In 1992, an episode of the television show Seinfeld featured Jerry and George scoring a free ride in a limousine only to discover it belonged to someone who was planning to give a public speech campaigning against ‘the Jews’ and other ‘inferior’ races later that night. During the episode, George hints that he found one of the limo’s occupants (a blonde woman who pointed a gun in their face) to be ‘cute’. Jerry’s response is as follows: “She’s a Nazi, George. A NAZI.”
Oh how we laughed.
The whole joke works on two levels. Firstly, the concept of looking past the horrific nature of white supremacy simply because a person is aesthetically pleasing is hilariously absurd. This isn’t a political stance. Donald O’Brien (the leader of the Aryan Union and the intended recipient of the limousine) was of the opinion that everyone but the pure white races were inferior and something to be scorned and treated differently. This is an inherent lifestyle choice that transcends any political leanings. So the idea of a ‘cute Nazi’ is such a harsh juxtaposition, that it can only exist in comedy.
Secondly, the joke only succeeds because George Constanza is such a pathetic human being. A constant failure in every aspect of his life, he is so desperate for the embrace of a beautiful woman that he can overlook her extremist viewpoints and the fact that she almost killed him. If it was Kramer or Jerry expressing these feelings, it would make no sense. But if you know George, it’s funny. Of course George would think that. What a loser.
Unfortunately, this joke was only *that* funny in 1992. Because it was so ridiculous. In the 90’s, Nazis were something from old war films. A concept so dead, buried and insane that any talk about them instantly resulted in harmless detachment. That’s the reason watching ‘The Limo’ in 2017 is a different ball game entirely. Nazis weren’t terrifying in 1992. Everyone responded exactly the same when they were brought up in conversation or in entertainment. They were the pinnacle of history’s villains and not a single rational person thought otherwise. At that time, the only thing more scarce or crazy was a Nazi sympathizer. Hahaha, how insane would that be?
Cut to 2017 and apparently we’re all living in an asylum.
This week, Ubisoft confirmed that the next entry in their wildly popular open-world shooter series was in development. In addition, it released a series of short (and visually stunning) teaser videos. All of these culminated in the cover art, which is below:
In 2017, that’s one hell of an image.
When this art hit the internet, it was immediate catharsis. A small but shuddering release that has been building up for years. The idea that Far Cry would feature a group of antagonists which resemble the kind of people who attack hijab-wearing women on trains, swim in the deep waters of toxic, suicidal masculinity and put a gibbering maniac in the White House? Hell. Yes.
This is catharsis as smooth and clear as a country creek. Yes, give me a chance to release my anger and frustration about Donald Trump, Richard Spencer, Pauline Hanson, Nigel Farage, old white male politicians who paint every person who practices Islam with the same ignorant brush, men who still rage about female Ghostbusters or women in Star Trek, mining magnates who deny climate-change, people who shout ‘fake news’ when faced with reality, again and again and again. It can all be here, packaged in a neat little bow. Ready for me. Ready to make some sense of the insanity of the world via gun battles with rednecks in the hills of Montana. Lost in the tall grass, driving forward through the madness and the blood. In 2017, it is one of the few things that makes sense. All in a split-second when Ubisoft decided to post a single tweet.
We’ve been killing people of colour in games for decades. Even within the Far Cry series itself. Whether it’s African warlords, Mexican/Pacific Islander psychopaths or mad Himalayan kings, Far Cry has given us the chance to burn entire countries to the ground so we can put a stop to the crazy foreigners. So with that in mind, Far Cry 5 even suggesting that the villains this time around will be a bonafide survivalist cult from the redneck towns of the USA is both a minuscule and colossal shift.
Of course, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves. Ubisoft have only released this piece of art, a few landscape shots and a location: Hope County, Montana. They haven’t explicitly said that these are white supremacists, or that they are even the villains of Far Cry 5. And considering the track record of big game publishers not wanting to attract controversy and stay in their lane, it’s probably not going to reach the heights suggested by the ambitious cover art. Probably.
But that’s irrelevant. It’s already done its job. Even if the upcoming trailer reverses all the feelings brought up by this art, it doesn’t matter in the here and now. These meagre, tantalising hours – that’s what important. All of these emotions that have bubbled up to the surface contain the potential to raise an eyebrow or two in the creative fields of future game development.
Considering the amount of laws that have been trampled on, families that have been destroyed, atrocities that have been excused and monsters than have been allowed to roam freely since extremism went mainstream, this cover art doesn’t feel controversial. It feels overdue. It’s about time modern-day bigotry was the villain in video games. Because it sure as hell is in the real world.