In 2005, the classic horror series Resident Evil underwent a reboot with the latest numbered title, Resident Evil 4. The game, available on PS2, Wii and Gamecube, is considered by many to also be a classic horror game. It stars Leon S. Kennedy, former star of Resident Evil 2, who now works for the government and is on a top secret mission to rescue the President’s daughter. Given that the first games were about stopping a zombie outbreak while exploring an old mansion or the overrun Raccoon City, it’s easy to tell that Capcom said “And now for something completely different.” Not entirely, though. While Resident Evil 4 is primarily an action-shooter, it still retains some of the horror roots of the series. Most notably with the Las Plagas that hound Leon’s quest at every turn. And some of the horror is still there, but while the older games were about surviving an outbreak in progress, the newer ones are much more focused on preventing a world wide outbreak. Quite frankly, the games grew more popular and so did the scope. However, while the games were switching from horror to action, another more disturbing trend was developing alongside it. The strong female characters, a long time staple of the series, are being pushed aside.
In the original Resident Evil, players had the choice to play as either Jill or Chris. Seeing as how their stories played out almost exactly the same, the gender of the characters was irrelevant. Next, we had Resident Evil 2, which also gave you the choice as Leon or Claire. Actually, you had to play as both to get the entire story, neither one was more important than the other, and the ending was actually different depending on whose story you played first. From there we moved on to Nemesis and Code Veronica, two of the strongest entries in the series in terms of female character development. Nemesis once again starred Jill Valentine, who was the only STARS survivor in Raccoon City from the Nemesis attack, and Code Veronica is primarily Claire’s story. From there we moved on to Resident Evil 0, which strictly speaking introduced the co-op that would later be developed in Resident Evil 5, where your partner was AI controlled. Again, you could chose to play as either Rebecca or Billy and both characters were equally important to the story.
Three years later, we move on to Resident Evil 4 starring Leon and… Well, it just stars Leon. There is no female partner, except every so often, you get to drag Ashley along with you. Who is quite frankly useless, due to the game mechanics. Honestly, Leon, you’re toting around like twenty guns, would it have been that difficult to give her one and give her a quick shooting lesson? Of course it would, because the game doesn’t want Ashley to be able to defend herself. This is where the games are starting to really get misogynistic, and it only gets worse as the series progresses.
Resident Evil 5 came along bringing us the return of Jill Valentine, Sheva and Excella. Jill is brain washed and, in the main campaign, useless, Excella spends most of her time hitting on Wesker or being evil, which is slowly becoming the only acceptable role for a woman in the series, and Sheva… Well, I would like to say Sheva is awesome, but unlike Resident Evil 0, if you were to take her out of the picture, Chris would still be able to get along just fine. Not to mention, her tribal alternate costume makes it really difficult for me to take her seriously as a character.
Which brings us to Resident Evil 6, where they’ve continued their trek into action territory. We have Leon’s new friend, whose name is escaping me at the moment, confined mostly to the horror story line, Sherry, whose storyline is yet unknown, and Ada, who is apparently now the Queen Bitch according to my sources. Chris’ storyline, arguably the most action-oriented out of the three, is lacking a female counterpart. In fact, the only time a woman is mentioned is when he is calling the Ada a bitch and trying to shoot her. Which leads us to the pissing contest between Leon and Chris pictured below. Really, Capcom, could you have been more obvious?
It’s clear to see that since 6 is to be the biggest game to date that they want all the attention to be focused on Chris and Leon, the two male leads of the series. Whatever happened to Jill, who was their poster girl? Yes, she starred in Revelations, but that game was not part of the main titles, nor was it as action oriented as 6. Even the two new female characters in Revelations failed to impress. Rachel has no eyes and Jessica spends the entire game whining that Chris doesn’t like her. What message are we trying to send? I understand the games are made in Japan which isn’t necessarily progressive in these areas, but this tendency to push the female characters aside in recent games seems like a major step backwards. Is it okay for strong leads to be female when they can be victimized and terrorized in a horror game, but the moment it’s time for the guns to really start blazing they need to step aside so their male counterparts can take care of it? The message becomes a female character in an action game must either be a distressed damsel, or a bitch. Jane Sheppard disapproves.