Zombies today are more popular than ever, especially in the video game industry. It seems no matter what genre you look at there is a zombie in, on, or around it. Some are cute and cuddly a la Plants vs. Zombies but most would agree that you would have to look hard to find a more notorious, accomplished and successful zombie game franchise than Resident Evil. Perhaps that is why they are always in the limelight but ever since Resident Evil 4 was released there has been a particular string of criticism that just begs to be addressed. That criticism is that Resident Evil, as a franchise and in its individual iterations, is racist.
If we start at the most recent release in the Resident Evil video game franchise you will find this quote which was released by a group of African women who blog about social issues. They released this quote in response to Resident Evil 5.
“The new Resident Evil video game depicts a white man in what appears to be Africa killing Black people. The Black people are supposed to be zombies and the white man’s job is to destroy them and save humanity…
This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.” – Blacklooks.org
This article has since been taken down so this could be completely different now but I still feel some sentiments need to be addressed that stem from this original quote. Whomever provided this quote did so without any knowledge of the series or even the game itself. If they did play the game they would know that black people are not portrayed as inhuman savages as the critics believe. In fact, one of the main characters, Josh, is black man who works for the same organization that the main white characters do. He is portrayed as a very intelligent, savvy special forces agent who saved the main characters a number of times during the course of the game. Not to mention one of the main playable characters, Sheva Alomar, is black.
The quote also mentions that the white characters were dressed in military fatigues and killed black people in civilian clothes. This is true but this is only a half truth because towards the end of the game you are fighting infected black soldiers. If anything that shows that the infection that was spreading around the country affected everyone it touched and is more a consequence of the setting rather than a racial bias. Lastly, the game was not marketed to children and it did receive a rating of M for Mature from the ESRB. If anything children were discouraged from playing the game, but that statement is for another article.
Going back further, around the release of Resident Evil 4 you will find this quote posted by alternet.org.
“The most recent Resident Evil movie is based on extremely popular video games like last year’s smash-hit Resident Evil 4, which places players in the position of fighting parasitically controlled Spaniards (called “Los Ganados” or “the cattle”) with stereotypical Mexican accents.” – alternet.org
This quote must have been released after watching a trailer because it does not convey any truthful information about the game itself. If you played Resident Evil 4 you would know that it took place in Spain, not Mexico. He would also know that the movie is very loosely based on the video game franchise and does not represent a good retelling of the story at large. Those points aside, the article continues.
“But, unlike moviegoers, the gamers don’t just sit and watch the accented villains; they get to become the white heroes who blow them to smithereens at an average of about 900 enemies per gaming session or “playthrough.” And, in what looks like it could be a training video for a white supremacist race war or another U.S. military adventure in one of the increasing numbers of deserts on the planet, players of the soon-to-be-released Resident Evil 5 video game are placed in what could be an African country or Haiti as they blow up armies of black zombies.” – alternet.org
Again another knee-jerk reaction to something completely out of context. In reality, Spain is a European country and I am assuming the author is referring to white people as those of European decent. So wouldn’t the players actually be killing people of their own race? I could go on and on but one could say that these criticisms are unfounded and just untrue in general.
The real issue here runs a lot deeper than what it appears to be. People today are very quick to judge something without even gathering some of the facts. This type of behavior only serves to further the gap between people of different races rather than bring them together. Capcom was just moving the setting of their video game to an area of the world that doesn’t get much attention. Instead of people appreciating the effort to bring attention to Africa, they are criticized for being racist. If anything the critics themselves are being racist for seeing the divide in people that Capcom was ignoring. The critics ignore the series as a whole and focus on the areas that further their agenda.
The only fault I can give to Capcom for all of this is, why aren’t there more black characters and more stories that take place in Africa? As much as half of all video game characters are white while the other half are all the other races combined. Despite this fact it is still a stretch to call Capcom a racist company when half its characters are non-white.
Resident Evil is a lot of things to different people but one thing it’s not and that’s racist. The race of the characters is really interchangeable from one story to the next. In Resident Evil 5, Wesker could have easily infected China, Australia or the United States and it wouldn’t have changed the story at all. The same could be said about any other entry in the franchise. In fact in the earlier iterations of Resident Evil, white people are the victims and become zombies but you didn’t hear white people cry foul yet when the story moves to Spain or Africa suddenly the rules change.
Sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.