clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Ethan Winters from Resident Evil, photoshopped to be wearing a santa hat, standing in front of some Christmas trees. Graphic: William Joel/Polygon | Source image: Capcom

Filed under:

I lived like Ethan Winters for a week to survive the horrors of the holidays

The Resident Evil protagonist is surprisingly well adjusted

I’m not shy about hating the holiday season. Valrhona dark chocolate smells good when it’s melted with milk, and my heart glows when ornaments leave sugar-sized glitter in my palm, but there’s nothing else in it for me. The sun sets around 4:30 p.m. in New York, and I can no longer tell if the rot under my windowsill is lamb over rice or chicken. My family is abnormal (let’s leave it at that). But I’m getting bored of my yearly misery.

I know what I need to do — I’ll spend a week living like Resident Evil protagonist Ethan Winters.

I would be learning how to cope from the best. And the games are obviously festive. Resident Evil 7 is about Thanksgiving because there are plates of gray goop, Resident Evil Village is about Christmas because there’s snow — Ethan navigates the abject horror in both those games unbelievably well. I know that first-person view doesn’t let you see it, but I think he’s smiling with a cigar in his mouth. It’s time to go full method actor to survive the holidays.

Day 1: Wash my hands

A character in Resident Evil pouring healing liquid on a leg wound. Image: Capcom via Polygon

In Resident Evil, Ethan squirts liquid onto his bloodied or, sometimes, completely severed hand in order to heal. This seems like an inherently healthy coping mechanism to me, so I went for it.

I don’t own anything that might constitute “healing liquid” — maybe the cloudy fluid gathering at the top of my Greek yogurt tub, but I’m saving that for later. So I opted for accessibility and ran my left hand under the faucet every time I felt upset.

At my roommate Ben’s suggestion, I started using a water bottle for scene accuracy. I poured cold water from my metal S’well knockoff, and my hand started to get really wet. Still, I got bolder, rinsing my hand at every opportunity. Standing around? Rinse. Peeling potatoes? Rinse (but that time it was because I had potatoes on my hand). Salting beef tenderloin? Rinse (but that time it was because I had raw cow on my hand).

Day 2: Be blond

I wouldn’t be Ethan Winters if I weren’t blond.

I mean, technically, I’m not blond; my hair is the same waxy black as my iPhone 8 screen. But my ex-boyfriend insisted that his hair wasn’t blond, it was “light brown.” And I asked blond-haired, blue-eyed Ben — he looks like he’d teach you how to pronounce Hallo, ich bin unfruchtbar — what it’s like to be blond, and he said, “My hair is dust-colored.” So if all these blond guys don’t think they’re blond, I must be blond by default.

“I’m blond,” I announced to my roommate Dan.

“Nice,” he said, barely looking up from his laptop. He was thrilled.

Day 3: Deep pain visualization

By being blond, I’d adopted Ethan’s head, but I still hadn’t gotten into it. It was clear to me, though, that agony was key to being Ethan — he’s always in pain, getting his leg severed, his hand torn in half, or his wife kidnapped.

But I’m grateful for all my limbs, and, if I had a wife, I’d ask her not to get kidnapped. So instead of inducing any of those terrible things, I thought I could put my meditation skills to the test and visualize myself in incredible pain, stretching the bounds of my psyche and body. But then I forgot and I took a bubble bath. I was still covered in some grease from Thanksgiving.

Day 4: Kidnapping

A text from Ben to Ethan Winters that says “Downstairs bathroom. Come get me.” with an image of a door. Image: Ashley Bardhan for Polygon

Visualizations were useless — it was time to get serious. I managed to break down my emotional walls, and I admitted to myself that I’d be living inauthentically without a kidnapping of my own. So, early in the day, I requested my roommates stage one. When I left my bedroom, Ben was gone.

“Downstairs bathroom,” he told me in a cryptic text message. “Come get me.”

The door was locked. I heard Ben taking a personal phone call, and I could tell he was drinking La Croix based on the fumes — he’d practically vanished. I was terrified, thrilled by the hard truth of a life as Ethan Winters. So, by the grace of God, I became Anglo-Saxon. I brushed my teeth humming “Silent Night.”

Day 5: Injection

Yesterday’s kidnapping gave me Germanic generational trauma, which made me feel more like Ethan than ever. I rode the wave and embraced a difficult choice he faced in Resident Evil 7 — inject the 10% Polish person on the left with lifesaving serum, or the 7% Scotch-Irish person on the right?

I approached my roommates with an expired EpiPen.

“I only have one dose,” I told them. Dan went to the bathroom to pee. By default, I injected Ben by tapping him on the knee with the safety cap. He didn’t notice the cap and shouted something about “don’t contaminate my blood with FDA-unapproved drugs.” While ignoring his panic, I admired the twinkle lights on our mini Christmas tree.

I… admired the twinkle lights? Who… who was I? Who was I becoming?

Day 6: Catchphrases

I knew who I was — I was Ethan. That meant I was ready for my most difficult task this week: catchphrases.

Ethan has all kinds of awesome catchphrases. Like, when he witnesses unspeakable violence, or gets mired in incomprehensible levels of gore, he says “What?” or “What the fuck?”

I pulled up a list of Ethan Winters quotes on my phone, surreptitiously glancing at it over breakfast.

“Hey! Hey, don’t talk like that,” I told Ben. “We’ll find a safehouse to put you in until I can find my daughter. My hunch is she’s in that old castle.” I peered at his scrambled eggs. “Wait a second, that looks familiar… [seeing a symbol that looks an awful lot like the Umbrella symbol].”

“I can’t take this anymore,” he responded encouragingly.

Day 7: Pregnant

A character in resident evil saying “We’re going to be a family — now that you’re here.” Image: Capcom via Polygon

My roommates were disappointed to see my one-week experiment end, but I felt I had graduated. I wanted to top the week off with something life-changing and meaningful.

Resident Evil 7 and 8 both revolve around parenthood — in the former, the villain wants Ethan to be her father, and in the latter, he’s become one — so the only logical conclusion to my week was pregnancy… of the mind. Sorry for only committing halfway, but my time as Ethan only lasted one more day and I’m pretty sure nine months is longer than that.

And, anyway, being Ethan for so long made me pregnant with an idea: I may never enjoy the shallow pageantry of the holiday season, but approaching it with some of Ethan’s airhead determination might make it easier to get through. I don’t need to immediately change my situation, just my attitude.

Even if that fails, there are some benefits to not being Ethan. Unlike him, I’m not in a video game, doomed to spend eternity getting disemboweled by mold.