Gaming With the Wrong Controller

TRIGGER WARNING

The “Dickwolves Debacle” as its being known on the interwebs is certainly that, a debacle. More colorful language might be used to describe it, but we’ll try to keep the language civil, at least for the moment. For those who aren’t in the know, a good, pretty neutral breakdown can be found here. As both a feminist and a PA fan, it’s gonna be hard for me to stay neutral while I talk about it. However, I feel it is something the Feministing community should be made aware of.

The difficulty I think in understanding this whole debacle is coming from the incongruity for whatever reason between feminists and gamers. As if the two were somehow separate groups with no overlap. Anyway, this false dichotomy is making it hard for the two sides of the issue to understand each other.

On the one hand, one has to understand the history of video games, Penny Arcade, and censorship. Censorship is a big issue in video games. Like, huge. Probably the main issue that every gamer agrees on, as in, games are art, and should be protected as such, i.e. freedom of speech. So when objections or flack gets thrown at the ‘gamer community’, whether it be Kotaku, Penny Arcade, or Zero Punctuation, it goes almost instantly into ‘defense mode.’ Censorship, of any kind, is the enemy. And, whatever one’s stance on video games, violence, and the propagation of violence, one has to understand that the ‘gamer community’ will, by and large, defend itself from any perceived censorship viciously because of this troubled past.

How does this affect the debacle? Well, to some gamers, the argument of propagating rape culture sounds suspiciously close to the argument used to censor violent video games. The logic is something like this, because violent video games mimic violence, they dull the cultural perception of violence, making it more acceptable and contributing to cultural violence. Gamers, of course, call this out as bullshit. There’s a big distinction between fantasy and reality, and Gamers, myself included, insist that the line is well-policed. The workings of a gun are about as far removed as possible from the workings of a game controller.

So, when feminists (myself included) say that making a shirt or a comic about rape contributes to rape culture, it sounds a lot like the above argument. What the other side doesn’t understand, however, is that there is a critical difference between the argument of feminists and the argument of anti-violence video game censors. For the most part, our argument is not that a rape joke is going to make someone go out and rape. Our argument, instead, is that rape jokes, and allowing people to indentify themselves with a shirt promoting a fictional rapist character, contributes to a culture where rape is accepted, tolerated, and the impact of it diminished. Throughout the response period, Penny Arcade’s creators have demonstrated ignorance of this differentiation, as demonstrated by their ‘response comic.’

Now, in addition to understanding videogames and censorship, it’s important to understand Penny Arcade’s personal relationship with censorship. Way back in the day, Penny Arcade put up a comic lampooning a line of, ironically enough, sexist and demeaning toys depicting Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz bound by Munchkins. Setting aside the feminist bondage issue for a moment (though I will say that I am pro-feminist-bdsm, despite the problematic portrayals that PA was itself mocking), we have to take a look at the response to this comic. American Greetings, the copy-write owner of Strawberry Shortcake, wanted the comic pulled.

And Penny Arcade did it. No questions asked. The comic came down, and up went the e-mail address of the lawyer who asked them to take it down. A sort of snarky revenge, to say the least, but end of story? Penny Arcade caved. A corporation wagged its finger and PA submitted to their censorship. You can argue all you like about legal issues and how PA has grown since then, but it doesn’t change the fact that that comic disappeared, and then never went back up.

So what’s the take away? Penny Arcade will cave to corporate pressure. But when fans, their fans, en-masse, object to a comic with very problematic themes? They laugh it off. Which to me, is not okay. And until either the Strawberry Shortcake goes up and/or the dickwolves come down, it won’t be okay.

