Trigger warning for discussions of rape, rape culture, and directly quoting trolls.
So Mike Krahulik aka “Gabe” from Penny Arcade went and posted himself a message just now. (
Note to self: you will have to update that link later. Thanks, past-self!) Twitter is just not the right venue for some things. Also, you are about to witness how ridiculously rambling my writing gets when I don’t spend a day and a half editing it first. And yes, I seriously just went through and wrote a fuck-ton about a Penny Arcade news item, it’s almost like I think words matter and carry meaning.
“It’s true that we have decided to remove the Dickwolves shirt from the store. Some people are happy about this but a lot more of you are upset.”
“You” being the people reading the message, aka the fans. So not, “some of you are happy…” just SOME PEOPLE. To me, this sounds like my mom when someone jaywalks in front of her car, “I swear, some people!”
“You think we’ve caved into to pressure from a vocal minority and you’re not entirely wrong. let me at least break down why we did it though.”
So their own narrative is that they caved in to people. SOME PEOPLE made them go and do something “a lot more of you” (aka fans) are upset about. In case you were worried this little story wouldn’t have a bad guy: I THINK ONE IS COMING!
“First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that.”
ETA: I debated waiting a until I wasn’t the combination of sleep deprived from Global Game Jam and under the effects of half a bottle of wine, since I want to do this properly, but I also don’t want to wait 9 or 10 hours to do it. In my original response to this bit, I erroneously labeled Mike with PTSD. That’s not a label he’s publicly claimed, and it’s fucked up that I did that. Hell, I recently blogged about labeling other people’s mental health, so way to go missing your own point there when it hits closer to home, Stanton. Remember when I was all, “you’re gonna fuck up at some point?” This is a point when I fucked up, and I’m very sorry. I appreciate getting called out on this – I’m sincerely not being sarcastic or begrudging when I say that – and again, I’m sorry. I’ve removed references to PTSD related to Mike and altered the text of the first line below. Hopefully this is less assholish, over-stepping language for linking the clip with Mike’s statements, which I have found and still find relevant to the larger discussion.
Something you may not know about Mike Krahulik – he actually has some feelings he can’t “choose”. (The subject comes up around the 8:00 mark.) The quote that I found extremely moving was, and still is, ”There’s things that happen in your brain, like, connections, that you just don’t have any control over.” That’s Mike, talking about his feelings surrounding drug use/abuse. His description is pretty close to how I’d describe my (rarely triggered, thankfully) PTSD. That came out in May, 2010.
So, as a reminder: This man who I dunno, might have some understanding of other people’s mental health triggers, is the man who mocked trigger warnings and said that people identifying the comic as triggering had, “decided to find [it] offensive.” Also, the full line of the header in that last link is a Mel Brooks quote, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” The score, then, is Mike’s feelings: something that happens in his brain that he cannot control. The feelings and PTSD of rape survivors: mockable, a decision rape survivors are choosing to make somehow, and held in the same category of injury as a cut finger.
“People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.” It is very easy not to log on to Penny Arcade and read our bullshit. We’ve always made offensive comics and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic.”
This is a really tired bullshit argument, which has gone on in the comments of my blog, other blogs, random forums, etc. There is not a Sovereign Contract of Protest that requires you to speak out against every offensive thing in a definite order. There also isn’t a statute of limitations on identifying offensive content. Additionally, the Internet of yore, back when Penny Arcade started, was a lot smaller, with a much smaller demographic of people. Also, the same fans that might have laughed at something 10 years ago when they were teenagers are all older now and it’s possible that what you thought was funny in previous years isn’t something you identify as funny or acceptable now. AND, let’s say you’re a fan and you laughed at all that other stuff but hey, this IS totally the first thing they’ve ever done that you found really upsetting. Your past silence somehow prohibits you from reaching out to the creators of this site you love so much and asking them to please consider you, a very engaged fan, since they’ve crossed a line for you as a fan? That seems to be the rule Mike is trying to put forth.
Here, let me link this up for you so it makes more sense:
“PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen.”
So the web comic they built a fan base around, which grew so large it spawned its own convention…that convention welcomes everyone! But not the web comic which is the source of the convention! Or the people who created the convention, since they also run the web comic!. They’ve still got Very Important Offensive Jokes to tell about all kinds of people who aren’t, if you’ll recall, the “you” this letter is addressed to. They don’t want SOME PEOPLE on their site, which they use to organize and promote that convention where some people are toooootally welcome to come hang out. Glad we cleared that up.
