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You Filthy Gaijin...
April 12th 2008, 02:05 CEST by Greg

The Japanese are at it again, showing they have no idea how to broach racially sensitive topics in games.

Recently, Capcom released a trailer for Resident Evil 5. In it, Chris Redfield is in a town which looks to be Caribbean, populated by black people who apparently turn into zombies. Which he then has to kill, or something.

The imagery from the trailer is controversial. Is it meant to reflect history? Is it yet another example of Japanese game developers playing off of racial stereotypes (ala Barret in FFVII, hell the topic name "filthy gaijin" is yet another Japanese stereotype)?
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#34 by Caryn
2008-04-12 04:08:17
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
This raises a question: what defines something as racist as opposed to historically or culturally appropriate?

If we know that a game or a movie is being set in Somalia or in Darfur, and we know that (a) those places are incredibly violent; (b) these places are populated by Africans; (c) the violence in these places occurs between warring tribes; is the game or movie automatically racist for depicting this violence? Is it racist only if the protagonist is white, even in the context of a character trying to survive in the midst of tribal and racial violence? Would it be less racist if the protagonist was also an African? Would that be more or less acceptable?

It seems a less serious question when viewing media depicting black zombies in an island setting. Is the game drawing on voodoo culture, which is a Haitian mythology and thus inextricably intertwined with what is a black population, and its belief in zombies? Is it therefore automatically racist for it to place that mythology in an appropriate setting? Again, is it racist because the person doing the zombie killing is white, and would it be more or less appropriate if that person was black instead?

When a culture that has been the victim of racism is also tied into a related culture that has a history of violence -- racism juxtaposed with Africa's violent areas, or anti-Semitism juxtaposed with Israel's tendency toward heavy-handedness in the Arab world -- is it ever okay to depict those darker cultural sides without it being racist? If so, when? What makes it racist to do so?

Bellydance!
#35 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:14:12
The fellow in the article sees racism in the trailer because he wants to, really. The video shows brainless, stupid, savage, undead zombies who run at the game's protagonist to get a piece of his flesh,  screaming "uuuuuaaaaahhhhhhhhh". What does it matter what skin colour they have? The video doesn't put black people in a bad light, it puts ZOMBIES in a bad light. It's not that I'm refusing to have an open mind about this, it's just that these things are nothing more than zombies. We aren't even told what country this is supposed to be, if any. I haven't been exposed to racist American imagery, no. I guess those images depict black people as savages, and that this is where the writer of that article probably sees similarities to the trailer's footage. But this game doesn't glorify killing black people. It's not set in a prison camp, and the game isn't about demonifying an already victimized ethnicity. It's about killing zombies, no more, no less. Sure, if you go and show this trailer to your neighbor without TELLING him that those things are zombies, he's going to be shocked. But for someone who knows it's about zombies, I don't believe there's a problem.

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#36 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:15:16
Reading Caryn's post, I have to add that Call of Duty 4 is more racist than RE 5.

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#37 by CheesyPoof
2008-04-12 04:18:46
Huh, if ever there were an example about what N'Gai was talking about...

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#38 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:19:04
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
Poofy

from Wikipedia

It is once again legal to produce and sell absinthe in practically every country where alcohol is legal, the major exception being the United States, but as of 2007 absinthe’s “banned status” in the States is changing, and two brands, Lucid and Kübler, began to be sold openly within the U.S. ..... In 2007 the laws prohibiting absinthe were relaxed and several brands of absinthe were legally approved for sale.


The quantity of thujone is regulated, unfortunately.  I picked up a bottle of Lucid earlier in the week.  It is brewed with wormwood, but not enough to make it illegal.

Funk.

#39 by CheesyPoof
2008-04-12 04:20:49
Huh, interesting. Do you go through the rigamarole of  the sugar and the spoon and all that?

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#40 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:21:24
Just smoke a blunt, man.

