE5 trailer isn't offensive. People take offense at things based on their personal sensibilities, and I'm not about to tell anybody that they are wrong to be offended by anything. It's your personal prerogative to be offended about whatever you want. And frankly, I do understand what Platt is talking about; the trailer does invoke images that make me uncomfortable, but because I don't really know what the creators of the trailer are thinking, I think that discomfort says more about me and my culture than it does about them.

I also think it is fair to fault Capcom for not being more sensitive to their target audience. They should have anticipated this sort of response, and while I don't think it's fair to call them racist, I do think that the label of insensitive and clumsy is appropriate. Resident Evil is not their only problem either: they recently removed an Islamic phrase (link requires Gamasutra account) from one of their other games after they received complains from Muslims. But I think that there is a huge difference between racism--the purposeful propagation of a negative or dehumanizing stereotype--and inadvertently offending people because of cultural insensitivity.

I also want to talk very briefly about the trailer itself. I want to note that this entire controversy is based on about 30 seconds of footage from a game that we know nothing about and that isn't scheduled for release until 2009. I also think that people too quickly overlook the content of the game itself. While it might seem like shooting zombies is a pretty straight-forward video game premise, it is worth remembering that Night of the Living Dead, the film that spawned the zombie genre as we know it today, is a pretty damning commentary on race relations in America. Given how little we know about Resident Evil 5, I think it's a bit premature to make judgments about it, especially considering the roots of the zombie genre.

One last point to make here. After Kim Platt wrote about her reaction to the Resident Evil 5 footage, her blog became the target of angry gamers who left a barrage of extremely offensive comments. To the people who posted those comments: you are the problem with this country. It's not video games that perpetuate racism, it's assholes like you! People like you give the rest of us gamers a bad name, and you are actively contributing to one of the central problems in America today. What century do you think this is? Shame on you.



Since I know you weren't trying to claim this as your own I helped you out by putting it in quotes. Next time be more careful when referencing someone else's work.—Ess

Here is a link to the RE5 trailer in question. The footage shown is AMAZING!

http://www.gamersyde.com/stream_4151_en.html

Thoughts? Comments?

b00ger

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23 October 2007 @ 9:23pm
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Very interesting topic Kratos.
Well personally I'm all against racism in video games and in general. After reading your post, I really can't tell either whether Capcom is being racist or not. I suppose that this is a mere coincidence; that the storyline takes place in Africa, in a village where black people live, and they turn t zombies...etc... In this case, Capcom did not mean to be racist. I think this makes sence this some Resident Evil stories took place in American cities like RE1,2,3 and others like RE4 took place in Europe. And maybe Capcom didnt mean to make black people look "mindless", because zombies are usually mindless whatever their skin color is.
Either ways, Capcom should have been more careful and could have forseen the controversies that this footage might result.

Mortal WombatAdmin

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23 October 2007 @ 9:36pm
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How is it racist? Most people in Africa are black...if a black protagonist was shooting at the white townspeople in RE4 is that racist too? Some people just go too far.

squib

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23 October 2007 @ 11:03pm
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I don't think its racist.

Shooting Spaniards is ok, but a sudden change of skin color makes it wrong? And I think we should wait for an actual story before making assumptions. I mean it showed the Spaniards dinner tables with nothing but shit on the plates in Resident Evil 4, no one cared, it doesn't mean real Spaniards eat that kind of thing.

The African Zombies aren't really that "mindless", last time I watched the trailer (can't watch it now), I think they were ganging up, and "thinking", getting ladders, etc. The "virus" is making them act like that, all crazy and angry.

I'm pretty sure there were African people in one of the other games, but I can understand how the location and situation affect this. In my opinion its not racist, I will play this game but I know why people think its racist but... isn't Capcom showing more diversity, with different regions and it can fit with the story, something like the whole world is slowly becoming affected, they might go anywhere else for the next game.