As an aside, I should say that I’d rather see Strawberry Shortcake up there with Dickwolves then both of them down. Penny Arcade has a long history of controversial jokes ranging from bestiality to, in essence, rape. What exactly makes a Dick Wolf worse than a Fruit Fucker? I have no idea. And, as Tycho pointed out in his most recent news post, the comic itself in question vilifies rape. Rape is not shown as acceptable. It is maligned as the absolute nadir of human interaction, which it is. Trigger warnings, while maybe appropriate in this case, may as well be appropriate for any comic on Penny Arcade. Maybe, some day Penny Arcade will make more of an effort not to censor themselves, but to at least warn people before they venture into some troubling themes. Still, I want to make the point that if Mike and Jerry think they are some bastion against censorship, they have only to look in to their own past to see the truth.

Which brings us to the shirt, and the victory. The shirt, as well as the pennant, are untenable. They are, in many ways, a very clear (and reactionary) demonstration of rape culture. The idea that a person can buy a shirt, put it on, and support, supposedly, a team of rapist wolves is dark, dark stuff. There is no way that seeing someone wearing that shirt, whether at PAX or out on the street, wouldn’t make me uncomfortable. In others, it might promote a more visceral reaction. Whatever the intended joke it sends, it’s the kind of shirt a misogynist wears. And that is enough of a problem. To their credit, Mike and Jerry, in a sort of larval way, recognized this. And took the shirts down. Can we ask for more? Perhaps not. PA is not in the habit of taking blame. Jerry’s last post admits a disbelief in Rape Culture. He might as well disbelieve the air he breathes or the ground his feet touch. He is a father, though. And somehow, I think, someday he will learn how truly vile and hurtful the world can be towards women, though for all the world I would see that day never come, and have his daughter live in a world free from persecution.

These are not barbarians or lumbering frat boys at Penny Arcade, diametrically opposed to our aims. They may be misguided and ignorant, sort of ‘closet feminists,’ men who would agree whole-heartedly with us if only we could understand each other. Jerry has said he wants to learn, and has, in some ways, taken steps to open his eyes. Not only that, but he has chastised the misogynists in his fan’s ranks, disowning the so-called “Males Rights” movement.

Jerry and Mike are two guys who live in Seattle, publish a funny comic, and run a charity for sick children. They aren’t monsters. And I am ashamed of any feminist or ally that calls for harm to them or their families. That is another level of deep-seated sickness that cannot be justified. We can engage with gamers. It’s been done. The Venn Diagram between “feminist” and “gamer” is closing every day. Mistakes are the only way we learn. They can learn. So can we.

All we have to do is listen.

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20 Comments

  1. Posted February 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m a gamer who followed Penny Arcade off-and-on a long time ago.

    Based off the timeline you provided (and some of the links it includes), I don’t think the problem here has anything to do with the original comic. Jokes using rape generally aren’t good, but it served as a mean of ridiculing the design of a certain class of games, so while it may face criticism, the purpose is understandable. The problem for Mike and PA is that:

    They mocked a blogger critical of them. Granted, they had done the same with American Greetings and Jack Thompson, but those parties threatened litigation — this other person posted a blog. After the blogger protested (understandably), Mike of PA then posts bestiality and pedophilia links in the blogger’s comments section (which I believe constitutes criminal behavior). Lots of criticism of them ensued.

    Of course, it didn’t end there. After a month, PA releases a dickwolf drawing, and then later still mocks “trigger warnings” and releases a dickwolf shirt. To me, these releases seem a petty attempt by Mike/PA to stick it to their critics.

    The concern I have about this sequence of events is… why did they fuck up this debacle so badly? In the case of others outlined, they were perhaps established as being on the right side of the issue, and so they just had whatever fun they could and not have to worry about winning. What it that when they were confronted with an argument that could not be easily dismissed that they felt threatened and resolved themselves to proving they were going to be in control, even going as far as exploiting the situation for profit (not unlike what Jack Thompson tried to do to them and other critics)? Even after months passed, these guys couldn’t let this saga go.

    The issue here really isn’t about a throwaway joke involving rape or even feminism — it’s about how PA (or at least Mike) deal with people who disagree with them. I just don’t have the words to describe how pathetic and idiotic it is to repeatedly and exhaustively troll reasonable human beings like PA did here.

