On rape. And dickwolves.
Okay, so. Penny Arcade, I suppose, needs no introduction if you are reading this blog. Their jokes involve, but not necessarily revolve around, dark and morbid humor such as murder, incest, bestiality, pedophilia, the Apocalypse, scat, hell rising up and killing everyone, alien possession bursting from people’s skins, and yes, rape. Yadda yadda. It’s telling that I don’t find any of their content disturbing or surprising in the least anymore. Whether it’s more telling of me or them, I really don’t know. Either way, let’s say that this type of joking is not unprecedented.
No problem, right? You either like it or you don’t. If the latter, you just don’t read their site, right?
Sadly, the internet is a place for all sorts of people, and when you have a mass of people, conflicts will arise over the smallest things. The ‘raped to sleep by the dickwolves’ comment spurred a rather lengthy drama made between various sites and parties, the full timeline can be found here. Go read it to get the full story, as it’s really too long to be written properly here. I’ll wait.
Done? Good. Anyway, the crux of it is that Shakesville complained. If you’re not familiar with Shakesville, it’s basically a collaboration of pro-feminist rights individuals, who get offended at any little thing that even remotely MIGHT be oppressive to women. Hell, that post is PART FIFTY THREE in an ongoing series.
Now, I’m a firm believer in free speech, and hell, it’s BlogSpot. You should be able to say what you want without being publicly attacked. Criticized, maybe, but if you want to be offended by something, it’s well within your rights to write about it and complain about it. I take the stance that people who disagree should just not visit your site, and you can go on prattling about social evils in your own corner of the internet unimpeded. Problem solved.
Or so I thought.
This didn’t help. I’m sure that to Tycho and Gabe it seemed like a ‘funny apology’ of sorts. I often do this when I am forced to find common ground with others, I make light of the situation to try and set a jovial mood. I’ve found that being a general dick does not help under circumstances such as this. To anyone not familiar with Penny Arcade though, it seems like they are making a mocking post telling off people who complained about their comics. This is not an unfair assumption, and a easily made mistake. At this point, Gabe said the following:
“For the most part I think that people are perfectly happy to laugh at offensive jokes until the joke offends them. Then it’s not funny anymore. There is no way we can know what each and every person who reads the comic has decided to find offensive.”
This is something I definitely agree with. I believe it was Jon Stewart who said that people often come up to him and say “I think your show is great, and I thought you were hilarious … until you started joking about <hot topic>, which is a serious problem and shouldn’t be joked about.” It’s kind of an absurd double standard. Added to that, people from Shakesville think that just by being a man who doesn’t even think about rape, you are essentially supporting rape and rape culture. That makes about as much sense as McCarthy’s anti-Communism spiel from the mid 1900s, but hey, as long as you’re not yelling at or harassing others, I’m fine with your beliefs, regardless of if I find them objectionable or not. Now, in my (admittedly short) time on Earth I’ve learned that I need to pick my battles. If I got offended by every little thing regarding my race/culture/height/weight/profession/etc, I’d not only be a hypocrite (for not considering other parties) but also intensely inefficient at my job (which involves communicating with people from all walks of life).
I know quite a few rape victims, some are offended by rape jokes (and I don’t make them in their presence) and others are not and have no problem with any of my jokes. The thing I found is that the former do not extend the same courtesy to others as they expect themselves. They make jokes about cancer in front of cancer patients who don’t think its funny, and when people tell them it’s not cool, they say “grow a backbone/penis/sense of humor.” One told a particularly unfunny (and deeply offensive) joke about my culture/race, and told me I’m not allowed to be offended because it was a joke. The hypocrisy is quite stunning. But this is neither here nor there, and has no bearing on the drama that has unfolded from Penny Arcade’s comic, it’s just something I’ve noticed.
At this point it’s probably time to just start ignoring people, due to irreconcilable differences. But at this point, Penny Arcade ends up poking the bear some more and makes dickwolves T-Shirts and Memorabilia, showing them as a sports team or something. It’s at this point that I stop being firmly in Penny Arcade’s camp and start being neutral about the whole thing. A few years ago Abercrombie & Fitch made a rather offensive shirt stereotyping and insulting certain Asian people. To me, the point a joke about ‘taboo’ subjects stops being funny is when people wear it on their shirts and tell people who find it tasteless to LAUGH OR GTFO. In the same vein, making a Dickwolves shirt and putting it on sale is kind of a dick move, ironically enough. I would imagine rape victims would find the shirts as unsettling as Jewish people would find Nazi memorabilia unsettling, despite not actually mentioning rape in the merchandise.
This caused further problems. I can see why, given the circumstances, putting the Dickwolves shirt on sale is something that should be giving Gabe and Tycho pause. But then, what about Fruit Fucker shirts? What about shirts that have murder, hate, racism, etc, as jokes? I personally have a “I wish I could hate you to Death” T Shirt (a line I found infinitely funny at its inception). I already discussed the problem with Gabe and Tycho’s actions, but by the same token, you can’t create such a furor over one thing and then say ‘those other things are okay.’ Rape as a crime and social evil does not exist in a vacuum, and considerations should be made for other parties as well, but many are having none of it.