Guess it wasn't wrong in GTA cause the main character was African American >_>

SnowMan

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24 October 2007 @ 3:03am
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I agree with DBX & Sweetooth. It isn't racist at all. People are just being stupid if they make that connection.

GooniesNeverSayDie

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24 October 2007 @ 3:06am
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I hope you're not claiming to be the author of that post, Kratos. If so, that'd be plagarism.

http://www.dreamdawn.com/.../post_view.php?index=6132

Ess

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24 October 2007 @ 3:29am
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Fuzz wrote:

I hope you're not claiming to be the author of that post, Kratos. If so, that'd be plagarism.

http://www.dreamdawn.com/.../post_view.php?index=6132



Oh snap?!

I hope that you are "Chris" for your sake, Kratos.


Thank God someone brought this up because I was about to explode with disgust with capcom. They've been prejudiced bastards for years (obviously). I was just thinking about suing capcom because in RE1, I was forced to shoot zombified scientists. MY grandfather is a scientist, and this offends me greatly. The fact that Capcom hates scientists (obviously) really bothers me and it's not right. Oh and as far as RE4 goes, I wasn't comfortable shooting all those spaniards. I have friends who are spanish. Is capcom telling me to hate my friends? I think so. You know what makes me feel even more uncomfortable? The fact that you shoot humans. I have friends who are humans. Capcom must be prejudiced towards all humans if they allow such indecent things in a game. Actually Ms. Platt and I are going to fly to Japan later and burn down Capcom's headquarters later if anyone wants to come.

By the way, RE5 was said to take place in Haiti, "The home of the Zombie". Not Africa, as some flaming zealots would like to think.

Also, haha. There's no way you're Chris, Kratos. Sorry you had to steal someone else's post. Correct me if I'm wrong but I do believe that it is illegal, yes?

CelestialFury

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24 October 2007 @ 5:38am
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.....I'm sooo sick of hearing shit like this... zomg black characters are being killed in a game by a white one... that must be racist

FFS america... get over it

Kratos

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24 October 2007 @ 7:27am
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Fuzz wrote:

I hope you're not claiming to be the author of that post, Kratos. If so, that'd be [b]plagarism[b]


I'm not in the habit of claiming [stealing] other's work as my own. Hence that's why I put "This Is Interesting" at the beginning of my post. Meaning that I found something interesting. Jeez. I've never put that comment at the beginning of one of my own authored threads.

Sockonfire

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24 October 2007 @ 9:37am
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Lulz @ Ess. Pretty much sums up their logic

I honestly think this is stupid. I hate how it's getting blown out of proportion. Good thing no one i know is saying it's racist or i'd have to punch them

Kode_RED

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1.Kratos did not steal someone else's post. Just posted it here like other news and stuff. Good topic and find BTW

2.How's your cat?

3.Some people are dumb and some people are really dumb and some people are dumber than zombies. RE racist!? Dumber than people who are dumber than zombies.

4.

You know what makes me feel even more uncomfortable? The fact that you shoot humans. I have friends who are humans.


Superb one Ess. If there is a category for the best comment in seasonal awards, I'll vote for you. Seriously, why people think that when hookers and other people are shot in games the devs are saying that we should hate those and do the same in real life.

Alvarez

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25 October 2007 @ 1:32am
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You know what makes me feel even more uncomfortable? The fact that you shoot humans. I have friends who are humans.



Hahaha, genius! Good call my friend! No matter what kinds of things we make for entertainment, somebody always has to complain. I hope that people who complain about things and take them waaaay too far break all of their ankles at the same time...

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26 October 2007 @ 11:32pm
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Sweetooth wrote:

How is it racist? Most people in Africa are black...if a black protagonist was shooting at the white townspeople in RE4 is that racist too? Some people just go too far.



