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Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

Marius Goubert
Capcom, Resident Evil

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

Although they insisted it came as a big shock, it is difficult to believe that Capcom weren’t anticipating some form of backlash in response to Resident Evil 5. With video games like GTA: San Andreas and 50 Cent: Bulletproof having already whipped up a fair amount of racial controversy, creating a game in which you assume the role of a white man – guns and grenades hanging off you like Christmas tree decorations – running through African villages massacring hordes of hapless natives, was a bit like throwing petrol on the fire.

However, are the accusations concerning racism really justified when it comes to Resident Evil 5? Is the game immoral in its use of both imagery and subject matter? Does it depict Africans as mindless, barbaric savages, and is it therefore a blatant incitement of racial hatred? 

Is it Coz I is Black?

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist? Well there are many people who passionately argue that it is. People who feel that the game's depiction of a white man travelling into the dark heart of Africa to do battle with hordes of cannibalistic, homicidal natives is like something straight out of a 1915 D.W. Griffith flick. One particularly problematic moment being the point at which a white woman is dragged off kicking and screaming by two black men like something from a KKK propaganda video.

Writing on a blog dedicated to black issues, Tolu Olorunda insisted that Resident Evil 5 ‘wasted no time in capitalising upon the long history of blatant depictions of Africans as savages and helpless imbeciles.’ Going even further, Kym Platt at ‘Black Looks’ described a game in which a whitIs Resident Evil 5 Racist? e man dressed in a military uniform goes around a third world country shooting Africans as ‘problematic on so many levels.’ She insisted that a video game like this - aimed at children - could well incite youngsters to ‘fear, hate,’ and even… ‘destroy Black people.’

A Different Interpretation

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

Clearly, the plot, setting, and imagery of Resident Evil 5 have provided critics with a great deal of ammunition to condemn the game as highly immoral and even racist, but this is a very superficial interpretation. In fact, it could well be argued that far from being an attack on the supposed ‘savages’ of the third world, Resident Evil 5 actually portrays the Black Africans as victims of Western Colonization and, far from being racially prejudiced, is in fact deeply anti-colonial.

The whole premise behind Resident Evil 5 hinges upon the spread of a biological weapon developed by an American Arms Corporation Is Resident Evil 5 Racist? which is spreading through a fictional province of Africa. The virus itself is portrayed as a parasitic organism which literally colonizes the host’s body before transforming sane individuals into homicidal zombie/killers. The brutalisation of the African communities in Resident Evil 5 is therefore shown to be the direct result of Western infiltration and not because the Black Africans are somehow ‘savage’, ‘primitive’ or ‘barbaric’ by nature.

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

The virus becomes like a colonial invader; taking over the Black Africans by force and then causing their once peaceful communities to degenerate into chaos, anarchy and violence. As an allegory on colonialism, Resident Evil 5 certainly ties in with an argument put forward by post-colonial theorists like Thomas Hodgkin who, in ‘The West and the Third World’, defines colonialism as ‘essentially retrogressive and destructive of African Civilisations.'

Interestingly, Resident Evil 5 consistently portrays the indigenous population degenerating as a result of their contact with foreign invaders, one example being when the player enters a ‘primitive’ African village. Here they are attacked by tribal zombies who throw spears - a moment onIs Resident Evil 5 Racist? e critic described as ‘racist and deeply disturbing’. However it was also a point at which the player is able read the diary of a young tribal girl, who, after initially describing her Utopian tribal lifestyle, goes onto explain how the tribe descended into madness and murder after the arrival of Western scientists who infected them with a virus.

Blatantly Racist?

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

The whole basis for the argument that Resident Evil 5 is ‘blatantly racist’, that it dehumanises and demonizes Black Africans by portraying them as savage and primitive etc is obviously highly flawed. People who attack Resident Evil 5 for being racist are clearly basing these claims on knee jerk reactions they have to particular images from the game or trailer which, as Dan Whitehead puts it, do ‘play into old clichés’. However when the game is considered in a wider context the argument loses credibility. 

What is much more convincing is that the game provides a damning allegory on colonialism through its portrayal of a vulnerable indigenous population and its exploitation at the hands of a Western Corporate Superpower for profits - and who view Black Africans as expendable - sub – humans. Therefore, if Resident Evil 5 is condemning anyone as savage or barbaric it certainly isn’t Black Africans, but rather those Western Countries and corporations who have profited from destabilising the African continent for centuries.

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist?

Add a comment14 comments
Lydia  Oct. 2, 2009 at 12:43

I definitely do not think the game is out and out racist but there are scenes that are definitely on shaky ground. I think it's more a case of propagating stereotypes than persecution

One thing that stood out to me (apart from the spear throwing that is) was the fact that Sheva's brother has a very strong and typical African accent (not sure which region...) but Sheva herself, as a lead character and clearly designed to have sex appeal, sounds extremely western.

