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Why Mike & Jerry of Penny Arcade Can't "Get It"* - dew's musings [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Why Mike & Jerry of Penny Arcade Can't "Get It"* [Feb. 7th, 2011|03:05 pm]
dew
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* And Wouldn't Admit to Getting It Even If They Did

Just in case anyone reads this and isn't familiar with the Penny Arcade "Dickwolf" fiasco, here is a Timeline. It's been accused of being biased against Penny Arcade, but it's the only one I'm familiar with that contains the relevant points.

I think in this case Mike & Jerry are now victims of their own success. They have been set up as Alpha Geeks, creators of an insanely popular webcomic (so much so that not only can they make a living at it, it's spawned a huge, bicoastal gaming convention). That's *success*. But that empire is built on a base of "hardcore" gamers, and 2 seconds of thought about the components of that demographic should be enough to convince anyone that "sensitive", "politically savvy", or "feminist ally" are not words you'd use to describe the average reader of PA or attendant of PAX.

Even so, Mike & Jerry themselves, as far as I can tell, have at least a clue about treatment of other humans, even those who identify as female. They started a charity called Child's Play, to provide gaming equipment to sick kids, and have made laudable efforts to create safe space for all at PAX (the "No Booth Babes" policy, for example).

This means, I think, that in their minds, they are "good guys". They know that the comic they wrote was never ever intended by them to tell any of their fans that "rape is ok". They know that they themselves would never rape and find the act of rape repugnant (in real life; I'm SURE they must use the word in gaming trash talk, considering what appears in the comic). As "good guys", it must have been quite the eyeopener to find out that people in other corners of the Internet feel that all those well-meaning jokes add up to a good chunk of "rape culture", and that they really AREN'T as innocent as gamers think.

The situation now I liken to a jock, who actually *is* sensitive to the feelings of others (perhaps Finn, from the TV show Glee). His gay friend is constantly bullied and harrassed. Sensitive Jock KNOWS this behavior is wrong, but if he ever says a word to stop it, his buddies on the team will turn around and make him just as miserable as his friend. He watches, is wracked with guilt, but says and does nothing. He probably feels horrible but makes a lot of effort to bury it because he's got to live with his teammates, and *he's* not the one doing it.

Maybe Mike & Jerry do understand now. But admitting it means putting themselves on the Bad Guy team. Even if they were comfortable with that, it also means letting ALL their fans see them "cave". Considering how some of those fans have already behaved, I know how much trepidation contemplating that move would give me, in their shoes.

I think hiding behind freedom of expression is simply a way out of a horrible situation for them, although I'm not convinced about Mike. After pulling the Dickwolf TShirt from sale, he commented that anyone who no longer feels comfortable at PAX would be given not just a refund, but "(he'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." This COULD the frustrated lashing out of someone who feels unfairly persecuted (possibly understandable) or a hardening of stance from someone who just doesn't want to listen, doesn't care anymore, and is being intentionally vindictive. Since he's someone with the power to actually do what he's threatened, it's a point of concern for me.

If I thought that pulling the T-Shirt meant that only the most devoted asshats would actually wear theirs to the con, I would feel like what they've done is sufficient. But I really don't. The bare minimum that would restore good faith and confidence to potential con-goers that opposed the shirt would be for Mike & Jerry to issue a joint statement that the shirts won't be welcome at the con. I don't think it's practical to actually BAN the shirts (although that would be ideal). But a statement showing that the shirt's creators, on second thought, don't stand behind wearing the shirts *to PAX* specifically would make most people re-think it, I believe. As Mike already Tweeted (on the same day as the announcement was made that the shirts would be no longer be sold) that he was still wearing his to PAX, I read this as highly unlikely to happen. If anything, there will probably be those who eagerly plan to wear theirs in solidarity with Mike to strike a blow against censorship.

As it is, I'm really wavering on the question of whether I will be going (and dragging my husband, who doesn't love crowds). I'd rather not put my money in Mike & Jerry's pockets, based on their behavior thus far. However, not only will me not going ultimately hurt only me (I'll miss out on a lot of fun), it won't accomplish anything. I have just as much right to be there as any other gamer/fan. But the certain knowledge that survivors of sexual violence (who after all have a lot more potentially to lose if the shirts and the awful behavior demonstrated during the debacle become an issue at the con) as well as their allies have already decided that coming to PAX isn't worth it makes it a LOT harder for me to just shrug and pay up and go have fun. In the end, apathy is what Mike & Jerry are counting on. The only ones not welcome at the party are those sourpuss feminists and their traitor "allies". I'm sure that's not really much of a loss in their eyes (and financially it won't be, they'll easily sell out anyway). The calculation inherent in that stance is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The pain of survivors, their struggle to exist in a hostile world, and the work of all who try to ease that pain and make that struggle easier just don't MATTER to Mike & Jerry. And that, whether they can face up to it or not, DOES say things about their character. The fact that it would be so easy to remedy only makes it worse.
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