    • Posted February 4, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      After the blogger protested (understandably), Mike of PA then posts bestiality and pedophilia links in the blogger’s comments section (which I believe constitutes criminal behavior). Lots of criticism of them ensued.

      That bolded section is not at all true (at least not based on the debacle.tumblr.com site). Actually, Mike of PA then posts links to other Penny Arcade comics which utilize pedophilia and bestiality to (ostensibly) humorous effect, in order to (attempt to) highlight the hypocrisy of the moral outrage surrounding the rape humor. There’s a not so insubstantial distinction (both in purpose, legality and offensiveness) between that and “posting links to bestiality and pedophilia.”

      I’m assuming good faith on your part, and that this was an honest error rather than a deliberate misrepresentation, but even with that good faith assumption, this still makes me wonder how realistic people’s assessment of PA’s offensiveness in this matter actually is.

      That’s certainly not to say that they are blameless; my personal opinion (after reading through numerous sources on both sides of the issue) is that they were pretty much acting like jerks. That’s a far cry from claiming that they are distributors of child and animal porn though.

      • Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:05 am | Permalink

        Ahh, I missed a couple words when I was reading the linked Debacle Timeline. My sincere apologies. Really. >_<

        Which makes it a far less awful move.

        Still, it stinks… a lot. If it weren't for the counter-comic and the trigger mocking, Mike/PA may have plausible deniability with the shirt, but even without that, the feedback beforehand should have been a red flag that reviving this character could end badly.

        • Posted February 4, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          Still, it stinks… a lot.

          I agree whole-heartedly. I don’t want to come across as defending PA; again, I think their response to the whole thing was completely wrong and offensive.

  2. Posted February 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I wish that others in the US would get it through their thick heads that criticism does not equal censorship and free speech does not equal the right to be free of criticism. Free speech means that when you say sexist shit in you art, the government does not get to shut you down on the grounds that your speech is objectionable. It does not mean that others should not call you out on your sexist speech, or call you a sexist. In fact, the right to this criticism is in itself part of the free speech you so proclaim to love.

    Also, I find that the wider gamer community cares very little about the issue of censorship when it does not affect game violence or female sexual objectification. Both the federal government and console makers spent decades forcing Japanese games that came onto an American market to remove queer content and erase or closet queer characters. Violence in video games, however, has been typically allowed by those in power here, both the government and the console makers. I see very little actual discussion of censorship and a lot of whining assuming that criticism equates censorship.

    • Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      To clarify the “censorship” topic, this notion seems to concern the removal of the Dickwolves shirt from PA’s store a little over a week ago. Ostensibly this “self-censorship” was done to satisfy a “vocal minority.” Sadly, this reason is the wrong one…

  3. Posted February 4, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    That argument about rape jokes versus violence is very poor.

    “For the most part, our argument is not that violence in video games is going to make someone go out and kill. Our argument, instead, is that violence in video games, and allowing people to indentify themselves with a video game featuring a fictional violent character, contributes to a culture where violence is accepted, tolerated, and the impact of it diminished.”

    There certainly are valid arguments to be made here, but that wasn’t one of them.

    Also, your argument about censorship is a huge load of crap. Someone threatening to sue you when you cannot afford a legal battle (this was back in 2003) is very different from some of your fans saying they don’t like something. Also, they did immediately follow up with a comic calling American Greetings Nazis. http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2003/4/28/

    • Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      I see how you twisted my words there, but the predominant anti-video-game-violence argument I’ve seen, ie put forth by Joe Lieberman, Jack Thompson, and Hillary Clinton, as well as scores of other politicians, is one of imitation. People play violent video games and therefore go out and kill people. Calling GTA ‘murder simulators’ and the like. Or claiming that Columbine was directly caused by DOOM.

