Tuesday, March 17, 2009

N'Gai Was Right...

I'm really a bit sick of the whole debate over whether Resident Evil 5 is "racist" or not. There seems to be a popular opinion that it either a.) isn't and if you think it is, you're a crybaby liberal douchebag. Or b.) it is racist, and if you don't see it, you're a sheltered, naive, ignorant, and racist. It's an interesting topic, but the problem I've had with much debate I've seen of it online is that everyone is convinced they're "right" and anyone who doesn't agree with them is "wrong."

N'Gai Croal, from Newsweek wrote after the initial trailer that the game employed "imagery with a history." That while it may not be outright racist (it never, for example straight up says that black people are evil or anything less than human), it still relied upon old cliches of intimidating dark skinned people who have nothing better to do than stare down foreigners and throw hatchets and spears at them. Sure they're all the victims of a zombie outbreak, but that may not be apparent at first glance. The problem was not that the game had black zombies, but that it was preying upon negative stereotypes of Africans to accentuate the horror. It's a fair take on it. N'Gai, an African American himself, is certainly free to get that from it. Contrary to what some people have said (I won't name names) I do not believe that N'Gai or others went into RE5 looking for a problem. I do believe that that was a genuine sentiment based on his, and others' upbringing that these images brought to mind.

I'd argue, however, that by not seeing these things does not make wrong or racist. Personally, all I saw from the trailer was zombies. Sure they were black, but it was set in Africa. What do you expect? Once I stopped and read N'gai's take on it, I could see where he was coming from, but for a lot of RE's fanbase, they'll see one thing and one thing only: zombies (and yes, I realize that they're not technically zombies, but they are infected by a parasite and no longer the people they used to be). Furthermore, the whole plot revolves around an American corporation infecting Africans with a virus, so it's not like the exploitation of Africa is left untouched. It's not great writing or anything, and while I'm sick of the whole "it's just a game" argument, I do gravitate towards the "it's just Resident Evil" argument. I mean these games have never been known for their quality writing. It could hardly be called a hugely influential work of art that people will form their world views based on. To many it is nothing more than a zombie themed action game (and in my mind, a rather fun one at that).

In conclusion, I'll say that while I don't find the game to be particularly objectionable, I can hardly say you're "wrong" for reading into it that way and am sick of the supposedly liberal first amendment quoting douchebags who think that it's okay to make a game like RE5, but no okay to talk about it unless they happen to share your own point of view. But I also wouldn't say you're "wrong" for not seeing the game as racist at all. We all come into these things with a different background are are going to see something different when looking at it. While I didn't see (in the trailer) what N'gai saw, he was right about one thing, "It's very difficult in this country, in many countries, to have a conversation about race."
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