Penny Arcade has since removed the shirts, but Gabe has said he’ll be wearing one to PAX East. Some think that kind of sends mixed messages; to me, it just says that they are mindful of people who are offended, but don’t want to just bow down unequivocally. Not that I’m completely in support of Gabe and Tycho, they’ve acted like assholes more than a few times – but really, this isn’t something without precedent. However, if the other side is claiming to be so much better than they are, shouldn’t they … you know, NOT be a bunch of assholes back? The fact that the people who complained feel so entitled (and that’s what it is, entitlement, because they don’t think the same courtesies should be extended to other groups) that they deserve some sort of reparation from EVERYONE WHO IS A MAN makes it difficult to side with them completely. Okay, you’re offended. I understand completely why and how, but there’s got to be some sort of cut off point for this shit. It’s gotten such that people are making death threats directly to Gabe’s wife and child. Holy shit. To quote Gabe, “not fucking okay at all.” Way to undermine your own point. Let’s hope you don’t get a knock on your door by your local police department.
I am certain (and have been proven right) that the downright brainless masses of Penny Arcade have sent threats to Shakesville, and let’s be honest, that’s not cool. It’s fucking disgusting, and these people should be ashamed of themselves. Shakesville (and their supporters) say that Gabe only asked everyone to drop it after his family was threatened. Now, I’m sure it seems that to many, it seems the Gabe is caving only when there’s trouble on his doorstep, but consider: his FAMILY was threatened, not him. His family. When you make posts that are publicly accessible by the internet at large, you don’t have the luxury of saying “leave me alone,” especially when you’re posting about hot button issues; I suspect that I’ll get my own fair share of diatribes if anyone ends up reading this post. That is a pitfall you accept when you start publishing stuff online; I’ve received more than a few death threats about my work on gaming review sites. But there’s a significant difference between someone threatening you (which you know full well why, and probably realize you can handle it) and threatening your family (where your family, for the most part, has no idea why they’re being targeted and end up fearing for their life). I’m almost certain that death threats were made on Gabe’s person and he just brushed them off – it’s his day-to-day, of course – but it’s his family that he wants to protect at this moment, not himself. There’s a very bright and obvious line separating threats against you, and threats against your family. Sorry, Shakesville supporters, but it’s true.
Many people are saying that Penny Arcade (and by extension, its readership) just don’t GET IT. Now, having been in a quasi-relationship with a rape survivor, treating rape survivors in the ER, and helping certain friends who are rape survivors with the psychological problems post-trauma, I can say that I definitely GET IT. Gabe and Tycho are not rape survivors, and people who say that they only sued for peace after receiving direct threats to their families are the ones who don’t GET IT. It’s at the precipice of violence do we truly understand how traumatic and affecting it truly is. That they even received death threats to their families directly is appalling and truly indicative of how poorly the other side has been handling this. I realize that, just as the readership of PA does not reflect their viewpoints, the people making threats don’t represent Shakesville, but they’ve shown even less compassion towards others than PA has. And, by their own admission, Gabe and Tycho can be pretty tremendous fucking assholes sometimes. So that’s telling.
What’s even worse is that some contend that even mentioning rape in any sort of manner that isn’t explicitly negative in nature means perpetuating the idea of rape being ‘okay,’ which is obviously an absurd claim to make, and not even one you could make of Penny Arcade’s comic – it specifically states rape to be a ‘hell unending.’ Ironically, people are accusing Gabe and Tycho of the same insensitivity and dismissive behavior they are mocking in their comic – a comic where rape was, contrary to what detractors would have you believe, NOT the punchline. It was only a means to assert the horrific nature of the situation the slave was in, and the “hero’s” insensitivity to his plight now that he already met his daily quota of slave saving – “I already rescued five slaves, I’m out.” So even mentioning rape in the periphery of a joke is something to be admonished now.
Could Gabe and Tycho have done a better job handling the situation? Yes, definitely. But in the end, they did try to do the right thing. Haphazardly, given, but in this case any olive branch is a pretty good step. Shakesville and the individuals on their side of the argument, in my opinion, handled it just as badly, first by blowing one panel in a comic prone to having panels about disturbing issues so out of proportion. Second, and more damning, being even less considerate than Penny Arcade by not actively telling people that no, threatening them is not something that is okay. If you are going to argue from the moral high ground, it is up to you to show your opponent the consideration and compassion that you say s/he is sorely lacking in, and not drag yourself down to their level – it’s as if they think Gabe and Tycho deserve to have their families threatened. Maybe they don’t, but hell, considering their complete dismissal of victims of crimes other than rape, I’m somewhat doubtful. There are some who are accusing Gabe and Tycho of hypocrisy, that they are only okay with joking about taboo subjects until they are directed towards their family. I have to say, there’s a good deal of difference between “Haha, an act of violence against a nameless video game character” and “Haha, I will murder your wife and kids.” If I have to explain the difference to you, then you are a fucking retard.
There are many who are claiming “I read Penny Arcade for years, and now I am stopping.” That’s fine, but I have to ask – what comic did they think they were reading all these years? What kinds of people did they think they were dealing with all these years? This isn’t anything new; Gabe and Tycho has offended lots of people before. Nobody gave two shits when they offended Jack Thompson into throwing a rage fit, now that they’re actually offended these people it’s suddenly not okay? They say that Penny Arcade does not extend any courtesies to them, but they have not extended any of these courtesies to other people or groups – like I said, what about murder victim survivors? Should they not receive consideration? PA has not had a history of extending overt considerations to any group.
Either way, end of the day, all parties would’ve been better off if someone, anyone, had just bowed out at some point. Sometimes silence says much more than any loud words can.