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Whore of the Orient Title Formally Accused of Racial Insensitivity

Whore of the Orient is coming under attack for being racially insensitive. The funders justify the title as being a historical nickname for Shanghai, rather than an expression of content or characters.

Video games in modern times have to be sensitive to a great many things.  One of the things every form of media must be careful about is racial insensitivity.  It does not take much to convince many people their race is being misrepresented or disrespected.  Whore of the Orient is now being accused of this racial insensitivity with its title.

No, whore isn't the word causing the problem...

The title is actually a historical nickname for the city of Shanghai, which is where the game takes place. In that context, the title seems appropriate given the almost-certainly unpleasant aspects of the story one might expect from 1936 Shanghai.

The problem is the last word of the title, which Jieh-Yung Lo, councillor of the city of Monash, explains as being the Chinese equivalent of the 'N' word for African Americans. He intends to address the issue to the Human Rights Commission to attempt to get the game canceled or, his preference as a fan of L.A. Noire, get the name changed.

Not quite so cut and dried...

It is impossible to debate whether or not the word in question genuinely has the negative connotations any more than any other word, meaning the discussion comes down to a more philosophical one.

Shanghai was called the whore of the orient, but that fact does not negate the pain associated with the word 'orient'. There are few equivalent issues in recent memory, largely because people tend to recoil instinctively from such racially-charged nicknames, at least in polite company.

Is it still too soon to address the time period in its own words?

On the one hand, history does need to be told. Knowing and understanding the past is key to avoiding the same pitfalls and being vigilant for the same evils in the future.  In a world where we are starting to recognize video games as art, capable of portraying things of beauty and importance alike, is a video game the right format to start such a discussion?

Perhaps the most important question of all, one which cannot be answered without seeing more of the game itself... Is the name simply a symptom of locale, or is the ugly side of mankind and the time period it represents a key enough focus of the game to justify it?

Published Sep. 2nd 2013
  • Reilly C.
    Columnist
    Whore of the Orient is so powerful and grabs your attentiojn when said. It is such a powerful discriptor and tells so much without you needing to know anything. I really hope they don't change it.
  • Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
    Featured Columnist
    Living in the UK, it's odd how "Orient" and "Oriental" are considered quite offensive across the pond, and elsewhere around the world. In fact, there's a bevy of Chinese restaurants which sport the "Orient" or "Oriental" widely across the UK to this day. Furthermore, we haven't renamed Agatha Christie's acclaimed murder mystery "Murder on the Pan-Asian Express". It's not as catchy for starters!

    It's the word "whore" that really gets me, especially as someone who tries their best being a feminist ally. But given the historical context surrounding the choice of title, I'm willing to excuse it.

    But it's always difficult when it comes to getting people to share a contextual understanding. I recently went to see famed character actor and comedian, Lenny Henry, star in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning "Fences" in London. A surprising amount of people walked out because of his character's over use of the N-Word. Yet, given the play's historical setting, the fact that this was being used within the American Afro-Caribbean, and the play's subtle themes about self-hatred/internalised racism, some people just didn't want to hear it, and therefore let themselves be offended.

    Sometimes people will be offended no matter what, or worse, want to be offended! But that's not to belittle people's offense. Sometimes it's hard to empathise with someone, or their community, as to why certain things are offensive, no matter how hard you try.

    In saying that, a title like "Slut of the Chinkys" would be outrightly unacceptable. Even if that were historical, I think the line is at least drawn at about that level!
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    Actually, I knew that the word Orient and Oriental can be considered insensitive since it lumps many Asian cultures under one label. I believe Britain used to consider even India as part of the Orient.
  • TangyOrange
    I'm asian and I had no idea that the word orient was offensive.
  • Kitten Mother
    Contributor
    I was thinking it may depend on the age of that person since it 'was' something that happened a long time ago.
  • Si_W
    How bizarre. I wasn't even aware that the word Orient was deemed racially offensive.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    I didn't either, and I racked my brain trying to remember if I'd ever used it in conversation after I got to that part of the article.
  • Kitten Mother
    Contributor
    The name seems more as a "shocker" to get attention that way instead of...well...telling the story and trusting that what it's trying to tell through the story will get it across. To get attention, so many look for shocking things to say to get attention at least on them. In this case, they did get attention. Probably not what they were wanting but they could've done it in a more tasteful way and still get the meaning across. It's all about how to try to explain something and knowing when something may be inappropriate and even hurtful. That word is hurtful to those people as is, so I've heard, being called "Asian" to anyone living or even looking like what comes to mind when the word is read or heard.
  • Wokendreamer
    Featured Columnist
    So much about the discussion depends on the actual content and focus of the game. I doubt the game's focus is on the specific issues the word brings up sufficiently to justify it being the title, but at the same time I do not think the intention was to specifically incite racial anger with it.

    It looks to me like they took the unpleasant nickname for the city to evoke the dark time and negative connotations without realizing exactly how badly the word offends.

    I honestly was unaware the term was so racially-charged until I'd heard of this story. I will be more careful of its use in the future as a result. Cultural sensitivity is a complex thing, but is about a mingling of intention and action.

    We cannot judge the intention for certain, let us hope the actions to follow show better judgment.

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