GTA V: The Reinforcement of Racial Stereotypes

GTA has long been recognized as the poster boy for most, if not all, female and racial video game tropes; however, Patrick Polasek’s article, A Critical Race Review of Grand Theft Auto V, provides an interesting new perspective that focuses less on the game’s NPCs and instead puts the spotlight on the storyline’s main characters. The game designers of GTA’s most recent installment understand the series’ shortcomings as far as the portrayal of minorities, so in an attempt to provide a positive outlook they took three seemingly unrelated men (notice there are no major female characters) and brought them together.

In particular the friendship that develops between the white middle-aged con-man Michael and Franklin, a black “street hustler” looking for quick money, seems to be the game-designers’ attempt at diffusing any racial hostility. Instead, Polasek views Michael’s mentorship of Franklin as reinforcing racial stereotypes: “This relationship is an attempt at color blindness, but the power dynamic of Michael over Franklin instead displays color-blind racism (Polasek).” After reading this, it seems obvious how he arrived at this conclusion and begs the question of why more people aren’t concerned with the power dynamic between whites and blacks the game portrays with its main characters.

At first, the designers do a good job of disguising Michael and Franklin’s union as mutualistic. As you move further into the storyline, however, you begin to recognize a more commensalistic relationship. Michael benefits from all of the jobs he has his young “protege” carry out, and Franklin feels as though he is gaining important insight into criminal workings. What is not plainly illustrated through the storyline is the great risks that Franklin is facing while Michael sits comfortably at home, raking in money. While this is somewhat of an extreme perspective, it appears to me that this “alliance” more closely resembles slavery than a partnership: Michael is directly benefiting from the hard work and sacrifices of Franklin while not lifting a finger. Polasek doesn’t actually say this in his article, but it can be inferred.

“The criminal/racial stereotypes in GTA V extend beyond the perception that blacks increase criminality in a community; instead, it extends to crime being race-specific due to racial stereotypes (Polasek).” This quote from the article is referring to the modern day stereotypes that black men are criminals, middle-eastern men are terrorists, etc. Not only is the game strengthening these views, but it is also reinforcing white supremacy through a storyline that was originally supposed to demonstrate racial harmony.

Source: A Critical Race Review of Grand Theft Auto V by: Patrick Polasek, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0160597614532192

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