Resident Evil 7 and the Demonization of the South

I’m a little late to the party on this one

I’m going to be honest, the only Resident Evil game I had played prior to this was the Fifth edition in the game series. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you’ll probably understand why I stayed away from the series after playing through “Zombie Apartheid Africa.” From what I understand, the games following only got worse from there. However, I was pleasantly surprised after playing through the demo of the 7th episode. Taking a couple notes from the once-was trailer of the now cancelled new Silent Hill game, this demo had let’s players and streamers clamoring over all the secrets and hidden endings layered throughout the sneak-peek. Hell, it even came with a patch that offered MORE content after its initial release. And the game stayed true to what was shown: first-person survival horror goodness in the back-waters of Louisiana. But what made this game well-received by fans and newcomers alike?

Many RE fans say that this edition to the series is reminiscent of the first game. From what I’ve seen of this game, this argument holds water: both rely on you wandering around a decrepit mansion while avoiding grotesques and searching every nook for ammunition and healing items. However, unlike the first mansion where there were seemingly no inhabitants (I believe the building was a front for chemical weapons and genetic mutation experiments) this one has a lively bunch of folks dwelling inside. The Baker Family is comprised of five (living) members: Jack the brutish patriarch, Marguerite the infested mother, Lucas the trickster son, Zoe the ungrateful daughter, and an Old Grandmother is who is bound to a wheelchair and never speaks a word.

So why does this matter? Why has the Resident Evil franchise decided to bring the action back to American soil? Known for having their games take place in foreign, oppressive lands such the derelict villages of Eastern Europe and war-torn shanties of Africa, it seems only right for the series to explore a region that is still frightening and foreign to Americans today: the South. There’s something about the back-water bogs of this country that still has us city-folk trembling in fear.

Resident Evil 7 is far from the first to show the South as a place where uncivilized hillbilly families roam free to cannibalize unsuspecting people: Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Hills Have Eyes, and House of a Thousand Corpses all feature gruesome families that have made a living out of butchering and feasting on the flesh of their captives. Within each of their realms (be it Texas or New Mexico) these families run rampant without interference from law enforcement or government alike, only adding to the seclusion we feel while watching. And of course every one of these families is of bellow-average intelligence, yet armed more than the average citizen.

It feels as if the division the Civil War created has yet to fully heal, for many Americans still view the South and North as separate worlds entirely. With different views and values, the members of each realm look upon the other with either curiosity or disdain. Gatlinburg and other towns surrounding the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee capitalize on this curiosity: most every tour attraction there is related to what I call “Hillbilly culture”. Moonshine distilleries, hunting stores, and good ol’ fashion cooking have Americans and international tourists alike throwing money at this otherwise foreign culture.

Now I realize that most everything is corrupted when it comes to horror media (hell there’s a horror movie about a bed that eats people) but why is the South so ill represented? Why is the local populace always made out to be the antagonists? Whether its cannibal families or demonic versions of bayou wildlife, the South is depicted as some sort of terror ridden landscape. I feel the answer lies in what I discussed earlier: we still largely view the deep south as uncharted territory, and equate its inhabitants to the like of indigenous people (not literally, but you get the picture).

While you have nothing to fear when visiting the South, just try to be polite and cordial. Maybe then, they’ll welcome you to their family (son).

 

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1 thought on “Resident Evil 7 and the Demonization of the South”

  1. So I’m not completely sure of the release timeline for everything; I think KITCHEN came out first, cause I played that in December on PlayStation VR. RE6, I know, was critiqued for getting away from the franchise’s FPS aspect, so CapCom definitely flipped that with KITCHEN because I nearly peed myself when a little demon child JUMPED ON MY BACK AND STABBED ME IN THE FACE.
    I think moving to rural USA was another way CapCom was trying to flip back to its smaller scale. Yes, Biohazard is based out of Japan, but I would argue that the USA is one of the largest consumers of the game. By setting the game here, it makes the game that much “closer to home,” which personally makes the game way more intrusive. It’s not so much because the rural South is an “unknown” for me, but because the farmland and the trailers are such a familiar sight for those of us who spend time *in* those rural areas.

    Liked by 1 person

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