“From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter.”
This whole bit: golden. When I was reading this, I was like, “wait, is he actually recognizing his privilege and acknowledging that he can’t just pass judgment on whose experiences are or aren’t deserving of respect?” Because you see, I was a very long time fan of Penny Arcade. I found it eight or nine years ago, and when I did, I spent two days
mainlining reading all the previous comics and have been reading every new one as it comes out ever since. [ETA: Fixed the language referring to drug use/abuse] Yes, really. (Did I laugh at shit I might find offensive now? Possible/probable. Am I the exact same person now with the exact same worldview I had when I was 18? No, thank fuck. People learn shit, people grow up.) I would love to be able to go back to reading Penny Arcade, the way I had been for almost a decade, without feeling gross in a variety of ways that are sort of akin to re-dating an abusive partner. The prospect that this Letter From Mike to the Fans and Some People might actually turn out to be mature and respectful was really exciting, for all 20 seconds it lasted.
Also, because despite coming from a website that “everyone” isn’t welcome at, PAX events have managed to be way less gross than your average fan convention, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I had me a good time at PAX East last year, at least for the parts when I didn’t have a suck-o migraine (not caused by anything at PAX East, just to be super ultra clear).
“These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable.”
1) I appreciate them making it clear that this wasn’t on account of some RANTS ON BLOGS. This is, much like that dude who trolled me with, “you are a harlot slut succubus who needs to mind her own business,” one of those hilarious comments that is shockingly insightful about me. “She ranted on blogs,” is totally going on my tombstone whenever one of the trolls gets around to making good on their threats to rape me until I die. (Similarly, but not really on topic: I got a comment today that just said, “bitch, be cool.” This has become my mantra, feel free to borrow it.)
2) If you’ll recall, Penny Arcade’s comic The Sixth Slave came out in August of 2010. Their responses, both in comic form as well as news posts, tweets, and trolling feminist safe spaces, were also in August, 2010. They released the Dickwolves shirt in October, 2010. Other Dickwolves merchandise followed. The messaging coming from Mike and Jerry has always been very consistent – we’re not listening to you, and if you talk to us, we’ll make fun of you and the things you tried to talk to us about. Given the way I’d seen them treat other rape survivors and their concerns, NATURALLY, I should have just sent them an email! I MEAN COME ON! Duh, obviously they were soooooo willing to listen.
To anyone “reasonable.” Guess who gets to play Judge and Jury of Whether Your Behavior is Reasonable! Good ol’ Mike. SOME PEOPLE weren’t reasonable, obviously. We were overemotional (being triggered is, after all, a choice we’re making!), we were way too sensitive (I mean come on, all they did was tell a joke about how a guy gets raped! why can’t you just laugh?), we were mu-mu-mu-mean to them when we told them we didn’t like being triggered, and that meant that nothing we said mattered.
If you’re getting the sense that somehow, the creators of Penny Arcade don’t want to listen to the part of their fan base that were offended, triggered, or otherwise strongly disagreed with their rape joke or the way they responded to fans calling them out on their rape joke? And that maybe the creators of Penny Arcade would, seriously, rather you just go be fans of something else and stop participating in their communities, either online or in person? That feeling’s coming from somewhere.
“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. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it. Contrary to what they might think I’m not a complete asshole.”
Right, cause a COMPLETE asshole would have left that triggering, shitty merch in the store for longer than THREE MONTHS. A COMPLETE asshole would have refused to pull the merch no matter how many game developers refuse to speak at your conferences, no matter how many event partners refused to co-brand with you, no matter how many personal friends in the video game industry you had that were telling you and your team that This Was Not Making You A Good Business Partner. You’re not an asshole in the face of the video game industry turning up the volume louder and louder letting you know that you’re being an asshole.
I am so. fucking. glad. I quit my better-paying cushy corporate job last year, sold my suits, and transitioned into making games with people. I have got nothing but (a professionally appropriate level of) love for you folks. And if you’re in the industry and disagree with me, I’m sorry because I realize that this is coming across like I’m speaking for you. So: I am not speaking for The Industry At Large. I’m just saying, it is my personal opinion that we have got some fucking awesome people in high places. (Also, if you’re in the industry and disagree with me in some way that you feel warrants discussion, I am totally into talking. My RANTING is not limited to blogs, but I’m into hearing you out. I am aware that not everyone is comfortable just throwin’ statements out there in public for all to see.)
“Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. First off it assumes a lot about us that simply isn’t true but more importantly it’s not something I can fix.”
I would like to thank the entire Feminist Internet (an amalgam of blogs and personalities that, though containing much Magical Lady Power, does not actually constitute a ‘controlling body’ and is not actually capable of censoring people, omg I do not want to EVEN get into that (again)) for teaching these guys some new vocab words. I mean, sure, they seem to be arguing against it by saying, “Yes but what are words?” The ever-popular, “This unflattering characteristic cannot be attributed to me so long as no one believes I know what that characteristic is,” followed by the, “I’m CERTAINLY not responsible for changing my behavior, since DUH, I TOTALLY don’t know what you’re talking about and so that can’t be true and I can’t be in the wrong.”
Also, and seriously I WISH I was having to stretch for rhetorical call-backs, but guess who has SOME KIND OF RAPE CULTURE. Fans? Do “you”, the fan, who is reasonable in all your expressions of love or dissatisfaction, have SOME KIND OF RAPE CULTURE? Wait! Wait! I remember! SOME PEOPLE. SOME PEOPLE, who clearly are incapable of appreciating Penny Arcade, who are unreasonable, WE HAVE SOME KIND OF RAPE CULTURE.
Also, no shit, what island of illusion did these guys move to that’s free of rape culture? Because I totally wanna lower property values by moving there.
“I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are “conflicted” about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.”
Hey remember that time when you may have gotten a creeping feeling in your gut that Mike was dumping you? He was. He’s just not that into you. I mean, it was cool and all, but you just have like, feelings and stuff. And he’s gotta get some bro time in, y’know? Like, his friends don’t think it’s cool if he hangs out with you, and while he’ll still take your money and your web traffic on the side, he’s not going to make you feel good about it. He won’t hold your hand in public or anything. I mean, you keep asking him to like, listen to you and y’know, think about you like you’re a person and not a punchline. And bro, for real, rape is so fucking hilarious, so like…He’s just gotta peace on this, but it was a good time when he took your money last year and stuff.! You can keep his other merchandise you own, to remember him by.
“So there you go. It’s not a simple decision. No matter what we do we’ll have people mad at us. If you want to talk more about it we can chat at PAX.”
Yeah, I can see how this was a tough call. I mean, how DOES one manage to stay on the good side of the people who make one of the products your job indirectly depends on, while still clinging to the the privileged delusion that you never have to say sorry to anyone, not ever.
Some random shit:
1) I am not fucking American Greetings. If you mistake an outpouring of hurt, confused fans who are telling you about one of the worst things a human being can do to another human being with a C&D letter from a major corporation, then your life is very different than mine. Since the Feminist Internet is not an actual like, organization or anything, I have no real idea what kinds of messages Penny Arcade received in response to the original comic, the response comic, etc. I don’t feel comfortable saying, “NO ONE ASKED YOU TO TAKE YOUR COMIC DOWN,” because fuck, maybe someone did. It’s just really hard for me to imagine the circumstances where the decision tree of, “how should we respond to rape survivors who are talking to us about having their PTSD triggered,” leads to the way they chose to respond.
2) WHY WILL I JUST NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT RAPE. ohmygod I know right? You know who wants to never say the word, “rape” again? Me.
The thing is, while I would, genuinely, LOVE to never hear about rape again, I think there are some strikingly different approaches to the assumedly mutual sentiment of not wanting to hear about rape anymore. To me, I think that raising awareness about rape and sexual assault, making it safer for survivors to press charges, trying to perpetuate the idea that people have the power to consent over their own bodies regardless of how much your partner or person you like or very close friend or other person you trust pressures you, trying to increase legal protection and social support of rape and sexual assault survivors, educating people about the fucked up rape culture we live in and the bizarrely horrible ideas it gives us about each other and ourselves…these things will help stop rape and sexual assault from happening.
I want kids to some day be like, “people used to do what?!” when they learn about rape. In history class. I want it to be like stoning or witch burning in this country – something we don’t do any more to each other. (Yes, I realize those things happen in other countries today. No, me changing topics completely right now to talk about that instead is not a suggestion that will make it through moderation. It’s derailing, do some research.) I want this to stop being something I have in common with people.
It seems like the alternate approach to not talking about rape is to just to shout down and silence me and other rape and sexual assault survivors. And uh, have we met? That’s not going to happen.