Racism and Shadow the Hedgehog
By Peter Wilson
Shadow the Hedgehog is an action computer game for the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube. Despite its apparent targeting at a younger audience, the game undeniably touches on issues of race, often in an unfair way. Shadow is a black character, as are the main villains of the game. While Shadow is essentially the 'hero' of the game, it is not straightforward. Players are given a choice as to whether to be good or evil.
Unlike his counterpart 'Sonic', Shadow, the main character of the game, is not an archetypal hero. He is portrayed as an 'edgier' character, having suffered amnesia and therefore having difficulties with his own sense of self. Most importantly of all, whereas Sonic is blue, Shadow's fur is that of a distinct black. Whereas Sonic would appear on the covers of his games with a big grin on his face, Shadow appears on the cover art with a definite sneer, most notably holding what appears to be a large gun. In the game itself, when Shadow first acquires his firearm, Sonic utters,
"I wouldn't be caught dead with one of those."
Why is this? Because Sonic is not black? Sonic Team, the creator of the game, are definitely making a point here. Firstly, Sonic is implying that it is not in his character to use guns, does this mean it is in a black persons nature to use guns? In all the many, many Sonic games, Sonic has never once used a gun, but in giving the first black character in the Sonic universe their own spin-off game, they immediately pick up a gun and don't even question the morality of its usage.
Secondly, unlike a normal Sonic game, the player of 'Shadow' is given the choice as to whether or not to play through the game as 'good' or 'evil'. Why is this? Never once while playing as Sonic have we had the chance to be evil. However, once we switch to Shadow, his black counterpart, many of the games' objectives are in fact, to do evil deeds. Is it a mere coincidence that the 'black guy' has the ability to become evil, while the 'white guy' (or in this case blue) does not?
The bad guys are rather unsubtly named 'The Black Aliens'. Within the story they have come down to Earth and are causing havoc on the world they're invading. If this is not a swipe at immigration laws then I don't know what is. At once the soldiers of Earth (all of them are white) go to war with these black aliens. If a player decides to side with these soldiers these 'black aliens' can be killed. However, to side with the aliens, you are not able to kill the soldiers, merely knock them to the ground; either that or simply destroy lifeless robots. The evidence is clear here, you are allowed to kill 'the blacks', but you aren't allowed to kill 'the whites'. Is the life of a white man really that much more significant than the life of a black man? Were the actions of the 'Black Aliens' to be performed by human they would ultimately considered as 'terrorist', therefore by this rationale every terrorist must be black.
While all the characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe have their own distinct personalities (Sonic being the 'cool' one, Knuckles being the 'brash' one, etc), Shadow on the other hand does not. He is confused and alone; he is essentially a black man in a white man's world. When the 'Black Aliens' come to his Earth, he naturally fears them.
"Get out of my sight, disgusting black creatures," is just one of the many racist remarks he himself utters, despite the fact that he is black himself. Only when the story progresses and Shadow realises that he may be of the same origin as the black aliens, does he call their wickedness into question. Is this a knock by Sega at the 'average' black man not staying true to his roots in today's white oriented culture? It seems likely.
At one point in the game you are forced to decide between siding with the 'Black Aliens' or the evil 'Dr. Robotnik'. For those not familiar with the Sonic the Hedgehog universe, Dr. Robotnik is essentially a fascist dictator with aspirations of world domination. Now, while the black aliens are doing 'evil' deeds, Dr. Robotnik has also performed, and continues to perform deeds just as evil. Let us imagine, for argument's sake, that the Black Aliens and Dr. Robotnik are as 'evil' as each other; why so then, is Dr. Robotnik's cause portrayed as the 'hero' option while the side of the 'Black Aliens' portrayed as the 'evil' option? Is it because Dr. Robotnik is white?
Shadow the Hedgehog? Ban this racist filth.
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