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#41 by Caryn
2008-04-12 04:21:58
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
Hugin, I see the points you're making. But I also think that your example is an edge case in which it's so easy to see where the problem is. I definitely recognize that because I'm fairly removed from racism I may not see them as being directly parallel. Is the problem more that we aren't -- or aren't at the moment due to limited information -- capable of delving into the context of this imagery, and that if we did we'd be able to more accurately determine if it was racist or not?

Knee-jerk racism or sexism calls -- and I'm not necessarily labeling this as such -- irritate me in the same way that knee-jerk reactions to sex and violence in games irritate me. Using my example about a game or movie set in Somalia or Darfur, if we saw an image of a white soldier shooting a group of Africans wouldn't we need to understand the context of it before we shouted racism? Is it because we know that Resident Evil 4 is throwaway entertainment and is therefore not really going to be exploring any deep and meaningful social commentary on racism that we can assume that not enough thought was put into that for there to be any appropriate context?

Bellydance!
#42 by Hugin
2008-04-12 04:22:16
lmccain@nber.org
I think one question is, are the black people (or the arabs or women or whatever group we're talking about) human beings with human motivations?  Or are they just the other?  Do they have voices in the game, do they have thoughts, a culture, a point of view, do they have something they love, or feel is worth fighting for, do they feel pain (in a deeper way than grunting when they're killed), can the audience empathise with them?  If they're just objects to be acted on by the hero (i.e, they just exist to be killed or just to be saved, the common fate of women in a lot of narratives), I think that becomes more problematic.

 Once you have a white POV character thrust into this environment you have to grapple with these things (of course, the questions are still there if the protagonist is black or arab or whatever, but that's basically not going to happen in 95 percent of video games, so it's kind of a moot point).

I also think it's important to draw a distinction between racist and...problematic. I don't know if there's a better word for it than that.  Tricky, complicated.  Video games don't necessarily do complicated very well, not in terms of culture anyway.  The best examples I can think of involve alien/imaginary races, ad it's still rather broadly drawn.  One of my favorite texts that deals with race from the last ten years is The Wire.  A show where half, if not more of the black characters are criminals, created and written mostly by white people.  But I think it's pretty great.  So it's not like I don't think it's doable, I just think it's something I'm not sure the likes of Capcom is equipped to handle.

"Bioshock, sadly, is no Painkiller." - BobJustBob
#43 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:22:36
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
Lucid has a very overly strong anise taste (which they do use as one of their herbs), which I'm not a huge fan of.  So the water and sugar help.  And after a few swigs, I stop caring about the taste.

Funk.

#44 by Greg
2008-04-12 04:23:05
Caryn - I really had the same reaction as you watching the trailer, on first glance with my worldview I didn't see really much "wrong" with it. But it was "white guy vs black zombies" and really, they should take a step back and ask "is there anything wrong with this?" And given Japanese development history, I'm guessing they did not.

|^^^^^^^^^^^^ |||__
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(@)'(@)"""*|(@)*(@)*****(@)
#45 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:23:05
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
Why does the black man have to smoke a blunt?  

Funk

#46 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:25:38
You racist! I thought the point of drinking Absinthe is to get high? Blunt = works for sure, is cheaper. I've smoked quite a few in my youth without being black.

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#47 by CheesyPoof
2008-04-12 04:27:01
You said you were of Caribbean decent...

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#48 by Ergo
2008-04-12 04:27:20
Absinthe does not make you high. That is a myth. It does get you very, very drunk, though.

Invention is the Green Goblin of Necessary Lemonade.

--Flowers
#49 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:27:21
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
More specifically, why does the black man of caribbean decent have to smoke a blunt.

Funk.

#50 by Ergo
2008-04-12 04:27:50
BECAUSE THAT'S THE RULES, MAN!

Invention is the Green Goblin of Necessary Lemonade.

--Flowers
#51 by Caryn
2008-04-12 04:28:03
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
One of my favorite texts that deals with race from the last ten years is The Wire.  A show where half, if not more of the black characters are criminals, created and written mostly by white people.

I often wonder these things while watching The Shield, another show in which a huge majority of the black characters are criminal. I sometimes wonder as I'm watching what the black actor playing the criminal thinks about his role on the show, and if he has any reservations about playing what is a racial stereotype on one hand but also an unfortunate demographic reality in the setting of the show.

Bellydance!
#52 by Hugin
2008-04-12 04:28:07
lmccain@nber.org
You know, I mentioned Stormfront earlier as a joke, but just as an aside, it's not uncommon for folks like that to talk about how they'd defend their neighborhoods from race riots of nonwhites went out of control, and one of their memes for describing these scenarios is how to fend off "zombie attacks" or "packs of zombies".

"Bioshock, sadly, is no Painkiller." - BobJustBob
#53 by CheesyPoof
2008-04-12 04:28:28
I don't know, trying to lighten the situation a little bit.

Are you a mean drunk?

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#54 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:30:52
Hey, I'm not saying you are Afroman :P

But people think Absinthe is some kind of wonder drug that will make them fly, and it's not. So if the goal of drinking Absinthe is to get high, it's not going to work. Hence = Want to get high? Smoke a blunt!

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#55 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:32:08
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
Oh, and since you asked me where, I got it from Morrell Wines over by Rockefeller Center.  They do ship anywhere in the US, however.


Funk.

#56 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:36:11
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
As Ergo said, it doesn't get you high.  However, only Wray and Nephew overproof rum comes close to how quickly I feel it.  Acutally I think I feel the absinthe faster than the rum.  I will have to conduct some tests to find out.

Unfortunately/Fortunately, BSG is coming on soon, so I will have to hold off testing for another time.

Funk.

#57 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:36:20
You can buy Absinthe of any colour in Spain. 24 hour stores have it in plastic bottles, I remember seeing one brand that had green stuff with a hemp leaf on it, plus red, blue and yellow. If that stuff doesn't make you blind, you are a tough sunnovabitch!

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#58 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:38:31
Oh, yeah. Already there are assholes pasting fake S04E02 and 03. And still people don't have any common sense and post shit like "PLYYY GUYS THIS FAKE OR REAL PLSSS TELL ME URGENT??" in the BT sites' comments sections. We are doomed!

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#59 by Gabe
2008-04-12 04:38:44
http://www.dartpublishing.com
I looked up Lucid. "Alcohol Content:   124%" No wonder it gets you really, really drunk! I assume it's proof, and yeah, absinthes have a ridiculous alcohol level and that's what fucks people up.

I'm still saddened that Aunt Bailey's Pickling Juice was intercepted by US Customs.
#60 by Squeaky
2008-04-12 04:38:47
#49 by Funkdrunk

More specifically, why does the black man of caribbean decent have to smoke a blunt.

Funk.

I bet you've got dreads, too!

#61 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:41:25
How can there be 124% of anything? *scratches head*

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#62 by Hugin
2008-04-12 04:41:43
lmccain@nber.org
My other thought is that, most good videogames set up a loop where the thing you do..whatever that is, gives you a little burst of pleasure.  Most videogames are inevitably going to be repetitive, so the thing you're doing a lot has to be fun or satisfying or rewarding.  In shooters, or combat heavy games, clearly blowing away, chopping down, blowing up, etc the monsters is supposed to be fun.  (And in a horror game, some of the tension must inevitably come from the designers using imagery and situations they know will make us tense and play on our basic fears.  It's basic craftsmanship in a horror story.

So, while I intellectually know they're zombies, and I enjoy killing zombies as much as the next guy, you've still got this sort of situation set up, this...sensory circuit, where "masses of black people"= scary monsters --> Killing scary monsters (who look like black people)= fun.

What people yell at the sceen in the privacy of their own living rooms as they play it...I can imagine in some cases it'll be...not great.

"Bioshock, sadly, is no Painkiller." - BobJustBob
#63 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:44:38
White zombies scare me just as much!

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#64 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 04:45:24
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
What people yell at the screen in the privacy of their own living rooms as they play it...I can imagine in some cases it'll be...not great.


Oh I agree.  My upstairs neighbor had a college age kid that used to yell all sorts of profane racial slurs out all the time when watching sports.  It was a good day when he moved out. I can imagine him and his friends if they were playing this game.

Funk.

#65 by FoRmaT
2008-04-12 04:46:40
Why didn't you confront him about it?

"Action stars of two decades ago shot .44 bullets out of their cocks. Honestly, if me and Charles Bronson were in the same room I'd kill myself just to make sure he didn't hurt me."
#66 by Gabe
2008-04-12 04:48:24
http://www.dartpublishing.com
Hugin prefers to shoot whitey.
#67 by bago
2008-04-12 05:19:15
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
He was only armed with a headblade.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
#68 by m0nty
2008-04-12 05:34:08
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
FoRmaT (#61):
How can there be 124% of anything? *scratches head*

That means 124% proof, where proof goes up to 200% because you divide it by two to get the actual alcohol content.
#69 by Gabe
2008-04-12 05:42:06
http://www.dartpublishing.com
Minus the percent sign, of course.
#70 by Shadarr
2008-04-12 07:16:34
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
I think what Hugin said about it being problematic is spot on.  It's entirely conceivable that a good game could be made with Darfur or Haiti or a concentration camp as the setting, but it's unlikely to ever happen because videogames only ever have one character.  Everyone besides the player is basically an object which exists to be acted on by the player.  There's no possibility of moral complexity because there's no real distinction between NPCs and vending machines, jumping puzzles or keys.  They all exist as either obstacles or aids to the player.

And I think this relates back to the good and evil discussion.  The fundamental problem is that the way "good" and "evil" are portrayed are as effects on the player, not the world.  When given the choice to help someone or kill them, the only consequence that matters is that it will move your good/evil slider.  Which is a fundamentally amoral and narcissistic worldview.

Witnesses in the house heard Jones say "why did you pee on me Pooh Bear?" A few moments later, the witness heard the son say "Mama you done stabbed me."
#71 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 07:20:37
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
I just checked my bottle of overproof, it's 63% ABV.  So it's a little stronger then the Absinthe.  Not enoough to be more than a statiscal blip, however.

Anyways, to answer format, I wasn't sure which of the kids that lived upstairs (there are 6 apartments) belonged to my upstairs neighbor.  I did know which adults lived above me from residents meetings, and I dropped hints that the walls were thinner than they thought and they should be carefult because I could hear things that should be private.

He moved out a few months later, after he got out of school, so it stopped on it's own.

Funk.

#72 by eggbert
2008-04-12 07:28:39
http://www.stuffresearch.com
Yeah, I never got that. If proof is just the percent times two...why not use the percent instead?

I sometimes wonder as I'm watching what the black actor playing the criminal thinks about his role on the show, and if he has any reservations about playing what is a racial stereotype on one hand but also an unfortunate demographic reality in the setting of the show.

I've had that conversation before. The answer from the actor is usually along the lines of: most parts for minorities are racial stereotypes, and I need to pay this crazy California rent before I get evicted. It would be nice to only play well rounded, complex and interesting minority characters, but there aren't enough out there to sustain a career unless you're Denzel or Will Smith or Morgan Freeman.

It's either that, or a variation of the rationalize any actor has for taking a "commercial" role, it'll help them pay for their personal arty projects.
#73 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 07:36:44
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
From Wikipedia

Britain originally specified alcohol content in terms of proof spirit, originally defined as the most dilute spirit which would sustain combustion of gunpowder. In this system, spirit of 100 degrees proof contains 57.1% alcohol by volume or 49.28% alcohol by weight at 51 °F (10.6 °C) and is equivalent to 114.2 proof in the USA. Pure ethanol is 175.25 degrees proof, or more strictly is 75.25 degrees over proof.


