A new salvo's been levied at the now-infamous Resident Evil 5 trailer by Tolu Olarunda at the Your Black Writers blog, who was upset by the trailer's imagery.
A couple weeks ago, a friend sent me a A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a YouTube link. He described it as "African genocide." Not knowing what to expect, I clicked on it. What I witnessed for those next 3 minutes, was nerve-wrecking, painful, mind-numbing and heart-racing. It was a trailer for a Video Game called "Resident Evil."
This specific trailer was an eyeful in the most horrid sense. It wasted no time in capitalizing upon the long history of blatant depictions of Africans as savages and helpless imbeciles. The trailer featured a Caucasian male mutilating African villages, along with Africans. With the not-so ancient history of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Africa, the issue of racial insensitivity and indifference must be brought to the centerfold. This patent-reality must be interrogated excruciatingly to expose the silliness of those who claim the 21st century marked the dawn of a post-racial world.
These are strong words, but the trailer's imagery could also be construed as strong. I personally would be hesitant to accuse anything, least of all a video game, of racism without seeing its full context - in other words, playing the entirety of the game. In the absence of that context, imagery alone doesn't necessarily have a message one way or the other.
At the same time, though, I remember when N'Gai Croal said, "this imagery has a history". I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the trailer unsettling, actually. Which is not necessarily a bad thing in media, if it's used to promote a civil discussion, or to create a realistic environment for a game about African zombies free of ignorance or pique.
For my part, I'd caution all of us against a knee-jerk reaction to Olarunda's revulsion. While it is a complex issue, I surely don't find myself aligned with those who see absolutely no potential for, at the very least, misinterpretation of these images.
And comments like Olarunda's remind us that we should be prepared to receive and respond to the games we play in a thoughtful and intelligent way. I feel we'll need all of our facts, both those that support our position and those that don't, in order once this game is actually released and more pairs of eyes begin to fall on it.
Be civil to one another in discussion, by the way - self-righteousness is not righteousness.