More On Resident Evil And Racism

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Friend of the room, Evan Narcisse, talks to RE5 designer Jun Takeuchi. The whole thing is worth reading. Forgive the extensive block quote, this exchange is great:

Narcisse: I had a strong reaction upon seeing the trailer. But, also I understand the series and I understand the fiction that it's building on. How do you feel about people having strong reactions about the game without prior knowledge of the series? There's potential for a large part of the audience playing the game to feel like a judgment is being made against them by virtue of their portrayal in the game.

Jones: He's having a hard time shooting poor black people. That's the core of what he's trying to get at. He loves the series but he's having a difficult time getting involved...

Narcisse: Maybe this is getting a little too personal, but I'm only a generation removed from that kind of experience.

Chris Kramer: Was it easier for you to shoot poor brown people in Resident Evil 4?

Jones: There were no brown people in Resident Evil 4.

Narcisse: Spaniards, they're swarthy ... Because there was a certain aspect of normalization in that game -- in that the contrast [between Leon and the human enemies he was fighting] was not as stark -- I didn't have that kind of reaction.

Kramer: Skin-color contrast or social contrast?

Narcisse: Both. And because there's a history of demonization and subhuman portrayals with regard to people of African descent, there's a certain sensitivity around that. I understand that legacy for the most part is completely different in Japan. But that history of negative portrayals was what informed my reactions. I'm not judging the game. In seeking to portray a certain kind of terror, the game may make people of certain backgrounds feel like they're being portrayed as frightening or less than human. How do you feel about this unintended consequence? I just want to know Takeuchi-san's reaction to that.

Takeuchi: You mentioned that you're one generation removed from those kinds of problems. If you look at us in Japan, one generation ago Japanese people who hadn't done anything wrong were being bombed in Tokyo and other places during the war. That doesn't mean that we think that Americans are all bad or that we think that Americans are bad at all. [These are] just things that have happened in our pasts. That's maybe not something that we should try to be too sensitive about, or not try to be too sensitive about, when we make these kinds of things... [telephone rings, startling us all] At the end of the day, we're making a piece of entertainment. We're not making anything that has a political message to it. And, I feel that if you start to decide who you can treat as enemies or who you can take on in a game...
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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