It's just a historical thing now.  And most spirits come marked with ABV nowdays, which makes so much more sense.

My bro is an indie film director, and he echoes what Eggie just said.  He adds that also there is the thought that some exposure, no matter how distasteful is better than no exposure.  Lawrence Fishburn played Cowboy Curtis with Pee Wee Herman at one point.

Funk.

#74 by Ergo
2008-04-12 07:55:20
The last bottle of absinthe that I (illegally) imported from Spain was 160 proof, according to the label, so that's some seriously strong shit. It was some Swiss brand, the name of which I forget, probably of the brains cells it killed during its consumption. The reason why absinthe was banned had nothing to do with the so-called "high" it supposedly caused--it had everything to do with how strong and how cheap it was and the amount of competition it was giving to French vintners at the time.

Anyway, absinthe is good stuff when taken in small doses. Unless you don't like the flavor of liquorice; then it's moot.

Invention is the Green Goblin of Necessary Lemonade.

--Flowers
#75 by Funkdrunk
2008-04-12 07:59:19
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
160 huh?  I have a friend who may be going to spain, perhaps I should ask if she can do me the favor.

Funk.

#76 by McBain
2008-04-12 08:26:02
#70 by Shadarr

Agreed.

#77 by Ergo
2008-04-12 08:29:40
Yes, Shadarr's post was spot-on.

Invention is the Green Goblin of Necessary Lemonade.

--Flowers
#78 by m0nty
2008-04-12 08:31:34
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
And thus doesn't belong on this site.
#79 by Dingle
2008-04-12 09:41:36
mylifesazoo@gmail.com
I want to see a game that stars a pathetic, racist-murderer Nazi who has to survive making his way through a concentration camp full of returned-from-the-dead innocent Jews with only a Swiss army knife and a rock. Spend forty hours on the survival horror, and in the end there's no way you can win. You only end up in hell, as it should be.

I'd fork out about $18.77
#80 by BobJustBob
2008-04-12 10:11:27
Sounds like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

"I don't like story in games." - Soren Johnson
#81 by None-1a
2008-04-12 10:25:08
#17 by Caryn
Also, the Japanese seem to be notably completely ignorant of racially charged issues that weren't part of their history, as exemplified by Nazi imagery apparently being popular as fashion items not too long ago in Japan.


While this maybe true with in Japan it's no excuse for it here. A good number of Japanese companies have a nasty habit of using racially charged imagery just to create controversy then playing the 'we have nazi bars and robojesus asskicker manga we don't get this stuff sorry" card as soon as it gets out of control. Second the RE series is one of Capcom's major US releases and the trailer is from E3, you just wouldn't release something like that with out approval from at least someone well versed in american culture and frankly it'd be more likely the whole thing would be funneled through the american offices anyway.

Funny enough the Biohazard 5 trailers have none of this imagery. Granted they are very old and they likely didn't have much in the way of assests to work with for them.

All of that said the only imagery I have to question in the trailer is the inclusion of the megaphone screen. Since there's no context for that it clouds how the rest of the trailer looks a great deal (makeing it look like a call to violance aimed at the outsider rather then a zombie virus infection).
#82 by Dingle
2008-04-12 10:50:34
mylifesazoo@gmail.com
I played that game, and I'm still using the mousepad for it!!! LOlsolollllalaala!!!

I'm of the mindset that the actors who portrayed the villains in Schindler's List could actually be the finest Christians you'd ever meet. I remember Sir Anthony Hopkins' comment about playing villains: "As a Christian man, I play villains to make sure that everyone that walks out of the theatre hates evil."

Thank God we don't all buy into Hollywood stock morality.
#83 by McBain
2008-04-12 10:51:17
All of that said the only imagery I have to question in the trailer is the inclusion of the megaphone screen. Since there's no context for that it clouds how the rest of the trailer looks a great deal (makeing it look like a call to violance aimed at the outsider rather then a zombie virus infection).

I thought the same thing about the guy with the megaphone.

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