Penny Arcade Examines the RE5 Racism Controversy

While gamers continue to debate whether or not the upcoming Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery, the Penny Arcade crew has weighed in on the issue with a new comic (left).

Incidentally, in a recent GamePolitics poll on the topic, 83% of GP readers disagreed with the idea that there was racism in the game.

For the full PA comic, click here.

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  1. Mad_Scientist says:

    Yah, I remember reading a comment that on a blog in the past that pretty much made that statement. Ironically, the person who did so said that others were trying to redefine the word "racist."

    Complete BS, in my mind. For one thing, it’s possible to be racist without engaging in actual racist oppression of someone. For another thing, people are individuals, and just because blacks are a minority in this country doesn’t mean a particular black person can’t find himself in a position where he has power over someone else of a different skin color.

  2. Navi says:

    Agreed.  I think the most discriminated person out there are straight young white males.  You can have scolarships, clubs, organisations for people who are asian, latinos, african-americans, women, old-people, GBLQ.  But if you try to create one for someone who dosn’t fall into any of these catagories, your being racists/sexists/etc… 

    I dont advocate supremecy, but I do advocate equality.  I feel bad that people were oppressed, but I cannot be held responsible for what they did 50 years ago.  I was not alive then.  While racism does exist today, it is not one sided.  There are just as many people who hate white males then there are white males who hate other races.

  3. fugori says:

     No, clearly they aren’t.  This conversation isn’t about whether or not the game is racist.  At least, it shouldn’t be.  Everyone who is framing the question in that manner is missing the mark by a mile.  The question is, and this is what the poll asked originally, does the game contain racist imagery?  You bring up an excellent point – films depicting Nazi Germany contain racist imagery.  But how do those works of art treat that imagery?  Is a scene, in Schindler’s List for instance, of helpless, starved Jews being stripped down by humorless SS guards and then led to a shower room where they are gassed to death a proper treatment of that topic?  Does the imagery understand the history of the events it’s portraying and the impact of what it is showing?  Is it intended to entertain or inform?  Every year more and more people like most of us around here drift over to the Art side of the Are Games Art? debate.  But if we can’t step back and give the same critical eye to our favorite medium that we and others give to films and literature and music, then are we doing our own arguments any justice?

  4. Michael Chandra says:

    Now you sound like a racist. =P It ain’t black so it’s white.

    But to go into detail, I have 1/16 indonesian blood and have a fairly tanned skin in comparison, despite not getting much light in the past years. (Really need a trip to Spain again, 1 week would get me decently dark again.) This puts me in a region where some people actually assume I’m a muslim and told my brother to shut up against real Dutchies. It’s kind of a weird demographic and puts me in a rather unique point of view.

  5. Lazier Than Thou says:

    Actually, there are a lot of people that seem to believe that any minority cannot, by definition, be racist.  The general idea(I don’t believe it, but this is the line of thinking) is that they do not have authority of the government  and, as such, cannot engage in racist activities at all.  Not only that, but it is considered inoffensive if a minority has "racist attitudes" towards the race majority simply because of their powerlessness.

    I believe this is something that has actually been taught in various colleges around the US.

    Here’s a quote I found on the comments section of a Youtube video that actually believes this hog wash:

    "A black person is not racist when it is towards a white person, it could be called discrimination or prejudice but never racist. "White" people are the ones that made that "black" person have the emotions and anger from his ancestors that were treated horribly by the "whites". It is not his fault for being that way it is the society he grew up in that was created by the white’s oppression."

    Yes, I’m aware of how ridiculous that is.

  6. Neeneko says:

    Another demographic that might also be interesting?

    Demographic information is not mutually exclusive. Ideally you want poll data to come with as much background info as possible and then search for patterns.

  7. Neeneko says:

    And koreans.

    And blacks.

    And americans.

    A significant portion of the japanese population is pretty nippon-centric and xenophobic.

  8. chadachada321 says:

    Wee wee…i mean braaiinnss…i mean run awayyy….

    (note that the above racism was done in a light manner, and was not meant to offend, but to simply be a little joking)

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  9. chadachada321 says:

    Good point. I don’t think that RE5 is meant to be racist, nor should anyone be offended by it. But I wouldn’t doubt that there isn’t some racism in it (like black-on-white violence or white-on-black violence, given the volatile setting)

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  10. chadachada321 says:

    ….I can’t believe I’ve watched DB and DBZ most of my whole life, and never even noticed that. I guess that’s because I don’t see racism, I just see a dark-skinned guy or a weird-faced guy…

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  11. chadachada321 says:

    Makes your post completely pointless…? I don’t know what type of answer you’re looking for.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  12. gamadaya says:

    I watched a little and got bored. I didn’t see anything racist, but it’s probably in there. The same with Dragon Ball. Whenever there’s a black character, he always has the stereotypical blackface. But I don’t think there’s any malicious intent there.

