Race & Fetishism

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

Finding different races in video games can be difficult. Finding a woman of a different race in a video game is even tougher. There are women in video games that comes to mind who may or may not do justice.

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror third-person shooter game that took place in a town in Africa. Since the main protagonist of the game is unfamilar with the land, he is assigned a native partner, Sheva Alomar. Sheva is supposed to be an African native, yet to the unknowing spectator she looks like an African American Hollywood actress. That’s because her character was modeled off Austrian model, Michelle Van Der Water.

Despite this, the producers still attempted to do her African background justice by giving her a tribal tattoo and having her exclaim words such as “Kupendazaer!” In the game players can also unlock different

Sheva's Tribal Costume

costumes for Sheva. One of those include the “tribal” costume which is comprised of different tattoos, a leopard bikini top and a short tattered skirt.

This is where one of the  main issues lie. Sheva is a Westernized character that carries a gun and wears clothing that is different from traditional African attire. Yet, when a player has the choice to have her wear her “tribal” outfit, it is terribly stereotyped and becomes more of a spectacle of the “other,” and also turns into “fetishism.” According to Stuart Hall, “fetishism takes us into the realm where fantasy intervenes in representation…” This is exactly what is happening with Sheva. The image of the primitive, scantily-clad woman becomes more a fantasy than a true representation of what an African tribal outfit looks like.

Producers of Resident Evil 5 may be patting themselves on the back for not only having a strong female character in their game, but also one of a different ethnic background. However, Sheva failed to provide diversity. Not only did she have the appearance of a widely accepted portrayal of African Americans (light skin) but they also used her African background to make way for fetishism.





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