Resident Evil 5 screenshot
Resident Evil 5 screenshot

VideoGamer.com: The level where you're in the marshlands and you're fighting against Africans who are dressed in traditional clothing - that scene in particular has been highlighted by some commentators as reinforcing the idea that Africans are savages. What's your take on that?

GB: What does the kid say in that diary? He says something about the men reverting to traditional ways...

VideoGamer.com: If you read the diary it clearly states that these people are reverting to ancestral dress as a result of the infection, that it's causing them to do this for some reason. But when you first turn up there you don't know that. You think you're simply in some backwater part of Africa where there are infected savages that I'm killing.

GB: I find it very interesting that Ouroboros is the name of this threat, which is Greek mythology. This kind of scenario is going to pull out a lot of mythic material. Mythic material is what gets us to recognise things quite clearly. There's a familiarity to what we call mythemes in anthropology. One of the mythemes in anthropology is clearly the legacy of colonialism which is that darkest Africa is full of weird masks and witch doctors and all sorts of things. So if you want to take Africa and you want to make Africa frightening, what you do is you bring that stuff up. In fact, my sense is that probably, although I can see why they're doing it, there's more racism in the scene of the guys beating the person in the sack, which is very much contemporary modern black Africans. More racism in there than there is in this funny kind of mythological stuff where you've suddenly got everybody running around dressed like witch doctors and the like. If you want to talk about racism you don't talk about racist culture. You talk about whether there is something explicitly, essentially, biologically malign about a particular genetic group. If you want to say something is doing that, fine go for the scene where the black guys are beating the sack to death in the street. You could do it just as easily in Harlem with a bunch of junkies doing something like that. That kind of thing is potentially much more racist than any use of cultural material.

VideoGamer.com: You say potentially much more racist, but do you think it is racist?

GB: I don't think it actually is racist. I think what they're trying to do is say this is a shit scary space that you're in and it's full of anger and furthermore also people hate Americans. And frankly it's very interesting about that, and they don't go into it, but in this period of post-9/11 a third world perspective on America that says local people hate Americans actually brings up that whole interesting thematic of why do they hate us? which people started asking after 9/11 and then very quickly stopped asking because maybe it was a little bit too obvious. Maybe the fact that it's coming out of Japan, this interesting inter-space of being both a place that's been colonising and colonised, has something to do with it. It's not really in the Western core although it's in the Western commodity core. It's an interesting location.

VideoGamer.com: In the scene where they're beating up the sack, the suggestion is that they're not infected.

GB: It's that kind of Black Hawk Down scenario but it's also just about a threatening urban slum full of the broken fragments of cultures that have been destroyed by what's happened. These are spaces you see in contemporary Africa. Not just in contemporary Africa but in contemporary Asia, in contemporary Middle-East, because of cultural disintegration caused by in the large part the effect of the West on hitting on those areas and under developing them, depriving them, pushing various kinds of irrationalities into things. I think there's actually an implicit anti-colonial theme in the game. I don't think it's explicit and I don't think they want to make it explicit, but I think there's a little bit more suss about what the relationship between third world and first world is than would obviously be the case. And I think the knee jerk reaction that says if you use black people as bad characters you're being racist is actually itself a kind of inverted racism which says that you can't have scary people who are black.

Resident Evil 5 screenshot

VideoGamer.com: I feel it's important to point out that the diary that shows the child's perspective of what happened to the Native Village, you may or may not pick that up when you're playing the game. You might not notice it lying on the desk. You might notice it and not digest it properly. A player is not guaranteed to see it.

GB: That's right. There was one other thing that I wanted to mention and that was the very interesting issue of the black female character, and you can take that character in two ways, and I'll argue for one particular way of thinking. One way of taking her is to say, well she's human and she's good and she has sympathies and you can even see implicit the possibility of a love relationship coming up by the way they look at each other, you could say that's all there because she's half white and therefore she's half civilised because she's half white. I don't think that's true. And the actual fact that Josh (a black African soldier who aids Chris and Sheva) comes in as also a very positive black figure, and a number of the zombies which you pointed out might be tourists come in as white figures, and actually the most malevolent guy who is the mad chemist is a white figure, compounds all that kind of stuff. It isn't simple. It's not simple at all. I think it's quite intriguing.

VideoGamer.com: But it's not racist, crucially?

GB: I don't think it's racist. I think people are looking too quickly to be able to jam that label onto it.

VideoGamer.com: Is it the case, then, that it's being accused of being racist because game journalists feel that they should feel it's racist?

GB: That's interesting. I think it ties in with what I was talking about, about inverse racism. That in a sense there's a politically correct position which says this should be your knee-jerk reaction to what's going on there. I think it's quite likely but I'm not sure that in any way the makers of this game can be held responsible for that kind of response. I think that might be possible, in which case I think what they really should be asking themselves is, although I can't imagine people would do this, why are they having those kind of responses? And what negativity is implicit in that positive response? And the negativity is that actually we don't look at people as human beings, we look at them as black and white.

What do you think readers? Let us know in the comments section below.

Resident Evil 5 is due out for Xbox 360 and PS3 on March 13.

New stuff to check out

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

Raishin's Avatar

Raishin

They seriously go in there looking for ways to call things racist for their own self satisfaction don't they?

If you ask me, most of these racism claims are made by racists. Why the hell else do you go out of your way to try and prove anything that portrays even a single member of a particular race or ethnicity in a "derogatory" manner is racist? It would be different if it was fabricated with the express purpose to make their entire race look bad.

"What?! We can't have a black man playing a villain anymore? Then why can we have a white man playing one?"