      Self-Censorship, in this case, whether you take down a comic because of corporate pressure or take down a shirt because the sponsors of a convention object to it, are very close indeed. The only difference is one of legal repercussions. My point was that it’s a little sad that legal repercussions led PA to hop-to, but heartfelt complaints from fans take months and months to register. I am aware of PA’s additional comments on American Greetings, and the additional comic strip, but it still doesn’t change the fact that PA has a history of self-censorship. Or, see a contrasting example when PA made more of an effort to directly inteface with it’s fans. http://thefremen.tumblr.com/post/3094943677/a-thing-which-happened-literally-irl-with-pa

      Why do rape survivors get less credit and validity then people who buy used video games?

      • Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Why do rape survivors get less credit and validity then people who buy used video games?

        I think that’s there’s actually an easy-to-see and internally consistent (if not morally sound) answer to that question, which becomes clear when you frame the question as “why does Penny Arcade, a comic about video games, game players, game development and the game industry give more credit and validity to people’s concerns about buying used video games than they do to people’s concerns about rape?”

        Holding this up as an example of PA’s double standard is the same as PA’s claim that the lack of criticism directed towards their comics that feature other morally objectionable material constitutes a double standard on the part of those complaining about the dickwolves comic. The examples fail on both counts: feminist blogs are not obligated to treat violence in the media with the same level of concern and interest as they treat rape culture (and no one should assume they should), and Penny Arcade is not obligated to treat readers’ complaints about rape culture with the same level of concern and interest as they treat issues related to video games.

        • Posted February 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          You’re absolutely right, PA is under no compunction to address the concerns of it’s readership, whether their concerns be video game related or not. People will be offended by PA, and PA will continue to offend. That isn’t really the issue at stake here.

          The problem crops up in the fact that PA did choose to address the concerns of rape survivors and their allies, but in a very demeaning and dismissive way. See “Breaking it Down”: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/8/13/breaking-it-down/. No other part of PA’s fanbase, when concerns were raised, has been subject to this ridicule.

          I would argue that once one starts to address the concerns of one’s fans, whatever the reason, one has a moral obligation to treat all of the objecting groups equally. Penny Arcade fans and PAX goers are just that, PAX goers. And if PA chooses to marginalize a specific group at a con set up to be all-inclusive, a serious problem has indeed arisen.

  4. Posted February 4, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Though I’m not a regular Penny Arcade reader, I saw the comic in question due to the controversy it caused. Now maybe this is the “atypical perception” talking, but I saw it as an indictment of rape culture rather than a part of it. In the comic, a bedraggled man asks some sort of werewolf superhero creature for help. The man says he has been forced into slavery where he is repeatedly beaten and raped by something called “dickwolves” every day and night. The werewolf is not interested in helping because he is focused on completing some sort of video game quest and only needed to free five slaves to win. His interest in freeing those slaves was not due to any moral opposition to rape, physical abuse, or slavery itself; it was for his own gain, and now that he’s done the bare minimum to get what he wants, he’s no longer interested.

    This to me reads as a commentary on a culture where entertainment, winning, and self-absorbtion are valued more than human compassion. Rape should be cause for outrage. (For that matter, so should slavery and torture). But sadly, for many they aren’t.

    That said, the creators’ responses to the people who were upset by the comic varied between flippancy and petulance. A subsequent strip showed them addressing the controversy and reassuring us that rape is bad; however, the expressions and body language they draw themselves with suggest boredom and irritation, as if it were such a huge bother to have to deal with this. They subsequently also, as has been discussed, mocked trigger warnings and such. They could have used the original strip and the subsequent reaction to open a social dialogue. Instead they got defensive and hostile (though not remotely as hostile as some of the internet trolls I’ve seen.)

    • Posted February 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      You raise an interesting point, and I’d be inclined to agree with it, of course, without diminishing in any way the feelings of those who were triggered by it. Once again, it seems like the heart of the controversy revolves around what came after, much like you said.

