(NSFW) Kotaku: Too bad Sheva in Resident Evil V wasn’t raped

[Trigger Warning: Rape, and pictures of simulated rape and violence towards women]

On the left: a fully clothed Jill Valentine from Resident Evil V is shown shooting a large gun towards a headless figure on the right. The figure is Michael Jackson from the music video for Thriller.

Another day, another game journalism complete fail.  And not just an “oops” kind of fail, but a “fall flat on their face” style of fail.  In an article posted today, Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku talks about a recent exhibition in Tokyo at which a diorama was on display that combined Resident Evil V with Michael Jackson.  Yes, that’s kind of weird anyway, but it must have been a slow news day since he posted two other articles that were full of fail.

The exhibition, which was a 10 year anniversary event for a Japanese toy company named Hot Toys, featured a few diorama scenes of characters from Resident Evil combined with black zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.  On one floor, Jill Valentine is shown shooting the heads off of the Michael Jacksons.  On another floor, multiple depictions of Michael Jackson are shown molesting Sheva Alomar.

Read more to see the images (which are potentially triggering and NSFW)

Sheva from Resident Evil V is in the middle, her tiny white see-through shirt showing the underside of her boobs, bleeding scrapes on her skin. On each side of her is a Michael Jackson figurine, reaching towards her and touching her. She leans back, obviously struggling to get away while one Michael Jackson has his hand on her breast. Her pants are ripped to pieces.

A closeup of the previous image, focusing on Sheva's scratched face, the underside of her breasts, and a zombie Michael Jackson with bloody hands attempting to devour her.

I don’t even know where to start.  This situation is a complete fail all around.  While it’s disgusting that the exhibition showed this diorama portraying the obvious rape and abuse of a female character (as an obvious promotion of their action figure toys), I don’t speak Japanese therefore I don’t know what the context is around the diorama.  What was even more upsetting to me was the way in which Kotaku covered this.

The post is titled “Too Bad Zombie Michael Jackson Wasn’t in Resident Evil V”.  That alone is a giant pile of what. the. fuck.   It’s “too bad” that Sheva wasn’t raped for the players to see?  What does that even mean?  The commentary that Ashcraft wrote was:

On the second floor, Resident Evil’s Jill shoots zombie Jacko’s head plum off, while on the ground floor, a horde of Michael Jackson zombies takes great interest in a ravaged Sheva.

Takes a great interest?  How about rapes a woman?  Or molests and abuses Sheva?  How about some commentary about how completely fucked up this is?  No, instead we get a gallery with ten images, four of which focus on different angles of Sheva being groped by Jackson while trying to get away.   The obvious molestation of Sheva in these images and at this exhibition is just taken as the norm, it’s the status quo.  Don’t even get me started on the comments, with such atrocities and rape jokes such as “I bet he’s singing Beat It” and tons of homophobia when referring to Michael Jackson.  Ugh.

I’m thankful that I don’t find a lot of things triggering personally, but I have immense empathy for those who do.  I couldn’t imagine trying to get my latest video game news and running across images like this.  No trigger warnings, no commentary about how disturbing the images are, no “don’t try this at home” disclaimers, nothing.  Just another woman being abused by men like it’s no big deal.  Carry on, there’s nothing more to see here.  Sigh.

23 thoughts on “(NSFW) Kotaku: Too bad Sheva in Resident Evil V wasn’t raped”

  1. Honestly, Kotaku has proven time and time again that it’s the tabloid cesspool of the gaming world. Honestly, I think you may be spending unnecessary energy being angry at these mouth-breathing morons.
    I’m not at ALL saying that you bringing light to these issues isn’t important, but it’s like getting mad at FOX news for being….well, FOX news.
    I say let those ignorant douch-nozzles fester away. I know I’ll be laughing when they encounter a strong woman that won’t take that kind of shit.

    1. You definitely have a point. I do think it’s important that they hear the message though. They’re a blog, so I know they’re getting the pingbacks. Even if I make the author pause for three seconds and think “huh, I didn’t even think of that” is a win in my book.

      I’m not trying to move mountains, I just try to chip away at them.

  2. I support artists doing whatever they please, even if it’s objectionable to me. However, the captions and language used, as you pointed out, are deplorable and pretty much signal either willful ignorance or even worse, condone the actions being displayed.

    But I also wanted to point out that Sheva is not a white woman. She is biracial.