Also, just knowing how much of a problem racism still is, the idea of a game that allows small minded idiots to play directly into their fantasies leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

Lee  Oct. 2, 2009 at 14:10

Of course it's not racist. If it's set in the heart of Africa there will be black people living there.
The other Resident Evils weren't racist when they featured white Zombies.

The only scene that confuses me slightly is when the white woman with blonde hair is being attacked. It seemed out of place.

ZedEx  Oct. 2, 2009 at 14:35

Im not being funny but do you really think that a major games manufacturer such as Capcom would intentionally make a game with racist content?. It is once again PC (Political Correctness) gone mad, if the game had been set in Russia with Russians running around becoming cabablistic etc nobody would say anything.

It is people such as the ones claiming this is racist that cause the issues and divides in society, the complains and over the top reactions do nothing to aid a multicultural society but fuel the fire and cause controversy over nothing.

Anon  Oct. 2, 2009 at 15:09

Of course its racist. It promotes typical stereotypes. And they full knowingly did it, because it is a stereotype and stereotypes hit a chord somewhere in all of us.

Just because the deeper meaning of the game is one of anti-colonialism, doesn't mean its not racist. Why? Because most gamers are kids and they won't be writing a thesis on resident evil, like you would with shakespeare looking for allegories, metaphors and deeper meanings.

All that kids will see is, white man hero, white woman victim, black man savage. That is the only imprint that will be left on the player, even if a 1000 word disclaimer is written at the front saying the game is otherwise.

Promoting stereotypes means stereotypes are strengthened, strengthening stereotypes leads to them becoming being seen as true by some people on an instinctive emotional level.

Its like how over the last decade being muslim has gone from, being someone no one paid attention to, to now being a terroist until proven innocent. People are so paranoid and crazy, people who had no problems with muslims now have a problem with them. And all because the media spins, the terroism that is a response to western colonialism as being islamic. 10 years ago that wasn't the case, terroism was simply guerilla warfare, political statement, activists, political groups etc. It had nothing to do with the religion, now it is spun as being the 6th pillar of islam.

And the results we have seen have been devastating, mosques burned, people killed, racism on the rise etc. Stereotypes are dangerous because most people aren't enlightened enough to see beyond them, hence why they should be very carefully used.

Anon  Oct. 2, 2009 at 15:12

As a follow up to the above.

Stereotypes should definitley not be used with regards to kids, as it can leave a serious permanent first impression on a lot of them.

Deathtrap3000  Oct. 2, 2009 at 15:29

I wonder if these people know where the game is set....

natasha  Oct. 2, 2009 at 15:39

well, I don't think it's racist because the white people are so repulsive. Or maybe it is racist and antu white, perhaps?

Anon  Oct. 2, 2009 at 16:11

Wot rot. It is a game and reading any more into it than that is just, well tapped.
The bad guy in this game is WHITE. He is the person who brought the virus to Africa which infected the locals and caused them to be violent.

Rampton Thundergush  Oct. 2, 2009 at 16:32

Wow. Dealspwn, a full year behind breaking news and opinion pieces.

Donttouchthehair  Oct. 2, 2009 at 17:22

I thought this had an age rating, so why talk about how kids will perceive it as if that is the main issue? Maybe we should give adult video game players a little more credit and look at how children access adult material rather than simply attempting to dumb down everything in case a child should be present in the room?

Tonybaloney  Oct. 3, 2009 at 00:23

White hero killing black zombies
American hero killing middle eastern zombies
Saudi Arabian hero killing American zombies
Japanese hero killing Chinese zombies
Israeli hero killing Palestinian zombies

Why would any of these be acceptable?

It's not merely the fact that "it's in Africa of course they'll all be black durrr" but also plays upon the racist stereotype of the savage dark native. Then there are the spear-chucking zombies in full tribal get-up...

natasha  Oct. 3, 2009 at 08:55

no one seems to have taken up the argument about colonialism and biological warfare. I would have thought that these pointds are crucial and make the game quite a serious gaming allegory for our time. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Steve  Oct. 4, 2009 at 13:24

Must be a slow news day if this old story's being dragged out again.

Capcom should've just replaced the whole of Africa with blond haired, blue eyed white people. That would've kept everybody happy, eh?

Ace  Nov. 3, 2009 at 22:30

It's crap accusations like this that make me think the race card has been played too many times now. Infact i'm getting pretty damn offended that these idiots who started this crap as they caused more division by making out false claims of racism. I mean come on, normal people just play a game, white black whatever, good guys bad guys. its just a friggin game. honestly

anyone thinking trying to play the race card in this situation is blatently abusing the system.

B-Man - ur racist man coz im black
W-man - no your making it seem racist coz im white


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