    • D
      Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      Hi, to James, you wrote:

      Penny Arcade will cave to corporate pressure. But when fans, their fans, en-masse, object to a comic with very problematic themes? They laugh it off.

      - I think that’s actually an extremely unfair statement. Firstly, the corporate pressure amounts to a serious threat to their financial security. It’s not about whether they “respect” corporate pressure versus fan pressure, it’s about being threatened with being *beaten into submission* by corporate pressure. I don’t think I would have any respect for a fan who got them to acquiesce by threatening them with financial devastation, and I don’t think they would, either.

      Which brings me to my second point: their response to corporate pressure is hostile in the extreme; some of their reactions to fans on this issue have been described as hostile, but it’s really not at all, especially in comparison to their totally unwaveringly low opinion of that which goes under “corporate pressure”.

      At the very least, they can engage in an attempt at dialogue with fans; Jerry/Tycho wrote about their critics:

      I’m not certain we’ll ever see eye to eye. But they’re not evil, or mendacious; I understand their intent, why this happened.
      - http://www.penny-arcade.com/2011/2/2/matter-dickwolves/

      That entire blog post, with it’s “live and let live” tone, to me, indicates an honest respect for the fans who complained. Even Mike, who can be more caustic, wrote: “When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. … It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem.

      Would you EVER see similar language used to describe the types of people who have comics pulled by threatening legal action? No, those people, in fact, can expect to be compared to Nazis and portrayed as hideous alien monsters masquerading as humans.

      I also just wanted to make a comment on what’s been described as their petulance/hostility in Jerry & Mike’s reactions to the whole thing..

      Keep in mind what they’re being accused of. They know, for example, that they have no real interest in a “rape culture”, or in rape being seen as anything other than negative. To have people accuse you of something that you are fairly certain, in your own mind, is ludicrously against your own personal moral code, is hardly going to provoke thoughtful introspection, and I don’t think some level of “petulance” should be unwarranted (or at least not *unexpected*). Jerry said when summing up the follow-up comic, “The only people who are pro-rape are rapists. The idea that you would have to specifically enunciate an idea like that is almost overwhelming. It’s self-evident. Hence, the comic.” He is showing that he is unfamiliar with some important modern feminist concepts – yes, true. But it is also an honest expression of the fact that he doesn’t consciously advocate rape culture, and would find it ridiculous and offensive – rather than enlightening – to be accused of such a horrible thing.

      It reminds me a little of some socialist groups on my university campus. Now I am a socialist, and I agree with these people on many important points, but all they seem to do is go around alienating everybody else by making jargonistic and hostile accusations against average people who are, in their own heart-of-hearts, fairly sure that they don’t deserve that.

      When I see them operate like that, it doesn’t matter to me that we have the same politics. Or rather, it does, but not in a good way. I find myself having to distance myself from them when I’m having an honest political conversation with anyone else, for example. It’s not constructive, and if someone responds negatively to it – with petulance or hostility – i don’t put all the blame on the person being petulant.

      I see a comment like the twitter remark; “How does it feel to be actively encouraging rape culture, pal?” (bloodparade), and I don’t think “Hey I can see where you’re coming from, and Mike’s response (‘It feels pretty good. Why?‘) was petulant and insensitive”; I think, “Dude, what the hell kind of reaction did you expect to get from that? Thanks-a-lot for alienating a decent person from feminist ideas.” Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

      • Posted February 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        My point in bringing up the prior incident of censorship was to point out that Penny Arcade, for better or worse, has censored itself. Turning the dickwolves issue into one of censorship therefore rings a little hollow to me, for a number of other reasons as well.

        In general, I do agree with you as to the nature of didactic between us feminists and our perceived opponents (moreso usually just the uninformed) and that it could be improved by more mutual understanding. However, I doubt Shakesville is in the business of being particularly non-confrontational. It’s just not how they operate. And, at some point, you have to respect them for that. Whether or not the tactics are effective… well, at least they got Mike and Jerry’s attention, didn’t they.

