I don’t normally say this, and I don’t normally make these kinds of posts, but this particular article will be steeped in my very own opinion. You may not agree with it. It may anger you, and you may be tempted to fling your computer from the tallest rooftop you can find; or you may find yourself agreeing with every pixel that makes up every word. But I urge you: please be reasonable. Above all else, please be civil.
A few months ago, the creators of Penny Arcade produced a strip of satire centering around rape. At the barest of bone here, this particular strip sounds abhorrent. Who would find anything pertaining to rape in the least funny? A whole internet of people. Before I go into anything further, I would like to take this time to dissect the comic into its steaming, vacuous form.
Penny Arcade, as a whole, is a low-brow comic strip; perhaps even down-right juvenile. It centers around video games which, egads, is a childish activity that none should partake past the age of adolescence. The dialogue is peppered with expletives and the subject matter can only be described as poking fun at the fundamentals of life as viewed through a glass dildo. See that last sentence right there? That is Penny Arcade. Going into the depths of their satire is a lot like wading in a kiddie pool of Great Whites; eventually you will get bitten. By what? Their very own satire. Mike and Jerry have a no-holds-barred type of comedy. It is like a good Guinness – dark, very dry and enjoyed by a select few people. With all this in mind, if you continue reading through their comics, you probably have a very thick skin.
Now, onto the strip at hand. It starts out as a generic poking fun at the hero for his fallacies comic. His quest is to save only five slaves for their slavery. The sixth, or so we shall call him, rises up and speaks, “Hero! Please take me with you! Release me from this hell unending! Every morning, we are roused by savage blows. Every night, we are raped to sleep by the Dickwolves”. And then the hero’s rebuttal, “I only needed to save five slaves. Alright? Quest complete”. And suddenly we are in hairier territory than the ’70’s and ’80’s combined.
Let’s take a rational step backward. Let’s look at the context of rape in this strip. Mike and Jerry are not condoning rape; exactly the opposite: they are using rape as a guide to how bad this slave’s life is. It is not the fact that they are slaves in the first place. It is not the fact that every morning they are kicked until they wake up. But that they are also raped. And not just raped, but raped by a fictional being in a fictional universe about a fictional video game, which is all fiction anyways. But because the word “rape” was used, suddenly things are not so funny.
“But, JazFusion,”, you might say. “It’s rape. It’s one of the most abhorrent and vile acts of terror you can inflict upon a person”. Yes, I agree. “Ergo, rape is not funny. In any context”. I also agree. “So why are you defending this?!” Because the butt of the joke was not centered around rape itself; it was centered around the Hero who did nothing. Not only that he did nothing, but his callous indifference that every Hero in every video game seems to have.
So what exactly went horribly wrong in this situation? Everything.
The word “rape” and everything centered around it is a hair pin trigger across the board. Those comedians looking to push the boundaries are likely going to run into this roadblock. Of course, you can’t quite endear an entire population to you when you anger some. This whole situation could have been prevented had the strip never occurred. I will give Mike and Jerry the benefit of the doubt, though. I am usually not one to play Devil’s Advocate (Oh, who am I kidding, I revel in it) but I do not think they made this particular strip intending to offend thousands of readers.
And the situation could have been left at that. There could have been a backlash, some hurt feelings, some readers who left in a huff and PA could have called it a day. Instead, they offered this as rebuttal. While I fully understand their intent, it only served to piss off the people who were already pissed off even more.
Again, let’s take a rational step backward.
Penny Arcade is a comic strip that is free to you. You are not obligated to buy their merchandise. You are not obligated to click on their ads. You are not obligated to do anything but read their work and continue on with your day. If something offends you, you can either quit reading or continue reading; whatever you feel is the right choice.
But then something happened: a Dickwolves T-shirt was made. It has since been taken down, but its barb has been planted deep. What once was an off-color joke suddenly became a marketing machine.
And ever since, the flood gates to Hell have been loosed upon the internet with wild abandon.
There have been bodily threats made. Diarrhea from the fingers on both sides of the issue. This is what the end times look like. Over a comic. Over a piece of art.
Armageddon is the Internet.
One can always argue. And argue. And argue.
But progression is not made by arguing. It is made by truces.
I still contest Mike and Jerry are good guys. I contest there is so much more to them than the work you see them producing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Of course, this can be said of everyone you meet; online or off.
So I shall leave you with an adage from one of my very favorite Greek philosophers:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” – Plato
“us and them and after all, we’re only ordinary men”