  3. Ignoring the rest of the content for a minute (trust me, I’m with you on all that)
    “The post is titled “Too Bad Zombie Michael Jackson Wasn’t in Resident Evil V”. That alone is a giant pile of what. the. fuck. It’s “too bad” that Sheva wasn’t raped for the players to see? What does that even mean?”
    I’m pretty sure they just like the idea of a MJ zombie in RE:V, as a boss or something. An incidental point yes, but your article will be percieved to be as weak as it’s weakest point methinks.

  4. ?

    How can you slam Kotaku for refraining from comment on this when your only comment on this is “I don’t speak Japanese therefore I don’t know what the context is around the diorama?” What context is necessary, exactly? Why do you write this article about Kotaku’s article rather than about the actual problem itself?

    1. Bel, my issue is on the way the article was written. Which is what I said in the post.

      If I were to cover the anniversary event and diorama (and if I didn’t know if there was additional artistic context) I would say something like the following:

      “It is possible that there is further artistic meaning behind this and additional political commentary. Regardless, you may find these images triggering as they are graphic depictions of the rape of a woman.”

      I certainly wouldn’t make the name of the article “Too Bad Zombie Michael Jackson wasn’t in Resident Evil V” and reduce the rape scene as men “taking great interest” in a woman.

      There are ways to write about potentially problematic situations without it seeming like you’re passing them off as trivial. If there was an artistic statement behind this, the article has disregarded the importance of the message. If there wasn’t artistic statement, the author has failed to give the depiction the proper courtesies that it deserved.

      1. It’s just so frustrating. Why cover the Kotaku article? Why not cover the diorama? You have an issue with that, too, obviously – and now between both this blog and Kotaku nobody’s covered it. Isn’t this kind of display exactly the kind of thing BH should talk about? So why talk about Kotaku? And how can I care about whether or not one of the writers said something stupid when a blog like this that is supposed to challenge these images is holding back on the grounds that there might be an artistic statement? Art is subject to every prejudice and problem that any other artefact of our culture. It shouldn’t receive special protection from criticism.

        1. Bel,

          Trust me when I say that I did a lot of research on the web before writing this article, trying to find reputable information about this event. I found nothing. The closest I found was this article which when translated gave me the following information:

          1. That there were a TON of intricate figurines aside from this one display. So many, that I’m sorely disappointed even further in the choice of photos that Kotaku chose for their article. Check out that link, there are dozens of available photos of all the different dioramas. Yet they picked four of their ten pictures to be about the violent image with zero commentary about it aside from “They took great interest in her”. Signh.

          2. That this was not a political event with deeper meanings. This diorama was among dozens, just portraying different fictional scenarios. More games were there too other than RE5, such as a Batman game. Most of the figurines were just basic figurines that weren’t in problematic situations.

          I haven’t found an article out there that talks about this event other than glossing over what the event was for and then showing pictures. But since it’s just an anniversary fan event for the toy company, I’m going to bet that it was just a poor decision on their part to even have this diorama. At the sake of not putting misinformation out there based on Google translations, I decided not to cover that. Instead, I’m going to cover the journalism fail at how to handle an issue like this.

          The Border House isn’t just about games and characters. It’s about the industry. It’s about marketing, journalism, PR, and employment within the game industry. We cover all facets of gaming. If I find a fail in journalism (targeted at gamers) then I’ll write about it here.

    2. I could easily see that it isn’t that it’s offered without commentary, but that it was posted at all in the context that it was posted in. And it wasn’t offered without commentary – there was plenty in the few paragraphs he managed to write.

      Context would have been good. This was at the “Hot Toys” show. What is the Hot Toys show? Why only focus on one diarama? Outside of Resident Evil V, what possible reason is there to post this on a gaming blog?

  5. At first I thought it was just a stupid geeky 80s reference + monster rape fantasy hentai, but then I was reminded that this was RE *FIVE* and LOLd. It’s like whoever made this tried to fit every single Unfortunate Implication they reasonably could into this diorama… if this thing had any deeper artistic meaning independent of causing mere offence (or arousal??), the trolling in the delivery eclipsed and swallowed it long ago.

    To be charitable, a zombie game with a recurring Thriller cameo would be amusing and if all anyone had was the first piece of the diorama the title would be just fine. But then this is Kotaku.

    1. Plants vs Zombies used to have Thriller-style dancers be among the legions of the undead that you had to face, but in versions released since Jackson died, they’ve been replaced with generic disco dancer zombies. Much as I preferred the old style, I think they were right to do so, because having a zombified version of a recently-deceased person is a little off-colour, to say the least.

