Monday, April 28, 2008

The Evil Resident In Us All

Someone somewhere linked to a blog that linked to a blog called Token Minorities, which has some recent posts looking at some of the controversy stirred up last year by the the Resident Evil 5 video game trailers. The game appears to feature a white hero mowing down hordes of zombified black people.

What I find interesting about this is that the zombie genre has always dealt with the fear of the mindless avenging horde. The classic point almost always being the danger that said fear could lead us to commit or condone horrific atrocities, or that society's injustices could blind us to the real threat.

My feeling is that, even if a given zombie story doesn't explicitly portray racial conflict, the very invocation of the mindless avenging horde archetype resonates along those lines when situated in a societal context that includes a strong undercurrent of racial fear. Stories about supernatural mindless hordes tap into actual fears, so in a way all something like Resident Evil is doing (both with this iteration and in the last installment, in which I gather players had to kill waves of marauding Mexicans) is making that culturally-imposed subtext explicit.

Which isn't to excuse the racism. Even when done intentionally (a la Night-Wight) to prompt a meta-conversation about subtext, the racist content is still there and still real. Hopefully the Resident Evil creators will do the mature thing in response to the public outcry, and change the problematic content before the game is released. But it's also worthwhile to take the opportunity to reflect on the feelings that are triggered by the whole series, and by zombie narratives in general.

No comments: