Archive for October, 2008

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My Take on the Street Fighter Stereotype Squad

October 28, 2008

When Capcom was taking flak for the Resident Evil 5 debacle, a few people would occasionally comment that Capcom actually has a history of racially offensive characterizations in their games – specifically, the characters from Street Fighter. This gave me pause – I have adored Street Fighter for a long, long time, and it never really occurred to me that the characters were seriously offensive. Furthermore, I’m hardly in the minority, here – virtually no one in the Street Fighter community ever really brings this kind of thing up, and it’s not because there’s a lack of people of color who play seriously, or reasonable people who can talk about race. So why would this be?

bankuei commented in the open thread about this a while back:

 

Here’s a thought: Street Fighter 2 was one of the first videogames that gave you a WIDE range of playable characters in terms of ethnicity. Stereotypical? Yeah. Still, better than playing either a Ninja or some random white guy all the time.

For that level of nostalgia factor alone, I think people are willing to give it a pass. (though, admittedly, videogames are rife with racist stuff. The fact that all the characters can be protagonists is good, though Blanka, Balrog/M.Bison and Dhalsim are the most problematic).

This is the first step. To use an example:

Media representation of Asian Americans has been a huge issue in the community for a while now. We’re sick of seeing ourselves portrayed as geeks, martial arts masters, delivery boys, sinister ganglords, and dragon ladies. Before we could organize around that, though, we had to make it in the media in the first place. Before Asians were portrayed in American films as those stereotypical images, we weren’t really in much of anything at all

Fighting games are quite possibly the easiest place to bring in a diversity of characters, particularly since it’s less about developing a character’s story and more about bringing in an exotic aesthetic. Certainly, this is problematic on some level, but it’s also given us our first Filipina character (Talim from Soul Calibur 2) where introducing a Filipina character in any other genre would have required a lot more pushing. Street Fighter 2 created stereotypes by drawing on each country’s fighting myths and legends. It wasn’t perfect – Balrog and Dee Jay, inspired by Mike Tyson and Billy Blanks (of Tae-Bo fame) aren’t exactly the inspiring figures I’d have wanted to model the first couple Black game characters after, Dhalsim is downright bizarre with the human skulls around the neck, and it seems painfully unfair to neglect Brazil’s vale tudo combat tradition by giving us Blanka instead of, say, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player – but it was a welcome departure from white guys and ninjas.

To be fair, Capcom has rounded it out a bit since then. The Street Fighter III series gave us Sean, a Brazilian brawler with moves inspired by MMA and Ryu and Ken’s Ansatsuken karate, and Dudley, the dopest black boxer in a video game ever, to make up for Balrog and Blanka. Most recently, Street Fighter IV added a white American single-mom-secret-agent with lips like Angelina Jolie’s, a French MMA fighter inspired by real-life fighting legend Fedor Emelianenko, and a fat white American biker kung-fu guy with a ponytail and a happy trail. On the downside, we get a Mexican Lucha Libre fighter (and chef) named El Fuerte:

Sigh. One step forward, two steps back, I suppose.

pat m.

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Interlude: The Hilarious Stupidity of Ashley Todd

October 27, 2008

So by now everyone should know that Ashley Todd, the McCain supporter who fabricated a story about being assaulted and groped by a knife-wielding black man for $60 and some press for Obama by way of a (backwards) “B” on her cheek. Racialicious has a good summary of coverage over at their open thread.

Here’s what I want to know.

White people are perfectly willing to believe that there are plenty of 6’4″, 200lb black men out there who are willing to mug a white college girl for $60 at knifepoint. 

The bit about grabbing her breast isn’t really too much of a stretch for white people, either.

Once we’re there, conjuring up the elusive brother who is dumb enough to do all that and carve a BACKWARDS “B” just might work for some white folks.

Linking that to the current presidential race by claiming that the “B” stood for “Barack” (because all black people are on a first-name basis with the next President of the United States of America), however, should be too much for anyone to swallow.

Overall Black voter turnout was, at 60%, 7% less than overall White turnout in the 2004 election (census). I suppose that’s not so bad (voter turnout in Asian American communities is a huge issue – we’re well under 50%, I believe). But if you consider that voter disenfranchisement laws (which temporarily or permanently suspend a convict’s right to vote) prevented 14% of black men from casting their ballot in Atlanta in 2004, or that the Human Rights Watch reported in 1998 that 1.4 million black men couldn’t vote, to say nothing of the damning statistic that 1 in 9 young black men are in jail, it seems a little bit implausible to me. You think homeboy is really going to punch you in the face, take your money, grab your boob, and then say, “Hey, don’t forget to vote Obama!

That’s some real thug life shit right there. Next time we see C.J. running around GTA: San Andreas, he better be volunteering for the campaign.

I leave you with this.

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Gender and Class in Mega Man 9

October 21, 2008

 

A few words on Mega Man 9:

That said, there are a few interesting things that stood out to me. (Spoiler alert!)

There’s a bit more storyline in Mega Man 9 than I remembered in the older MM games, all delivered through cutscenes. Basically, the premise in MM9 is that several utility robots who were soon nearing their expiration date (where they would be cast off into the dump, apparently) were incited to rebel against society by Dr. Wily, who had convinced them that they deserved to live past some arbitrary cut-off date. I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds like a critique of capitalism if I ever heard one. Cast off your chains, robots! Overthrow the oppressors! When I saw this, I thought, “Hey, why aren’t I helping them?”

Then I rememberedthat I was controlling a white guy who dresses in blue, carries a gun, and sees fit to destroy hundreds and hundreds of robots who look different from him without compunction.

 

Somehow, despite destroying each robot master twice, they’re still alive and ticking by the end of the game, and instead of consigning them unto the scrap heap, Mega Man happily returns them to household slavery (chores and such). Way to break a strike, Mega Man. The proletariat will rise yet! Maybe after I get By Any Means Necessary made, my next project will be a labor organizing simulator with a Mega Man motif.

Also: anyone who grew up alongside Mega Man during the NES days will immediately notice Splash Woman sitting alongside Mega Man’s usual assortment of robot dudes. Yes, women have broken through the glass ceiling in the year 20XX, so much so that little girl-robots can one day aspire to be one of Dr. Wily’s henchbots.

However: Capcom, why’d you have to make the woman robot weak to the Mega Buster? That’s some sexist shit. And you know what her “useful function” is in the ending? Sexy photos. Yep, the first woman pioneer in Mega Man does cheesy idol DVDs.

At least they didn’t make her weak to the Jewel Shield, I guess

pat m.

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Shameless Plug

October 20, 2008

I’ve got a piece on the latest web-fad to hit Japan, WebKare (“web-boyfriend”) over at GiantRealm.

Anyone want to help me find a job?

pat m.