      1. I need to get around to playing that sometime as soon as I take a break from Killing Floor (itself probably worth a few posts here).

        In other news, it might seem a bit picky to ask but (assuming Cuppycake gets alerts to responses to comments) can we get some kind of cut or something for the Dreamwidth etc. feeds? I find myself scrolling past this post on my reading page a lot – while it’s not a trigger warning for me the warning seems kinda pointless without a cut and it is annoying at any rate just for all the big pictures.

        1. You know what? That’s a good question. I have absolutely no idea how to put a cut in the Dreamwidth/LJ feed. The post itself has a cut, but the RSS feeds don’t respect them and neither does the syndicate. I’ll look into it.

          1. If you do, would it be possible to add an additional feed that respects the cut, rather than replacing the existing one? I ask partly out of self-interest, since I prefer feeds with full text, and partly because it’s an accessiblity issue.

    2. “Plants vs. Zombies” had a Michael Jackson look-alike “Dancing Zombie” but removed it at the request of Michael Jackson’s estate, replacing its image with a generic “disco” dancer.

  6. Kotaku has shown itself to be full of fail, pandering to the stereotypical hetero male fantasy/male gaze interests. Rarely ever do they give equal opportunity and inclusiveness a turn (lady gamers and related, LGBT gamers and related) and report related news surrounding those issues or game tidbits. Like, a small example, back when Heavy Rain was discovered to have a bug exploit that showed the game’s heroine, Maidson Paige, fully naked… they posted about that. But, of course, they never covered the glitch exploit that showed one of the male protagonist’s nude.

  7. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the only reason I’ll even bother to glance at Kotaku is because the headline says something about game news that I hadn’t heard before.

    Which is disappointing really; io9 and Jezebel manage to have interesting ‘Rants’ (opinion pieces if you will) and Kotaku used to have some good ones that I vaguely remember, stuff from Leigh Alexander, or (I’m sorry I can’t remember) that expat who lived in Japan were interesting. And I imagine the reason I haven’t noticed any such pieces recently (other than possibility of selective memory loss) is that the Kotaku community is shit. Really, really bad, such incredible dreck that it makes me wonder whether it’s even possible that people can think before they post their comments. I mean io9 and Jezebel sometimes have comments in them manage to make me go ‘please stop’ but they’re still pretty good. But the commenting policy on Kotaku (and other Gawker sites) appears to be “let it go’ which is a horrible commenting policy as far as things go, because sure, they say “don’t be rude, racist or sexist or homophobic. And then the articles they post are well, rude, racist and homophobic.

    And now I’m getting angry and writing in huge paragraphs of doom. Stupid Kotaku.

  8. Is it possible, and I’m just putting it out there, that the zombie holding Sheva is simply reaching around to grab her and not necessarily an intent to grab her breasts?

    They obviously chose Sheva for titillation, which makes it disgusting on too many levels, but I wonder if it was more showing a zombie attack than a zombie rape.

  9. Has Ashcraft ever written an article NOT full of fail? Seriously all I’ve ever seen from him is poorly researched, badly translated articles full of misogynist opinions.

    FYI, I do speak Japanese but having read the original article there doesn’t seem to be much context outside of what you already provided.

    The pictures of the diorama where Sheva is being sexually assaulted have the following descriptions:

    This is Jet Ramone and Achiya Ryu’s “Micheal Hazard”.

    One of Biohazard 5′s protagonists, Sheva, is being attacked by zombified Micheals.

    On the second floor (of the diorama), Jill, also a protagonist from the Biohazard series, has apparently blown off Michael’s head and killed him.

    The Michael figures used here were Maikon(?) “Michael Jackson (Thriller version)”.

    I did a brief search on the internet for more on the exhibit, but all the other sites are the same as the quoted one. But, given my experiences over here in Japan, I would say that the fact that Sheva is getting sexually assaulted probably wouldn’t even register with most people. It certainly didn’t seem to register to the author of the article (though I can’t be sure about nuances, I’m fairly sure the verb used to describe the assault was a generic one with no special connection to sexual assault).

  10. At first when I read the title of this article I thought Ashcraft actually said it was too bad Sheva wasn’t raped. I found the title of this post a little misleading because it was in quotes, but I’m how else to signify something is implied, because Ashcraft certainly was implying he wished Sheva was raped by MJ. It is kind of sad I’ve come to expect that from him.

    1. Yeah, that’s a good point, don’t put something in quotations if it’s not a quote, I’d call that cheap journalism, but it’s not even that.

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