Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

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Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby David Yun on Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:25 pm

I actually didn't know whether to place this in the Games or Politics section, but I wanted to start a thread about the racial imagery in Resident Evil 5. I wrote at length here on the topic.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby Zeke on Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:08 pm

I just disagree with the development team being completely innocent or ignorant of the cultural ties to the imagery in RE5. Personally I feel that it's impossible to put that much technical work into a game (especially a big franchise title) only to ignore a big target market like the USA. Really? I feel it was intentional for publicity. If you think this would count as negative publicity I feel you're wrong. The majority of consumers that won't buy RE5 because it's offensive is insignificant when you compare it to how much press it got; exposing the game to a much broader market. Plus I don't feel that a majority of RE5's target audience even cares if something is racist or not. I just need to look at the morons I run into over XBOX Live to verify exactly how racist people still are today.

Now here's the problem, we're never going to know for sure whether or not it was intended to have the racial imagery, short of an internal memo or something akin to the documents that put the big tobacco companies on the fire.

The game has too high of a production value to be able to claim ignorance on Capcom's part. I will say this though, if the research team for RE5 (marketing or whatever) simply missed or dismissed the racial imagery they all need to be shot. :roll:

I may just be placing my distaste for ignorant and racist Americans on innocent Japanese game makers, but I say ignorance is never an excuse.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby Dave on Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:45 pm

While this thread asks about the racial imagery in RE5, I want to share my thoughts on the topic of dehumanization. I have to say that while I was in the middle of a fight with RE5 zombies, or during the lulls between them, I kept thinking of the zombies as just that, zombies. It wasn't until one long lull where I could still hear the zombies that it occurred to me that the zombies were talking to each other. That thought lead me to this one, "I wonder what they're saying?" (Dee, Joel, you two were there when I voiced this).

After that realization of communicating zombies, it occurred to me that in RE4 I had the same mentality. In RE4, I thought of the zombies as just zombies UNTIL I heard them speaking Spanish, a language I understand. Being able to understand what the zombies were saying made me think, "these zombies were once people". In RE5, the "zombies were once people" thought did not occur to me until a rather long thought process. Because of that, the idea of the RE5 zombies once being people was almost purely intellectual, there was no strong emotional response like there was in RE4.

What I'm getting at is that the level of dehumanization of RE5 zombies came less from the color of their skin or the location that the game takes place in, and more from a lack of anything I could readily identify and understand, in this case it was language. I could tell that the zombies were communicating, but since I couldn't understand it, my mind easily dismissed it.

P.S. What happened to good ol' "Grr, ahrg" zombies?

P.P.S. I still had no problem dispatching zombies in either game. I mean, they're zombies and they're trying to kill me ;)
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby Dave on Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:03 pm

Actually, I just had another thought, and I don't know if it belongs here or in the Games section (you be the judge, Dee). Language. RE5 imagery of zombies communicating with each other. Organizing (somewhat). Using weapons. Using COMPLEX weapons. Riding motorcycles. W.T.F.!? These aren't zombies anymore.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby Mike on Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:24 pm

I think if this is such a big deal, we should strike Africa from all forms of media. No movies, no music, no nothing. "This can't be a setting for anything bad, it's mean!" Blah to that. Maybe I'm insensitive, but I didn't give any thought to skin color when I first saw the preview. It wasn't until the uproar that I even fathomed it. Fucking stupid shit, imo.

Sure, comparisons can be drawn and offense can be taken. I think I'll be offended that so many games depict Germans as evil-doing, child raping, assholes. Yeah, Nazi's were bad, but that's insensitive to the Nazi's who were nice!

But I guess if it helps people, we should just keep killing white people in games... as long as they don't have any Jewish traits... If I see a guy with a hook nose building ANYTHING I'll be the first to compare it to a Pyramid.

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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby David Yun on Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:57 pm

Zeke wrote:I feel it was intentional for publicity.

The game has too high of a production value to be able to claim ignorance on Capcom's part.

I may just be placing my distaste for ignorant and racist Americans on innocent Japanese game makers, but I say ignorance is never an excuse.


Joel's accusation is far worse than mine. He's positing that Capcom engaged in deliberately racist behavior to pad the bottom line. This possibility didn't even occur to me until Joel brought it up. We have no way of knowing without that "smoking gun", but here's why I think this possibility is on a rather low order of probability:

Development and marketing departments. High production value in one does not equate to savvy in the other. These are a bunch of programmers who just thought that Africa would be a cool and different setting for their next release. They appear to be genuinely taken aback, and surprised by the backlash. I believe they had the same mindset as the average gamer who went, "Um, what's the big deal? They're zombies and I need to shoot them."

Also, the motivation is suspect. Resident Evil is a popular, high profile franchise with a built in audience. It was going to sell regardless. To make a gamble with that high stakes with such little potential return doesn't make any sense to me.

And no, ignorance is never an excuse. But it is an offense on a lesser scale than deliberate maliciousness.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby David Yun on Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:01 pm

Dave wrote:What I'm getting at is that the level of dehumanization of RE5 zombies came less from the color of their skin or the location that the game takes place in, and more from a lack of anything I could readily identify and understand, in this case it was language. I could tell that the zombies were communicating, but since I couldn't understand it, my mind easily dismissed it.


You're deliberately shooting off onto a tangent. Within the narrow confines of the game itself, of course they're dehumanized because they're no longer human. It only becomes an issue because the game exists in the larger context of the world we live in.

I brought up "dehumanization" because it was the justification for otherwise fairly morally evolved societies to perpetuate atrocities ranging from slavery to genocide.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby David Yun on Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:05 pm

Dave wrote:Actually, I just had another thought, and I don't know if it belongs here or in the Games section (you be the judge, Dee). Language. RE5 imagery of zombies communicating with each other. Organizing (somewhat). Using weapons. Using COMPLEX weapons. Riding motorcycles. W.T.F.!? These aren't zombies anymore.


Hahaha - like I mentioned, they wear berets and pack AK-47s! They even seem to have nicely pressed uniforms.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby David Yun on Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:12 pm

Mike wrote:I think if this is such a big deal, we should strike Africa from all forms of media. No movies, no music, no nothing. "This can't be a setting for anything bad, it's mean!" Blah to that. Maybe I'm insensitive, but I didn't give any thought to skin color when I first saw the preview. It wasn't until the uproar that I even fathomed it. Fucking stupid shit, imo.

Sure, comparisons can be drawn and offense can be taken. I think I'll be offended that so many games depict Germans as evil-doing, child raping, assholes. Yeah, Nazi's were bad, but that's insensitive to the Nazi's who were nice!

But I guess if it helps people, we should just keep killing white people in games... as long as they don't have any Jewish traits... If I see a guy with a hook nose building ANYTHING I'll be the first to compare it to a Pyramid.

:)


I dunno Mike. On the one hand, I agree with you that it's stupid, but it's stupid on every side. That doesn't mean the answer is to stick our heads in the sand by censoring material and refusing to participate in meaningful discourse on these issues. Of course you can bring up things like reverse racism, or other forms of racism than this particular topic, but that's just adding noise to the conversation rather than engaging it.

As someone who's working toward becoming a history teacher, I find this cavalier attitude somewhat troubling. Did you read my little essay on the issue? It's not about something as ephemeral as skin color - it's that Resident Evil 5 employs and perpetuates very SPECIFIC racist imagery that's been lingering for a very long time, and has been historically used to justify or incite everything from lynchings, to slavery, to genocide.
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Re: Resident Evil 5 - Racist?

Postby Dave on Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:19 pm

David Yun wrote:You're deliberately shooting off onto a tangent.


Yeah, I was. The language issue started to bug me, and I wanted to spill that thought out to see what others may have to say on it. I didn't know if I should have posted under here or if I should have started a new thread.
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