Originally, I was going to leave this subject alone. After all, it's already been covered by Deadspin
, the Sporting News
, the Wall Street Journal
, et al. However, my approach of non-responsiveness changed this morning when I read about the feminist uproar
brewing over the upcoming Sony video game Fat Princess
. The game's premise is to force-feed a previously dainty princess a high-calorie diet -- probably rich in candy, butter and delicious gravy -- in order to make it more difficult to capture her (or rescue her, depending on which team you're on). Upon rescue, princess fatty magically becomes thin again...restoring order to a video game universe in which "fat" is only okay for Italian plumbers.
One writer at the political/feminist blog Shakesville
immediately freaked out
over the game, sarcastically congratulating Sony with the following vitriol: "I'm positively thrilled to see such unyielding dedication to creating a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes. It's not often I have the opportunity to congratulate a cutting-edge tech company on such splendiferous retrofuck jackholery. Way to go! The Fat Princess of Shakes Manor salutes you." This well-reasoned argument is then underscored by a photo of the author giving Sony the one-fingered salute. And this is probably going to shock the hell out of you, but the author is -- are you ready for your socks to go flying off? -- an obese woman.
The one thing her witty repartee failed to do is, you know, describe the catastrophic damage that this video game will wreak on fat princesses worldwide. I hate to break this to her, but video games -- even the really good
ones -- aren't some sort of all-powerful cultural force. According to Wikipedia
, the Grand Theft Auto series has produced nine stand-alone games and sold over 70 million copies worldwide. If something as lame as Fat Princess might create "a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes," then the GTA games should have already transformed most of us into solitary gangsters who play by our own rules while car-jacking and killing just for kicks. In which case -- BLAM!! -- we should all be dead right now.
But these knee-jerk reactions aren't about making the Earth a better place. Not really. It's about getting offended as quickly and completely as possible. People seem to genuinely enjoy the process of becoming angry and lashing out at any and every slight, whether real or imagined. This is the world we live in, folks. It has become literally impossible to create anything without pissing somebody
off. I can't publish The Worsties
or let a fan joke about the size of Kobe's laptop
without receiving angry emails full of "screw you" this or "you're an assface" that. And all I do is clown on silly stuff that happens within the realm of professional basketball. It's a good thing I don't create video games or shoe ads.
Society spends way too much time telling us what we should and shouldn't do. Do not use in the shower. Do not use while sleeping or unconscious. Do not use near fire. Do not iron clothes while on body. Do not attempt to stop the blade with your hand. Do not drive cars in ocean. This is not underwear; do not attempt to put in pants. And not only have we been given Life's Little Instruction Booklet, we've been given a green light to become filled with unreasonable rage any time the rules are broken.
At what point in human evolution did we lose the ability to make our own decisions? When did it become impossible to differentiate between playful, harmless fantasy and reality?
Which brings me to the subject of Nike's Hyperdunk ad campaign
. As you probably already know, this campaign previously included a series of billboards that illustrate two of mankind’s most primal emotions: The fear of being defeated in fierce athletic competition, and the horror of having someone's dangling genitals forcibly rammed into our face. But Nike has pulled the ads because of their obvious homophobic undertones.
No, seriously. People think these ads are homophobic. You should read some of the comments at that Hyperdunk campaign link I posted above. Several people claimed that, in response to the perceived offensiveness of the ads, they will never
buy a Nike product again. (Although, honestly, I'm willing to bet they weren't buying Nike to begin with.) One commenter said: "This toothless, comfy, hate-mongering would not have survived a relatively conscious basic design class...twenty years ago. Shame!"
You might be tempted to ask, "Are these people serious?" The answer is: Yes, they most certainly are. But the bigger question, for my money, is, "Do they even understand what they're so upset about?" I tend to believe that any person of average intelligence would be able to interpret these ads correctly and realize that they harm no one. You could argue about whether or not they're funny, sure, but whether they're offensive? How? Because a heterosexual male doesn't want to be dunked on and get teabagged
at the same time? This presupposes...what exactly? That gay men actively desire for this to happen to them, and therefore portraying it as a negative thing is somehow hurtful to their pro-dunking/teabagging stance? That seems like a stretch to me.
But then again, my perceptions are colored by the fact that I'm a heterosexual male in a hetero-centric world. So I decided to poll a friend of mine who is both gay and plays basketball. My question was simple and to the point: Do you find Nike's Hyperdunk ads to be homophobic? Here is his unedited response: "They don't seem homophobic to me. I could be naïve, but all I see is the guys getting dunked on. I guess they could have included the basket in the pictures and not just the groin to the face."
I know that one gay male basketball player is a relatively small sample population, but you see my point. I have yet to read or hear of one rational argument that has made me think, "You know, these ads could be kind of homophobic if you look at it like this...."
This isn't a new thing, by the way. Back in 2000, Nike pulled an ad that showed Olympic runner Suzy Hamilton escaping a chainsaw-wielding killer. It was an obvious parody of horror movies like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but some feminist groups actually believed that the ad was a gross display of violence against women. So then, like now, Nike gave in
I don't believe that Nike -- or anyone else -- should blindly give in or be forced to give in to the masses of people who see it as their solemn duty to fight ignorance and injustice with ignorance and injustice. The Hyperdunk ads are not harming gay people. They are not making gay people feel badly about themselves, nor are they making heterosexual people hate gay people any more (or less) than they already did. Watching a man dunk on another man, even if that man is me, will not make me gay. And although I might resent the man who did it, it won't be because of his sexual orientation, but because I don't like getting dunked on and I don't like people I am not currently having sex with ramming their crotch in my face. And that's pretty much where this entire story should have ended.
You know what would help reduce the world's vast supply of homophobia? If people stopped looking for it so hard.
Labels: homophobia, Nike, righteous indignation, video games