        • D
          Posted February 7, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          On censorship “ringing hollow”; but they’re holding a consistent position, aren’t they?

          They are forced to self-censor by the threat of legal action, and they object to this, but do it because they don’t want to be sued.

          Then they are asked to self-censor by fans, for a reason that they disagree with, and they object to this, but don’t do it, because the threat of being sued is not an issue. In both cases, they object to censorship on principled grounds. I feel that you’re overlooking the threat to them that the first situation brought. I mean, if a bully threatens to hurt Bob if he doesn’t do X, so Bob does X, and then later on a second person – who is not a bully – asks Bob to do X, and Bob refuses because he never wanted to do X in the first place, isn’t it unfair to say that Bob’s refusal “rings hollow” – because he was perfectly prepared to do X when the bully asked him?

          I’m sorry if i seem to be labouring the point, but I think it even ties in to the sort of issues that are important here; those of social power and the abstraction of violence. In the above analogy, it seems to be almost conducive to the violence against Bob to treat it as if it is equivalent at all to the (non-violent, non-threatening) fan’s request for Bob to do X.

  5. Posted February 5, 2011 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    “The problem crops up in the fact that PA did choose to address the concerns of rape survivors and their allies, but in a very demeaning and dismissive way.”

    I have to disagree – Penny Arcade were not dismissing the concerns of rape survivors and their allies. They were dismissing those who felt that the original comic promoted a rape culture. While people may disagree about that first comic (though using rape to show the utter horror of a situation, the horror to mock the amorality of MMRPG heroes hardly qualifies as promoting rape culture in my eyes) this has become about Penny Arcade being flippant to rape survivors, which I don’t think ever crossed Gabe or Tycho’s minds.

    While Gabe was flippant and dismissive of trigger warnings, he stated in a blog post after the second comic that he essentially considered the entire Penny Arcade oeuvre a trigger warning. Their first comic with rape in it dates back to 2003. The idea that this kind of thing caught people off guard is strange.

    Nor do I think Tycho (and probably Gabe) are ‘ignorant’ of the distinction between direct imitation of violence (in this case rape) and normalizing the same. I think they just dismissed the idea that their comic did either.

    Finally, while you may feel that for Tycho to disbelieve in rape culture is to disbelieve the air we breathe, this is a subject where thoughtful intelligent feminists can disagree. Not all feminists agree with the rape culture paradigm – bell hooks is a prominent example.

    • Posted February 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      The response comic directly points to a dismissal of the idea of imitation caused by the comic. I quote: “It’s possible that you read our comic, and became a rapist as a direct result.” This idea is distinct from normalization. Penny Arcade has yet to address the issue of normalization, or even the distinction between imitation and normalization.

      Bell Hooks only criticizes the rape culture paradigm in that she believes it is a part of the overarching culture of violence. She does not deny it’s existence, as Penny Arcade seems to be doing.

      Make no mistake, rape culture is very, very real. Denying it doesn’t make it go away.

  6. K
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I had a run in with this whole debacle in class the other day. I go to an art school , specifically studying Sequential Art (fancy name for Comic Book Art). And I’m sitting in class waiting for the professor to get there, and two guys in the back row start talking about how it’s so stupid to be offended about dickwolves, particularly because they were raping men. That in fact, because they were raping men made it even funnier.

    All the other females in the class were noticeably uncomfortable with their words but none of us seemed to want to get into it with them. It just felt like such a huge load of male privilege and rape culture splattering all over our heads. Sadly, I don’t read the comic in question.

    I still feel like crap for not saying anything to them. But I hate arguing when I don’t have enough background info to get into it with them. If they bring it up again, now I know more about the incident.

    • Posted February 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Sucks that you didn’t have the background to get into it with them. Hope this article helped.

      Though I’d argue what sucks even more is that your teacher didn’t speak up, or that the two young men were so ignorant to begin with.