Yeah, just think of it as publicity for Africans, RE4 was in Spain (I think), so shouldnt that be considered racist,

We are all human, doesnt matter what colour what size what width whatnot.
Personally, I find it fun to kill people and stuff in games such as Resident evil 4.
So It doesnt matter what colour, they are all going down, (In Games, not real life)

Be happy with what God gave you, and use it to reach your maximum potential...or in my words; "give everything you do a viciously strong effort!"
Mr. G

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26 October 2007 @ 11:47pm
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So that means they want black people left out of a video game? Isn't that, in-turn, racist?

I hate the 21st century, too many people are sue-happy, or are too ready to call someone a racist. >_>

GooniesNeverSayDie

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In my 29 years on this planet, there is definitely one thing I've learned about black people - it's always gonna be a no-win situation with them.

The way the game is now, they're screaming it's racist because it depicts a white man shooting black people. If you reversed the roles, they'd say it's racist because it depicts a black man shooting white people. If you just made the hero and all the enemies white, they'd say it's racist because there's no black people in the game. If you made everyone in the game black, they'd say it's racist because it depicts black people killing each other.

Sorry if this offends any black members, here.

Kratos

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27 October 2007 @ 7:39am
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Ess wrote:

Oh snap?!

I hope that you are "Chris" for your sake, Kratos.

Also, haha. There's no way you're Chris, Kratos. Sorry you had to steal someone else's post. Correct me if I'm wrong but I do believe that it is illegal, yes?


Um, can someone please be so kind as to explain what this means? Lol

Me confused.

Kode_RED wrote:

1.Kratos did not steal someone else's post. Just posted it here like other news and stuff. Good topic and find BTW


Why thank ya.

Kode_RED wrote:

2.How's your cat?


He still chases lizards. Lol

Fuzz wrote:

In my 29 years on this planet, there is definitely one thing I've learned about black people - it's always gonna be a no-win situation with them. The way the game is now, they're screaming it's racist because it depicts a white man shooting black people. If you reversed the roles, they'd say it's racist because it depicts a black man shooting white people. If you just made the hero and all the enemies white, they'd say it's racist because there's no black people in the game. If you made everyone in the game black, they'd say it's racist because it depicts black people killing each other.



This is all too true, unfortunately. And it is all too common among all races on the Earth. Racism in both games and in real life has to end. But it won't....yet.

Kode_RED

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27 October 2007 @ 8:23am
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Fuzz wrote:

In my 29 years on this planet, there is definitely one thing I've learned about black people - it's always gonna be a no-win situation with them.

The way the game is now, they're screaming it's racist because it depicts a white man shooting black people. If you reversed the roles, they'd say it's racist because it depicts a black man shooting white people. If you just made the hero and all the enemies white, they'd say it's racist because there's no black people in the game. If you made everyone in the game black, they'd say it's racist because it depicts black people killing each other.

Sorry if this offends any black members, here.



Superb comment. So true and sad.

ratsforcandy

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27 October 2007 @ 8:34am
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Fuzz wrote:

In my 29 years on this planet, there is definitely one thing I've learned about black people - it's always gonna be a no-win situation with them.

The way the game is now, they're screaming it's racist because it depicts a white man shooting black people. If you reversed the roles, they'd say it's racist because it depicts a black man shooting white people. If you just made the hero and all the enemies white, they'd say it's racist because there's no black people in the game. If you made everyone in the game black, they'd say it's racist because it depicts black people killing each other.

Sorry if this offends any black members, here.



Amen! Seriously.

Ess

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27 October 2007 @ 9:13am
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Kratos wrote:

Um, can someone please be so kind as to explain what this means? Lol

Me confused.



I posted that before I realized that perhaps you were just trying to share a story with us, after which I simply put your story into quotes. By the way, I still don't get why you didn't just link to the site or at least say where it's from.

Kratos

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27 October 2007 @ 10:08am
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Ess wrote:

I still don't get why you didn't just link to the site or at least say where it's from.


No idea, really. Not a big deal, though. :whistle: