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Resident Evil 5

Posted by deckard47 on April 11, 2008

This post is about the RE 5 trailer and N’Gai Croal’s recent interview regarding that trailer. Here is the trailer:

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There’s a good interview up over at MTV’s “MultiplayerBlog.” It’s with N’Gai Croal, and he basically explains just why Resident Evil 5’s trailer is insensitive, offensive, and possibly intentionally racist. He does so quite clearly and correctly. And then the message boards open! He actually responds to one guy who gets everything wrong, and makes more of a good argument. Unfortunately, most of the comments read like this (by the way, all quotations are directly from posters, and are completely unaltered):

“It’s not a matter of race unless it is brought up as race.

It is a geological setting. If RE5 took place in Vietnam and we have a bunch of zombie Vietnamese people running around, you want to kill them before they kill you. Would some some Asian group get all fired up about this? Probably not.

If the world get too sensitive about killing a certain race of zombies, then we might as well start going to B-movie route and kill “Martian Zombies From Dimension X-15″ to satisfy their zombie-hunting fix.

A geological matter? How so? By the way, if you had a white guy running around Cambodia or Vietnam murdering tons of animalistic townspeople… Yeah, people would get pissed, and fast. Also, racialization and racism don’t “exist” until they’re brought up by pesky rabble-rousers. Because we’re all colorblind!

Oh wait, and this:

“I think this is part of the root of the problem here. At what point do things that look like “classical racist imagery” just become “imagery”? At what point can we, as a whole, let go of that?”

Do people honestly want to allow those disgusting, highly offensive images to just be all funny and in good humor? Should we all just go be terribly amused by “Little Black Sambo.” After all, it’s just an old image. It has no connotation now! It doesn’t make real people feel scared, angry, derided or hated. Oh wait, it does, in so many ways.

And then:

“This racism controversy is maybe the most exaggerated “controversy” ever. Now don’t get me wrong. I get why N’gai is upset and what he is trying to say here. But I am feeling that in some parts of the world, or just lets say it straight, the US, people are still much more “aware” of color, and tend to LOOK and SEARCH for issues. Clearly this is due to it’s history, but honestly, I’m from Africa (not Black but Arab), and I haven’t seen a problem with the trailer.”

Well, maybe it’s because the issues are there, and they weren’t addressed carefully, with tact, taste or class. It doesn’t matter how you see it, clever commentors. You can view it that way. The problem is (as Croal points out in a response to somebody’s post) you want us to accept your views, stop analyzing this, and stop making “a big deal” out of it. It’s so annoying when people show you your own biases and prejudices to your face.

There’s a lot of other truly golden comments there, some hideously racist, angry and vicious, some ignorant, and some surprisingly smart and well-thought out responses (like two of them maybe). I realize that to address all of these wrong internet people would take too long, but there are so many of them, and they are all so wrong.

You should just go read the interview: it’s all there. He’s right that these images are strikingly akin to classic and oft-reproduced images of dark, “savage” African people in older and newer movies. His mention of Black Hawk Down is pretty accurate. It’s also a movie that caters to the same “hordes of crazed Africans” fear as does the RE 5 video. Croal is pretty even minded, especially as some of the “thoughtful” responses basically tell him to sit down and shut up. When will people realize that predicating your post with “I see your point, but” doesn’t mean you can go ahead and ignore the other person’s argument and point of view.

He repeatedly points out that he is willing to wait until the final product comes out to make a final judgment. But again, he’s right in that he shouldn’t have to wait until the final product. This trailer is ignorant, offensive, blatantly exploits racist images and fears to create a “mood,” and completely unapologetic in its decision to do so. CAPCOM apparently said that the game was about “extremes of light and dark” or something. Huh.

The arguments against a critical examination of the trailer (and of RE 5) are so old, hackneyed and trite, it really astounds me. Seriously? “Overreacting?” Or, maybe, “It’s not a matter of race unless it is brought up as race.” Um, except when it is couched in race, uses racial fears and tensions to create tension, and expects people to just dig it? Oh, and it is marketed to countries and people who are extremely familiar (or should be) with the damaging nature of such images.

Here, we are asked when can we “let go of it?” Why don’t we just realize that:

“I feel that minority groups have a tendency to speak on behalf of unfair portrayals of their own race too much, and not enough about racism in general as it relates to everyone else, and in the process they can get to the point where they come off as nitpicky or whiny.”

[sarcasm time!] Because honestly, what I really want to talk about is the racism evident in games and how it affects me as a white person… How tough it is to smack down all those annoying forum posts about racist stuff. Can’t we just remember that I have needs and wants too? It’s a rough gig, being a white guy, being the brunt of such conscious and pervasive racist caricatures in gaming and other medias.

Ok, I know that was silly, and I think these people need to grow up and listen up, but when I said that they were affected (and by they I mean the mostly white boys and men responding here) I meant it. Honestly, this is an important conversation to have, for everyone. The racism evident in the RE 5 trailer, the comments on Croal’s interview, and (I think) the racism that will be there in force in the final product should be discussed as it relates to any consumer of the product. We should be thinking about how the almost unthinking acceptance of such a game (by a lot of people, look at the posts) reflects on gamers, and on race relations between Americans and other nations. These games and these images hurt every single person who sees them.

They should be hurtful; they are emblematic of some of the most dangerous and destructive elements of our societies, and it’s scary to see people rush to defend imagery that is directly descended from everything from “Black Hawk Down” to early (as in centuries ago) racist caricatures. This is the same argument people try to make to misogynists (i.e., “you are hurt by sexist imagery too, manly man!”). Of course, since they think racism and “matters of race” don’t exist, it’s a tough argument. This is obviously an important issue for everyone, although it’s apparent that many people on the boards think that it’s only important for “whiny black people.”

It’s terribly depressing to realize that this game may make it out to stores, and sell like crazy. People don’t want to think about the fact that racist images, thought and actions are important to more than just the ‘race’ involved. It’s easier for them to think of it as a black, or African, or basically non-white problem, because if they confronted the disgusting message in this trailer (again, I suppose the game could redeem itself, but it’s going to have to wok really, really hard), they’d have to look at almost every game produced in any country, to some degree. Hopefully, RE 5 will be caught by some organizations, and sanctioned or problematized in some way. I doubt it will be banned. That would mean that somebody who recognizes what’s wrong with this is in a position to do something about it. And right now, I’m pretty sure that the people with the power (game devs., gamers, and the larger parent companies) have absolutely no intention of hurting their cash flow. Because, when it comes down to it, it’s safer for the games industry and gamers to tell the whiners to shut up and like their antiquated, painfully racist video games.

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