  13. gaspar says:

    "In Japan, they don’t really have any racial taboos like we do here."

    I believe this is very incorrect. Watch Eyeshield 21 and tell me that its not the most racist thing you have ever seen.

    I also understand there is a great deal of racisim against Chinese.

    I agree with your post in spirit, however.

  14. Inimical says:

    Actually, if you read the news post Tycho explains it perfectly. He says something to effect of “you don’t see the genocide, you don’t see the genocide, and then you suddenly see it.”

    I can totally see what he’s talking about. It’s very easy to find something if you are looking for it. I won’t doubt the racist imagery but if no one had pointed it out to us, I don’t think most of the population would have even noticed and it would have been treated like any other game involving killing things.

  15. Firebird says:

    Now, I think we should move to another area for the RE series in which we can all agree on…

    Anybody up for shooting French zombies?

  16. gamadaya says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say that probably makes you a white European.


     Internet troll > internet paladin

  17. gamadaya says:

    That is actually a really good idea. Can we please have another poll on this? I would love to see the results.

    I don’t think RE5 is deliberately racist. I mean, it was developed by Capcom, a Japanese company. In Japan, they don’t really have any racial taboos like we do here. They just don’t think about that kind of stuff. It’s probably a result of them being a closed society for so long. A lot of people in the west might find it racist, and I would just like to tell them to chill. So a white guy is shooting black zombies. Are we going to cry about this? Do we need to include an equal number of white zombies as well? And how about throwing in some zombies in wheelchairs so we aren’t being descriminatory against the disabled? Or, instead of that, how about we just grow the fuck up. Capcom didn’t set the game in Africa or make the majority of the zombies black out of racist intent. That’s just a fact. The people who are making this an issue are the people who want to see racism where there isn’t any. We can’t keep throwing shit fits every time a white guy starts shooting black guys in a video game.


    Internet troll > internet paladin

  18. Neeneko says:

    Because it would be interesting to see how opinion breaks down based on background?

    There is a differnce between:

    If we have a population split of, say, 80% white and 20% black:

        80% of blacks and 80% of whites feel this is not racist


        100% of white and 0% of black feel this is racist

    While these two breakdowns result in the same final percentage they say very differnt things about how people feel about something, specificly it goes from ‘most people feel this is not racist’ to ‘whites do not feel this is racist, blacks do’.

  19. mredria says:

    It points out that LOTS of games that involve killing CAN be interpretted as racist.

    WoW = Go kill those people over there. They look different than us and talk a different language.

    Zombie Games = Go kill those things over there. They look different and don’t speak any language.

    If they were white zombies that didnt look dirty and rotten and everyone was represented exactly equally then no one would know who the civvies are supposed to be and who the enemies are supposed to be.

    -I apologize-

  20. M. Carusi says:

    It’s a manner of depicted imagery.  People are concerned about the way blacks are depicted as savage cannibals, which might carry more weight if they weren’t *zombies*.  It’s just a bandwagon effect that people are nothing if not willing to run behind.

    M. Carusi

    Capitol Gaming

  21. Bennett Beeny says:

    I think the cartoon would have been more effective if the third panel had shown the black guy holding the gun.  The lack of ‘bite’ in Penny Arcade cartoons is the whole reason I don’t seek them out.

  22. fugori says:

     "Incidentally, in a recent GamePolitics poll on the topic, 83% of GP readers disagreed with the idea that there was racism in the game."

    That isn’t the question the poll asked.

    Funny little comic.  Waiting with bated breath for Tycho’s blog on the matter.

  23. Dragoon1376 says:

    Edit: This was in reply to Ashton’s comment.  Trying to post before coffee leads to blunders.

    How about the polls they do for political issues?  Especially when they divide it into race/ethnic groups, where the hell are the Asians?  Either it’s assumed that Asians are all of one hive mentality like the Borg (anime is the first wave of assimilation) and all vote the same or they’re lumped in with the white voters. 

  24. Neeneko says:

    I would actually be curious how the GP poll broke down by race, gender, orientation, etc.

    83% feeling that RE5 is not racist is vaugly close to the black population percentage in America.

  25. Zen says:

    Good example…good example indeed.  Some people almost make game themselves by how they can find racism in any context.  Some would probably get upset just because this is typed with black lettering on a majority white background. 


  26. Nocturne says:

    I’ve always thought of this like the scene in Da Vinci Code where Tom Hanks shows his students the image of a group of people in white robes with pointed hoods and asks how many of them think it’s racist imagery and most put their hands up, then the picture pans back to show that it’s a Christian group celebrating Holy Week in Spain.

    Just because you look at an image and believe it to be racist imagry, doesn’t mean it actually is racist.

  27. Navi says:

    I understand where you comming from.  But I wouldnt fret over the Hollywood DBZ movie too much.  This movie will be so embarrisingly bad.

