Resident Evil Netflix Series: Why it really doesn’t matter that Wesker is black
Oh boy, I am sat here about to put pen to paper debating with myself as to whether this can of worms is worth opening, but let’s do it. Earlier today, Netflix announced that Lance Reddick has been cast as the main villain of the upcoming Resident Evil live-action series, Albert Wesker.
While this article may open a can of worms, this new casting announcement certainly has. Since it was announced I have seen far more arguments than I care to count between people claiming that Netflix is ruining the character and the lore, and others saying it isn’t a big deal or that it doesn’t affect the character of Wesker in any way, I can see and understand both sides of the argument.
It is also worth noting that anything in this article is not meant to cause offence and I will do my best to not do so, this is just an analysis on Resident Evil as a series, Wesker as a character, and the casting of Lance Reddick.
Taking the racists that flood the comments section out of the equation, because F those people, there is still valid arguments to be made on both sides. But, it really isn’t that big of a deal who is cast in the role when it comes to ethnicity.
Resident Evil’s Cast Has Always Been Largely White, Why?
The main cast of Resident Evil has always been predominantly white, Chris, Jill, Leon, Claire, Barry, Wesker etc are all white people and who we, as fans, have grown to know and love as characters. Throughout the series, there have only been a handful of non-white characters in the series, such as Marvin and Sheva.
To try and figure out the reason, I have been Googling to figure out why black people and other ethnic minorities have consistently been under-represented in the Resident Evil series.
The original Resident Evil games were set in Raccoon City, a small Midwestern town in the United States. Being British I have no experience with life in that part of the United States, but looking at Statistical Alas, in the Midwest there are approximately 51.8 million white people or 76.6% of the population. This would put the population at just over a 3:1 ratio of white people to non-white people. In parts, this could explain why the majority of the Raccoon City Police Department are white, however, some non-white police officers are present such as Marvin. ST.A.R.S also had a Hispanic member, Enrico, who was killed by Wesker during the events of Resident Evil 1.
Now, I don’t know how much research Capcom put into this and whether it was an active design choice when designing the characters in the game, but it is a possibility and at least worth considering.
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Once again, I’m not putting words or thoughts into the creators of Resident Evil, these are just observations and findings from my own research. I have always heard that “Japanese people love white people”, I have never been to Japan and my experience with Japanese people is limited so I have no ability to verify this claim, so I once again took to Google. I found an interesting article from Hiroshi Wagatsuma that was published in 1967 titled “The Social Perception of Skin Color in Japan”.
In the article it states that “the Japanese valued white skin as beautiful”, as well as “White skin has been considered an essential characteristic of feminine beauty in Japan since recorded time. An old Japanese proverb states that “white skin makes up for seven defects”; a woman’s light skin causes one to overlook the absence of other desired physical features.”
Could this be a reason why Resident Evil, and many other forms of Japanese media, quite often use characters with white characteristics? Perhaps, but once again I don’t want to put thoughts into the heads of the designers of the game. This is just research I have done in preparation for this article so it is worth noting.
There are many possible factors as to why the characters are designed how they are, but they could also be designed that way simply because that is how the creators felt the characters should look and it fit with their vision.
Who Is Albert Wesker?
Albert Wesker was the main villain of the series from the first game in 1996, all the way until 2009’s Resident Evil 5, and his presence can still be felt in the series today. Wesker is an iconic and integral part of the Resident Evil, but who is he?
First, we need to dive deep into the lore of Resident Evil, even far back before the events of any of the games. Also, some of my explaining will be paraphrasing and comparing events in the game to real world figures and events to explain the reasoning behind things.
Wesker was biologically created as part of Project Wesker by Oswald E. Spencer, an aristocratic British billionaire, virologist and eugenicist who is also one of the founders of Umbrella, the pharmaceutical company that created the biological weapons (B.O.Ws) that are seen throughout the first few games such as Tyrants and Hunters.
Without getting too deep into things, Project Wesker was intended to develop an advanced race of human beings. Albert Wesker has pale white skin, blonde hair, and blue/green eyes. This invokes parallels with Hilter and the nazi rhetoric.
According to a Wikipedia entry, “The master race is a concept in Nazi ideology in which the putative Nordic or Aryan races, predominant among Germans and other northern European peoples, are deemed the pinnacle of human racial hierarchy.” That does have a striking resemblance to Project Wesker.
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A Polygon article states that “The term “eugenics,” originally coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, is deeply rooted in racism and classism, purporting the belief that those with superior genes would create an “improved” human race. This methodology and concept has been used by the likes of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the United States.” As well as a Project Umbrella entry comparing Spencer to Hitler saying, “After the annihilation of Umbrella, he went into hiding and became a figure who struck untold fear in people around the world with an ambition similar to Adolf Hitler.”
So, with all of that being said, when I see two opposing people arguing as to whether it matters to the lore of the game, I guess you could say that yes, it does matter to the lore of the game because by design Wesker was created in a similar vision of the “master race” that Hitler envisioned.
But, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter what race Albert Wesker is in the upcoming Resident Evil Netflix series.
Albert Wesker Being Played By A Black Man Doesn’t “Ruin The Character”
Lance Reddick has been cast as Albert Wesker in Netflix’s upcoming Resident Evil live-action series. As mentioned earlier in this article, this has created quite the Twitter war amongst people with some arguing the casting has “ruined the character”, and some saying it isn’t a big deal.
If you really want to get deep into the lore of Resident Evil as I have, then I suppose it could be said that it “ruins the character”. But, not everyone is an avid Resident Evil nerd like I am that has knowledge on events in the story that take place outside of the games themselves.
To many people outside of the series’ fandom, Resident Evil is just another zombie video game series. And for most, the surface level knowledge is all they need to know to enjoy and love the series, it is only the small few of us that care about every aspect of the story. So whether a character is accurately cast based on their game appearance is irrelevant to the vast majority of people. And the ones that it does matter to, it is not that serious.
We’ve all seen Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil live-action movie franchise which saw many character’s appearances recreated and quite frankly, most were laughable and terrible casting choices, so why not give this new reimagining a chance? Who knows, you might love it.
The upcoming live-action series is, as far as I’m aware, not canon and a reimagining of the Resident Evil story and some of the events prior to the show. After all, the series is based on Wesker and his daughters, Jade and Billie, who don’t exist in the games’ canon, so that immediately tells us that this is a reimagining and not a minute by minute recreation of the game’s story.
So in this new reimagining, why can’t Wesker be black? There isn’t a reason why he can’t be.
We know the difference in character design and casting might not line up with some interpretations of the lore and it might even weaken the connection to the Nazi-basis theories, but if the character portrayal is a significant improvement from previous iterations like we expect, then maybe it’s worth that minor sacrifice.
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And, we all know that Lance Reddick will do a fantastic job in this role. Many of us are already familiar with his work in movies and TV shows such as John Wick, American Horror Story, Law & Order, and most notably Fringe. Reddick also voices Commander Zavala in the Destiny series and Sylens in Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West.
Resident Evil was original set to release in 2021 but was delayed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and will likely now release in 2022.
In the meantime, fans have plenty to keep themselves busy during the 25th anniversary of the series, Resident Evil Village was released last month, with new DLC expected to be announced at E3. As well as the upcoming animated Netflix movie, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, which will see Claire and Leon team up once again. And there is also the upcoming new live-action Resident Evil movie that will retell the events of Resident Evil 1 and 2.
VR gamers will also have something to look forward to as Resident Evil 4 is set to come to VR in the near future, although a release date is unconfirmed right now.