Since 1995, gamers have been battling zombies, Las Plagas, and the Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil series. In the past few years, the games have had their share of controversial moments including accusations of racism and sexism. Were these claims as horrible as they were made out to be or were gamers just being too sensitive?
Accusations of Sexism in RE
While the earlier Resident Evil games were praised for having strong female leads like Jill and Claire, the newer ones have been plagued with accusations of sexism. In Resident Evil 5, Sheva’s skimpy animal print costume was labeled as both sexist and racist. Chris had an animal print costume, as well. While it was certainly as ridiculous as Sheva’s, it covered more skin. Another recent Resident Evil controversy was focused on Rachel, a helpless idiot who ultimately died in the second Revelations trailer.
As a female gamer, I don’t feel the need to play as a woman character or care about what they wear. Yes, Sheva’s barely there outfit isn’t practical for fighting hordes of infected. However, it’s an unlockable costume that you don’t even need to put on her if you choose not to. Many games have unlockable or DLC costumes that are completely over the top. If a costume offends you, don’t use it. If a default outfit makes you feel uncomfortable, then perhaps the game isn’t for you. As a woman, I’m not offended by revealing clothing on female gaming character. As long as the character is able to kick ass, she can wear a sack or be naked, for all I care. As for the Rachel incident, I believe it’s making fun to the old horror movie trope of doomed victims (usually a teenage girl or couple) doing stupid things such as throwing their gun at the monster. It’s funny, and of course, none of the Resident Evil heroines are like that.
I’ve played just about every Resident Evil game released and haven’t found them sexist. I grew-up rescuing princesses and never thought my gender was being oppressed. As more female playable video game characters were introduced, I didn’t think much of it. When the first Resident Evil was released everyone I knew, male or female, wanted to play as Jill because she started the game with a gun. When Resident Evil 5 was released, I wanted to play as Chris because he has been a part of my Resident Evil experience for years. For me, a character’s role in the game is more important and more meaningful than gender.
Accusations of racism in Resident Evil
When Leon shot his way through an undisclosed European village in Resident Evil 4, it didn’t cause much of a stir. The real accusation of racism started when the first trailer for Resident Evil 5 was released. It shows Chris shooting his way through an African village. What followed was very divided and often heated discussions on the nature of racism in video games.
I’m a long time fan of Resident Evil, and it was difficult for me to see the controversy in Resident Evil 5. Perhaps it’s because instead of focusing on the location, I focused on Umbrella and Tricell Inc instead. They are the epitome of “big, evil corporations,” testing and unleashing viruses and a form of the Plagas parasite that turns people, regardless of their race, into inhuman monsters. They do it in an improvised, often forgotten areas of the world, just the same as Resident Evil 4. While it might be an uncomfortable sight to see a white, American agent battling the inhabitants of an African village, I think the context of the game was forgotten in many of the arguments. Resident Evil is about destroying bioterrorism, protecting the world, and killing the infected. Could Capcom have done a better job with the story? Of course, but Resident Evil games aren’t known for their gripping dialogue and airtight plots.
Regardless of whether or not you think Resident Evil 5 is racist, the controversy did force gamers to examine and talk about their feelings. Video games are slowly becoming more mainstream and having a game start debates on social issues means that more people are taking them seriously as an important entertainment medium.
I have always felt Resident Evil is just a bit of campy, shoot’em up fun. Regardless of the games’ locations, who’s wearing what or who I’m playing as, I have enjoyed the series throughout the years. Hopefully, the upcoming Resident Evil 6 will be released without causing an uproar. I look forward to playing as Leon and Chris. Most importantly, I look forward to shooting zombies in the head.