Some critics took umbrage with the portrayal of an African-American in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Letitia is fairly well dressed for a “Trash Lady.” In playing through Deus Ex, Adam Jensen will meet her on the streets of 2027 Detroit and when pressed she will offer her insight on what’s happening in the city. She does so by using a colloquial mode of speaking that is perhaps more identified with 20th century deep South, and her accent caused Evan Narcisse of Time’s Techland blog to write a scathing attack on the developers for including such a “racist stereotype” in an otherwise excellent game. Today, the publisher of Deus Ex Square Enix said that they had no intention of offending anyone.
“Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fictional story which reflects the diversity of the world’s future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Square said. “While these characters are meant to portray people living in the year 2027, it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light.”
I can’t speak for Evan Narcisse who also objected to the black zombies in Resident Evil 5, and I have yet to play through all of Deus Ex, but I can see people arguing that there is nothing overtly racist with the clip in the video above. Letitia is certainly a strange character, but her exaggerated speech is not that different from many of the people that I encounter in North Carolina – both white and black. What do you think? Is Letitia a harmful racial stereotype?
Narcisse compares Letitia to the caricature of Amos and Andy and minstel shows of yore, but I don’t think you can equate a single character in a videogame with hundreds of years of racism and discrimination, especially when there are other characters of a similar ethnic background in the same game who do not act this way.
“The horrible broken English Letitia speaks is so far removed from any actual slang that it renders the character practically extra-terrestrial,” Narcisse said. “It’s not from an alien planet, though. That slang harkens back to the worst blackface minstrelsy of the last century.”
Letitia is certainly an easy way to write a character – and I agree that her dialogue and voice-acting are inferior – but to object so vehemently to her portrayal would mean you’d have to object to Mario’s Italian characteristics and the Asian stereotypes in Cooking with Mama.