"We have to have a token black man in a key role in our movies/games/etc or else its racist?"
Posted 00:08 on 21 March 2009
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

I wonder if the guy actually played any of Resi 5 before casting accusations of racism. I could understand if you can unlock a KKK suit for Chris or something but for god's sake get a life - these so called 'specialists' and 'protectors of the peace' end up reigniting fires that don't need to be lit! How come COD4 wasn't deemed racist for shooting people in the middle east - A bit more close to home on current race and religion concerns.
Posted 11:44 on 17 March 2009
inuit's Avatar

inuit@ THMercury

seems a bit racist to assume that the only place that racism occurs is Africa; you don't think the relation of Israelis and Palestinians might have something to do with perceptions of race, and thus of racism?
Posted 10:53 on 17 March 2009
Gordo01's Avatar

Gordo01

There is always gonna be something about race as usual, Im sure the fact that people can buy this game would mean that the game was never intended to be racist. Its just the press want to get in on the action cause they know its a big franchise. But who cares this nonsense isnt stopping the majority of people buying the game because it is a great game.

To a-ray they have this for a reason especially in america it is a touchy subject, and it celebrates the end of days when a Family along with the kids would go and watch a black man being hung from a tree stabbed and set on fire, because he sneezed in public thats the kinda sick *****that would get done.
Posted 22:35 on 16 March 2009
THMercury's Avatar

THMercury

Hey Wesley,
Sorry dude but you need to do your homework. What makes this guy an expert in his field? Last I checked, Resident Evil 5 is about race and Africa. This guy's specialty is Israel/Palestine and religious imagery. Again, nothing to do with Africa and how blacks are portrayed. If he's an expert on racism solely because he's an anthropologist, then I must be an expert in neuroscience because I took a class in college.

We get upset when people talk horribly about videogames and never play them and try to ban them. How can we do the same thing about a topic so delicate? I do hope that you and the staff decide to publish a story talking about his credentials, or at least ask an anthropologist who actually does work in AFRICA on his or her opinion.

It's perfectly possible to use Africa as the setting for a powerful and troubling horror story, but when you're applying the concept of people being turned into savage monsters onto an actual ethnic group that has long been misrepresented as savage monsters, it's hard to see how elements of race weren't going to be a factor.

I really do hope that you and your staff will publish another story asking real anthropologists in the field of racism on this topic, or will at least post that this guy isn't an "expert." Though the damage has been done and this story has been posted in many blogs worldwide and as seen as gospel by gamers, but you can start ending the nonsense.
Posted 17:17 on 16 March 2009
USslacker's Avatar

USslacker

"Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game," said N'Gai Croal
http://forums2.battleon.com/f/interc...xposesraci sm

I don't even know how to react to his statement. Fool...
Posted 17:38 on 13 March 2009
inuit's Avatar

inuit@ Hernan

OK, sorry. I should have referred to Sami wearing masks made of the mutilated heads of reindeer run down by cars.
Posted 20:15 on 08 March 2009
Hernan's Avatar
Delete Post

Hernan

Inuits...in Finland? -_-
*facepalm*
Posted 21:49 on 06 March 2009
A Ray's Avatar
Delete Post

A Ray

I think its messed up how we can kill every other race but as soon as black people r zombies its races. U know wat is Races...black people have there own Black History Month,There own TV Channel, and Award Show.
Posted 20:27 on 06 March 2009
Johnson's Avatar
Delete Post

Johnson

Inverted Racism. The knee-jerk response. Politically correct opinion. Saying those things is enough to point out the problematic entities of this issue.

Thank you for this side of the issue. We need both sides before we should say much.
Posted 18:37 on 06 March 2009
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

I think it would be more racist if it were just white zombies in Africa. Think about it.
Posted 18:28 on 06 March 2009
eadwin's Avatar
Delete Post

eadwin

"You think you're simply in some backwater part of Africa where there are infected savages that I'm killing."
No, you DON'T. You can see these tentacle things coming out of their necks once you critical-headshot them.
I can't understand how the hell can people call Resident Evil 5 racist. It's so dumb and ridiculous. I mean, seriously, it's set in Africa, and it's not like you're being attacked by sane native people; they're all infected, for God's sake! Such people like those who accuse RE of being racist are the reason why racism exists...
Posted 17:03 on 06 March 2009
Errol James's Avatar
Delete Post

Errol James

The game would be racist if the game was set in Africa and there weren't any black people lol.. Sorry it's not racist.. people just need to get over themselves.
Posted 16:38 on 06 March 2009
Aguro's Avatar
Delete Post

Aguro

Wow, that was actually very deep. If anything I think that people seeking to play this game should read this article in order to garner a deeper enjoyment of the theme of the game.

Just awesome.
Posted 16:35 on 06 March 2009
Jeff's Avatar
Delete Post

Jeff

If this 'discussion' doesn't stop, I'm gonna freak the f@ck out. Can someone tell me why African people aren't allowed to be zombies, but Spanish and Americans are in the previous 4 games? Seriously, think about 4. A blonde haired, blue eyed soldier murdering waves of dark skinned, hispanic spaniards? Remember the Spanish civil war, when the Hitler's "aryan nation" gave aid to Franco to help murder countless Spanish natives? You can even take it back further, since everyone in Spain used to have blonde hair and blue eyes until the moors invaded from the south and spent 700 years mixing races, societies and ideas, so you could also say it echoes the Spanish inquisition. But no, for some reason these are too far a stretch for the imagination, probably because it doesn't make sense to run those comparisons within the context of Resident Evil 4. Just like it shouldn't make sense to run these comparisons in the context of Resident Evil 5.
Posted 16:19 on 06 March 2009

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Release Date: 13/03/2009
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
No. Players: 1-2
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 1,127 89
View Full Site