  7. Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I think the problem here is that the original comment did not in any way trivialize rape. In fact, it posited it as THE WORST THING POSSIBLE, which is why it was so MONSTROUS when the “hero” character ignored it.

    Imagine: “What’s the worst?” “Rape.” “How can we make that even worse?” “Rape by wolves [often considered the most frightening non-special/cthulhian entities--see Tolkien's Wargs].” “Worse than that?” “I can’t even imagine…dickwolves maybe?”.

    How these people who were offended by a comic which makes their very point (rape is bad…a point EVERYONE can get behind who isn’t a monster) in an arguably humorous fashion could have NOT seen that accusing the creators of “perpetuating rape culture” would get a snarky/mean/sarcastic response shows the ludicrousness of the mindset.

    I am reminded of the show Hogan’s Heroes: a little known fact is that most of the German characters were, in fact, Jewish. People tried to find fault with them for making light of the Nazis. No one would argue that the Holocaust is funny, nor that it should be made light of (okay, I’m sure people would make that point, but that’s because people are often d-bags), but these actors felt it was important to take away the power that the Nazis held. Show them to be the bungling, stupid d-bags they were. Don’t make them this big powerful thing of which you’re always afraid.

    The same argument could be applied here, though not so much to rapists as to rape itself: that making it a sacred cow which cannot be mentioned in anything but hushed whispers contributes FAR more to rape culture than making it part of “Worst thing possible” jokes. When it’s trivialized, it is of course a hyperbolic phrasing (unless the person truly believes it’s trivial, in which case they are, of course, a monster), and it can be responded to in the same fashion as ANY overly-hyperbolic statement. (See: Godwin’s law) When it’s presented as a horrible thing, but in a context that isn’t hushed, trying to say that “Yeah, but, you see, you’re privileged/mansplaining/arguing for rape/contributing to rape culture” falls incredibly flat to people who see rape as literally the worst thing possible, and who were talking in line with this view.

    I know I keep repeating that phrase, worst thing possible, but I think it’s worth noting. Many people (mostly men) simply cannot fully COMPREHEND how awful rape is. It is simply alien to them; the reason I say mostly men is because they are usually not forced to think about it anywhere near as often as women generally are. These men don’t have a high likelihood of being raped, and have a 0% chance of doing the raping. They don’t have to deal with it. But they can understand that it is literally the worst thing that can be done to a person, at least equal if not worse than extensive torture. Just as they can’t really imagine having their fingernails pulled out while being electrocuted and blinded, they can’t imagine rape. Telling them they’re wrong when they phrase statements/art in TERMS of it being the worst thing ever is nonsensical. You don’t have to like the joke (it isn’t the best one ever), but to fault them for making it, or to fault them for not “snapping to” when people got offended is unfair.

    When someone accuses you of being, say, a Nazi, because you’ve cracked a joke that talks about how callous, say, the Wolfenstein main character is (haven’t played it, so bear with me), in terms of him not saving holocaust refugees, you will be angry. Because that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you were saying in nearly every way. You were pointing out how terrible the Nazis are. So if a Jewish Anti-Defamation League starts namecalling, starts asking how it feels to be a Nazi, starts saying you’re contributing to Neo-Nazi culture, I think a measure of snark is COMPLETELY understandable. Could they have handled it better? Certainly. Were they obliged to? No. They were metaphorically spat on, and responded metaphorically in kind. They could have turned the other cheek, but why should they have had to? The same charge could be leveled against their critics; should they not have read the quite obvious intent before insulting? Keep in mind, they weren’t flooded with “Hey guys, I’m not trying to be mean or censor, but it seemed that you were treating rape flippantly and that bothered me rather a lot. In fact it made me uncomfortable. I understand your joke, it just bothers me a lot.” They were flooded with “How’s it feel to be actively encouraging rape culture” and “How dare you mock rape victims”.

    TL;DR version: They presented rape as the worst thing possible; of COURSE they got pissed when they were accused of being pro-rape(culture)

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