  28. gamadaya says:

    I know exactly what you mean. 21 pissed me off to no end. They didn’t even try to make white people look asian, they just wrote the asians out of what happened. And the only asians that remained were used for comic relief.


     Internet troll > internet paladin

  29. gaspar says:

    "However, looking at things like the movie scene (Dragonball: Evolution and Avatar) there’s still a significant air of racism among movies today, an industry which has predated gaming by about 50 years (not casting any Asian actors whatsoever for effectively Asian characters is already an insult, but then having one of the white actors say "I can just get a tan, dye my hair, and I’ll look Asian" is just disgusting to me)."

    You are right to be offended by this. This is an actual slight to the brilliant and creative people of East Asia, who have their creations licensed and then repopulated with "localized" actors, plot, and dialogue.

    Just look at The Forbidden Kingdom (2008). You have an opportunity to make a movie with 2 of the greatest martial artists in movie history, and you have to place a talentless white American kid in the staring role. The fact is that Hollywood is still racist, and they still think that America won’t go see a movie without the main character being white. This is, of course, despite the success of Sony pictures classics bringing over big Hong Kong films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, etc.

    This is very different than what’s going on in RE. Here you have a game that takes place in Africa, and the main character, who has been an established character in the franchise for many years is white. So you have a few choices.

    1. Tell your writers "your creativity must be censored because someone might find this racist, so set your game somewhere else" (this is of course even more racist, because if everyone does this Africa will never be featured in a game)

    2. I guess you could make everyone living in Africa suddenly white? This would not only be ridiculous but it seems extremely racist as well.

    3. Magically make the main character black. I guess you could do this, but you would have to introduce a new main character, and again this would be stepping on the toes of the writers. (We do want halfway decent writing, right?)

    4. Tell your story the way your writers envisioned it and let petty people say petty things, and hope that no one decides to ban your game.

    The difference Ashton, is that in Hollywood you have real people, making real choices, that affect Asian actors and writers. In RE you have fictional characters that are doing fictional things, and it does not directly affect anyone, unless they are looking for ways to be offended.

  30. tibuka says:

    Although i’m not a big fan of DB, i’m pretty sure it is never said to take place anywhere in asia, or in our world for that matter. So i have no problem with that.

    As for RE5, it might contain accidental "racist imagery", but at least we can all agree that if that is the case, it happend at worst out of ignorance and in no way deliberately. Can we?

  31. DeepThorn says:

    Yeah, but you can look at a photo of a black homeless guy on a bus bench and call it racist, when it is just reality too.  The question is not really if it is racist, because almost anything can be, but is it more racist than reality? (If we are calling this racist, then I call out Final Fantasy 1 for having no black people.  Just to prove there is no winning.)

    Nido Web Flash Tutorials AS2 and AS3 Tutorials for anyone interested.
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  32. Austin_Lewis says:

    Come on, we’re not all like the jackass (liberals) in hollywood.  Chances are, they decided that the DB movie would have white actors because it’s easier for the core audience to identify with them.  Not saying it makes sense, but Hollywood is a place full of douchebags.

  33. Ashton says:

    You know, I used to be on the side that was saying "This is what they consider racist? They need to lighten up."

    I still am, but now I kind of understand where they are coming from. As an Asian, I have no real emotional stake in something like this because the people being shot aren’t <i>"my people"</i>. However, looking at things like the movie scene (Dragonball: Evolution and Avatar) there’s still a significant air of racism among movies today, an industry which has predated gaming by about 50 years (not casting any Asian actors whatsoever for effectively Asian characters is already an insult, but then having one of the white actors say "I can just get a tan, dye my hair, and I’ll look Asian" is just disgusting to me). THough, in this game it’s different because of the setting of the game; it makes sense for the natives to be portrayed as black.

    I’m not saying I agree with them, I just know where they’re coming from. Having a society that already gives you two strikes (or three in some cases!) merely because you’re not white can cause an entire race of people to become disillusioned and bitter, specifically when they believe they’re being treated unfairly. This can cause a snowball effect that ends up causing people to overreact to every little thing.

  34. Arell says:

    It’s also worth noting that Avatar was a Western creation, and it wasn’t even set in Asia.  It had a lot of Eastern influences, from the anime style to the martial arts, to the many asthetic choices for archetecture and culture.  BUT, it was not actually set in Asia.

    Not set in Asia, not created in Asia.  They can cast whomever they want.

  35. chadachada321 says:

    Yeah, lol, those are the most racist types of people out there. Crying racism when there is none or saying small groups deserve special treatment is just promoting (well, prolonging) racism and generating MORE racial tension…

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  36. chadachada321 says:

    Yes. The people calling this racist, saying that it’s wrong for a white protagonist to kill black zombies, are the only ones really being racist by trying to treat one race different than another.

    All I see is Chris killing zombies that happen to be in Africa…

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  37. JC says:

    A bit of an amusing strip, but I don’t feel much will be debated about this. It just attracts the wrong sort of attention, as it has done repeatedly.

    You have the ones who repeatedly decry the image is racist because a person is white, and that person is shooting a black man (who is undoubtedly trying to kill him), and for some reason that isn’t allowed with them. So they prefer to be treated differently by stating that it is only racism because a black man is being shot and they can somehow relate to this fictional character.

    The whole point of equality is to eliminate this want/need for spotting racism and not caring about skin color of a person and making judgements of something because of that skin color. In other words, you judge it because of skin color, but the other person doesn’t care, the fact is, you’re trying to kill the one with the gun.


    This sounds bad when I reread it, but ugh I need coffee…

  38. Father Time says:

    Or it could just be easier/cheaper to get white actors (since they outnumber the others, at least in Hollywood).


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  39. gaspar says:

    But, as I said, many hong kong cinima films have been very sucessful in the United States. (Even with subtitles O_o)

  40. gamadaya says:

    Just because Holywood frequently makes asian characters white is not necessarily evidence that they are racist. They may very well be racist, but all this shows is that they are assuming that there are a lot of racist Americans. And frankly, it’s a good strategy. I would think that there are more people who wouldn’t see a movie because the main character is black than there are people who would boycott a movie because the main character is white when he should actually be black.


    Internet troll > internet paladin

  41. The Hangd Man says:

    > I like how they had the pupils pointing down towards the ladies breasts? Which is a nice and subtle joke.


    As I’ve said many times before, (and I must say it’s highly applicable to both this statement and many of the other statements regarding RE5) people will see what they want to see. It’s one of the beautiful things about art. So much of it is subjective and interpreted indididually and on a very personal level.

    One should try to understand that many of the recent stories posted are really stories about subjectivity. RE5 and racism, the sexism noted in some of the comments of the "Violent Play is Normal for Boys" story, the recent "Islam is the Light" controversy. There are people who will find the racism/sexism/socialism/insert random -ism in anything because they are looking for it and when it comes to art, they’ll find whatever they think is wrong with it if they want to.

  42. Anto103 says:

    I like how they had the pupils pointing down towards the ladies breasts? Which is a nice and subtle joke.


    Don’t hate me for say lady I don’t know her name and I probably won’t play the game since I hate the control method.


    _ _ Pops… If you dance with the devil, the devil don’t change. The devil changes you.

  43. NovaBlack says:

    TOTALLY great point!

    if RE5 is racist then L4D is racist.

    In fact i also consider the film blade with wesley snipes, equally racist.

  44. Austin_Lewis says:

    You’re damn straight.  I want to know why THATS fine, but its bad when a white man shoots black zombies.

    It astounds me at the level of bullshit involved.

  45. koichan says:

    Sadly theres a lot of people who believe racism only applies when done to ‘minorities’ and doesn’t count when reversed.

    The sheer hypocracy astounds me 🙁

  46. Austin_Lewis says:

    Flip it around.  A black man threatening a white ‘zombie’ with a gun, perhaps against the  backdrop of an inner city?  Racist?

  47. Austin_Lewis says:

    The movie ‘Patton’.  Racist against Russians, Germans, and Japanese.  Very positive towards the one black character in the movie.

  48. LujanD says:

    Hey, the robots were just minding their own business until the bugs got all up in their faces, buzzing around their illuminated optical receptors every night, with no regard to personal space.

    One bug, one pesticide canister!

  49. mdo7 says:


    well, If Resident 5 is racist, then I guess these games are racist also.

    -Quantum of Solace-Bond killed bunch of black people (who are part of a radical group) in this game.  He even got into a fightout with a black man and he strangled him?  OMG, Bond is a British white supremacist.  Don’t watch any James Bond movie like Live and Let Die, You only live Twice, and the man with the golden gun. *sarcasm end*

    -Call of Duty 4-racist against arab and Russian.

    -Medal of Honor and Call of Duty (the ww2 one)-racist against German and Japanese.  read this.

    -Prince of Persia-racist because you’re character is a middle-eastern prince and the developer wasn’t done by any middle eastern countries, so therefore intended racism.

  50. T5 says:

    If someone is going to call you racist for buying a video game chances are they did not like you very much to begin with thereby you are no worse off and should therefore buy the game. 

  51. MaskedPixelante says:

    I’m torn on getting Resident Evil 5. If I purchase it, I’m going to be lumped in with the other racists. But it has Wesker in it, and I think Wesker rocks… but Jill’s dead in it, and I love Jill…

    Why is this such a hard choice.

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  52. CyberSkull says:

    Panel #3 is totally racist. Insectoids have been portraid by the mechanical media as "soft-bots" (hard shell with squishy flesh inside) for too long.

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