FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 13, 2007

sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

A recent article at The Village Voice online regarding the newest trailer for the upcoming video game Resident Evil 5 has caused a bit of a stir. Before we get into it, however, why don't you watch said trailer for yourself?



There, did you watch it? What's your first and most immediate impression? If you're anything like Village Voice writer Bonnie Ruberg, you're thinking "That game is racist!" Is she right? Is a game that features a white protagonist gunning down hordes of cranky black zombies inherently racist? I tend to think not, myself. They're zombies. The game takes place in (some say) Africa or (others say) Haiti. Zombies in Haiti kinda makes sense, doesn't it? And the 'white protagonist' is Chris Redfield, a main character in the Resident Evil series since its inception.

But I could be wrong. It could all very well be as Ruberg points out, that Resident Evil 5 is actually symbolic of the caucasian fear of a black planet, much in the way that Resident Evil 4 is symbolic of whites' fear of a Spanish planet, or Super Mario Brothers is indicative of whites' fear of an Italian planet.

At any rate, I'm not sure what kind of a person it makes me, but my first and most immediate impression of the trailer was something along the lines of "Omigawd, I cannot fucking wait to play that game!"

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, my first reaction was to cringe. This final line of "I have a job to do" kinda spins it to a potential critique of US imperialist action around the globe in general. I'm not a gamer (and shamefully have not watched the movies) so don't know what kind of narratives unfold or what kind of subtext can otherwise be read. But I do agree with Ruberg that it seems ripe for critique.

JTS said...

I'm pretty sure that Super Mario Brothers was indicative of whites' fear of a giant, spiny lizard planet...

Piper said...

I would say it's a bit strange and I wouldn't go as far as saying that it's symbolic of some kind of a fear of a black planet, but it is curious.

Jason Meek said...

if I had to venture forth an oppinion its that no recent video game has been set in the way cool looking savanas of Africa so, along with killing the native inhabitants that have been turned into zombies, you might also get to face off against zombie lions and zombie rhinos! And I'm sure there is a slew of white bread lab flunkies turned zombie to destroy as well. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. Some people seem to like to champion causes when there is no cause to champion. I'm sure if you really tried one could make a political statement out of this game. Somehow I'm sure its all Bush's fault.

Bill Walsh said...

I'm gonna say no. I mean, unless Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is about Fear of an Inbred New Englander Planet.

I mean, you've got a white character and you're sending him around the world to fight monsters. Well, if they're human monsters, there's only so many places you can send him where those humans are white, too. And zombies historically come from Haiti.

Interestingly, White Zombie, the Lugosi movie I mentioned in a joke a couple days ago, was sometimes faulted as racist for setting a zombie story in Haiti and having all the main characters, including the sort-of houngan (Lugosi) be white. There's some truth to that, though it's less based on anti-black animus than the fact that Hollywood really didn't pay much attention to the black audience in those days, making movies by, for, and about white people. But we've come an incredible distance from the 1930s.

I think this is a case of finding pseudo-racism using college-kid hermeneutics rather than any sort of actual racism, intended or in effect. So, while I can see why alarm bells might have gone off in people's heads, I'd say, take a deep breath: false alarm, this time.

Bill Walsh said...

Oh, and Jason, it might appear to be Bush's fault, but as you should know, George W. Bush died in a drunk-driving accident in 1986, and his corpse was reanimated on his father's behalf by evil-genius Haitian-Wyomingite houngan Richard le Chené who then manipulated Zombie Bush in order to obtain a certain statue of the Babylonian god/demon Pazuzu discovered in Iraq by Fr. Max von Sydow, S.J., and subsequently kept out of public view in the Iraqi National Museum.

Or at least that's what I read on teh internet these days.

Theron said...

I don't think it is. You knwo, I grew up watching movies filled with Voudon priestesses and black zombies. In fact, as a caucasian, I think I can say that it's kinda crappy that white people have moved in and taken zombies away from black people. Of course, we have been moving in on cool African-American stuff for decades, so I guess it's shouldn't surprise me.

Craig Moorhead said...

Wait - these people have only seen a trailer and seem to know nothing about the game ("It seems to take place in Africa."), yet they're up in arms?

It would be swell if these folks took their muck-raking energies and fought real racism (check this out) instead of... ya know... Capcom. Isn't the Village Voice too hip for this kind of thing?

spazmo said...

How can this seem racist? Palm trees and zombies have a long, storied history together. Haiti, New Orleans, Miami (Day of the Dead), and Fulci's fictional island of Matoul all come to mind.
This woman needs to take a look at the genre she's criticizing before spouting off.

The burning question is this: who's your favorite: Chris Redfield or Leon Kennedy?

Chris looks pretty buff here, but I'm a sucker for Leon's floppy hair...

John said...

Yeah, I loved RE 4 to pieces and I gotta say - I did as you said & watched the trailer without knowing what the issues were, and when I saw big crowd of scary black people closing around the strapping white guy, I cringed a little. I think within the game such a scenario might be just fine - if dude's in Haiti, which has massive zombie cred, it'd make sense. But I sure as shootin' wouldn't make the trailer turn around such a scenario, because pretty much all you see is the scary black people attacking the white hero, and in America, that's gonna dovetail with a lot of pretty sketchy stuff, y'know?

Snarf said...

I think this is a very complex matter, that we all can actually learn alot from. It's sort of an update on where we all stand in the racism-issue these days, an indication of where we have gotten so far in the process of eliminating racism. Some seem to feel we have gotten further than others.

I tend to agree with Young Black Professional Guide in the following statement:

"Trying to talk about the sensitivities of race to a gaming demographic is extremely difficult. the majority of readers are young white males who are either too immature to have a clean conversation about it or too logical to draw accurate comparisons. what is worse is that some of the hateful comments… echo the reality of ignorance and hate they claim black people should get over.

nigger is used loosely. bitch is used frequently. other four letter words are sprinkled about… on one hand, i understand the angle joystiq and some of the mature gamers are making. resident evil has always been about a white guy killing zombies… why should black zombies in africa be different? additionally, the makers of the game are japanese, so that inherently makes the intent of the setting not racist as well, right?

on the other hand, the images used in the game, already disturbing because it is resident evil, also reflect hateful images that were real and meant to invoke hate towards black people in the not too distant history of america…"

I especially think the "too logical to draw accurate comparisons" idea is very true.

I don't think CAPCOM are racist, but I can easily see how the visuals of this can make black people feel very uncomfortable and quite spooked.

Erich Kuersten said...

This is a tricky area, and you're damned if you do/damned if you don't. Imagine alternatives, like making sure the population of this shanty town setting has at least 4-6 white zombies. Then give the white shooter a black sidekick. The original idea would be to diffuse racism, but by the time the character came into being, he would probably be cringing and duplicitous. In a way I respect the guts of the RES EVIL crew in letting the subtext fall where it may. On the other hand, they could have added some shots of, say, white zombie UN peace keepers! White zombie doctors without borders! White Zombie missionaries! White Zombie CIA agents in Hawaiian shirts and pork pie hats!

Erich Kuersten said...

p.s. to comment on Mr. Walsh's comment, there are actually some reasonably non-stereotyped black characters in WHITE ZOMBIE, particularly the coachman, played by the always dignified and impressive Clarence Muse.

Bill Walsh said...

In re: Clarence Muse, et al., I totally concur, Mr. K. It's always kind of sad to see black actors turning in great performances in tiny, peripheral roles in those days, because you knew they'd never get anything much bigger. What a waste...

Mistah Wade said...

i thught Super Mario Bros was a brilliant commentary on white society's innate fear of plumbing. Kids hate the toilet by nature.

jeremy said...

"Want one!" is my initial reaction too, but as for whether or not it is racist. I think that depends on who wins in the storyline.

Maybe the hordes of black zombies are being manipulated by a few powerful white zombies that drive benz's and wear suits all day. Then it would be a statement on the power divide only the other way round.

You can't really make those judgments 'till you're done playing the game. You hear that fox news!?

choclitbear said...

ah finalgirl...I definitly think you are overly analysing the game. The only reason why there is a white protagonist against a village of black people is the location, it's in africa - of course the inhabitants are black!

Isn't a change of location nice sometimes? I always wondered how they could step up from the environments of RE4 - In Africa! I like the idea! Don't you?

It's not racist. What if Chris were to be placed in China? CHINA ZOMBIES..racccccist

People need to stop assessing situations and falsely labelling them as 'racist'. Please, races that are used to being marginalized usually take advantage of their situations. A.k.a A black guy can call me a cracker and I can't call them 'boy'. - wth man.

Anyway. It's looks like a cool game, so please don't complan about it. sheesh.

Stacie Ponder said...

Uh, read my post again. I'm pointing out an article which is calling RE5 racist, and I'm disagreeing with the article.