Resident Evil 5 And Black PeopleAugust 3, 2007
So the Internets are abuzz with cries of racism over Capcom’s upcoming Resident Evil 5, which appears to be set in Africa (possibly Haiti?), where our sorely-missed Chris Redfield shoots his way through mountains and mountains of black zombies. Bonnie Ruberg of the Village Voice has a piece that begins to explore a few of her own intuitions after watching the RE5 trailer:
Resident Evil 5 is already raising questions about racism (White good guys vs. black bad guys? Is this some kind of race war?), or maybe questions about Capcom’s judgment (Who okayed this for production?). As one forum commenter wrote, “Is it just me, or is there something subtly racist about gunning down mobs of angry Africans?”
But the point isn’t to smack one more label on mainstream video games (violent, sexist, racist). The point is that—for this white girl, at least—the Resident Evil 5 trailer is strangely disturbing.
The rest of her article points out the race-context that the game is happening in; race and the Other, AIDS, and a history of American oppression of people of color. Go check it out.
Most of this discussion tends to sound really, really stupid (just check the comments section of her article!). It goes something like this:
Player 1: Hey, this looks kinda messed up. It’s a game explicitly devoted to a white man shooting black people. Given the history of black people and their apparent natural predilection to getting shot (note the sarcasm), maybe we should think about this.
Player 2: OMG are you calling me a racist. I think you are a racist! So there. Racist. Besides, all the other games were about shooting white zombies. And zombies are from Haiti!
Player 3: I’m black and I’m going to buy this game. See? No racism.
Player 4: Capcom is a Japanese game company! What would they know about racism? I don’t think they even have black people over there.
Player 2, reprise: I’m not racist! I just want to shoot black people. Is that so wrong? You racist.
The way this discussion of racism goes is not only worthless, it’s like 40 years out of date and even then it’s questionable as to how useful it actually was. Oh, I love the Internet.
Thing is, I’m not sure how much I have to say yet on the line of discussion that Bonnie’s opened. When we start deconstructing the RE5 trailer as a text, we’re left with “Wow, this could be really, really fucked up” and not a whole lot more. It just kind of slaps you in the face with it. Jason from microscopiq goes on to continue the discussion here and here, so I’ll leave you with that. Keep on fighting the good fight.