Friday, February 04, 2011

Zon: On the matter of Penny Arcade and dickwolves

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The following is a guest post by Zon.

Having been an avid reader of the webcomic Penny Arcade over many of the past years, I have become somewhat desensitized to their brand of humor. Regardless of what offensive thing they do a comic about, I simply read it, smile and laugh, and say, “Oh, those Penny Arcade guys!”

It was with this same attitude that I read their comic about Dickwolves. Yes, Dickwolves. Read it.

It seems, however, that people are rather upset over the idea portrayed in this comic. It isn’t the slavery idea, or even the “roused by savage blows” line. It is the idea of rape.

Now, when it comes to rape, I can say that it is pretty much universally bad, the “pretty much” in that statement referring to the exception of rape fantasies, where one partner proceeds to “rape” the other under the safety of a safe word.

Of this comic, Penny Arcade began to sell merchandise with the “Dickwolves” name on them. Shirts, banners, etc. Having never really shopped at the Penny Arcade store, I never thought much of them, really.

In times like this, I like to envision the lone man on the pier. There he sits, old and grizzled, face worn from the salty air, his gnarled hands clutching a fishing pole constructed of line tied onto a stick. You stand at his back, while in front of him, you can see the dark clouds on the horizon. Slowly, he turns to look at you, with his age worn eyes, and wheezes out three words.

“Storm a-brewin’.”

In proper Internet form, the Internet exploded, and the trigger seemed to have been a news post Gabe made, located here.

He is removing the Dickwolves merchandise from his store, because it offended people.

At this point, details began to get a little sketchy.

It’s difficult to explain where my problems begin with this debate. I mean, it’s not like rape hasn’t been used to comedic effect in the comic before.

How about here? Is this not considered real rape because it’s being performed by a robot?

What about this one? Is this one alright because it’s a TSA agent, raping Tycho, I quote: “Right through [his] pants”?

And this one! A punchline involving a game called “3D Rape Machine”.

Oh, this is alright, because it’s virtual.

In all honesty, I haven’t made up my mind on Dickwolves, because I’m not sure entirely what they really are. Perhaps some mythological creature, through which every orifice produces an erect, eager phallus?

Most of the criticism stems from two schools of thought: Either that A) Penny Arcade is insensitive, or B) they are adding to rape culture.

My answers to these are as follows:

A – No shit. Of course they’re insensitive. You’re talking about people who encourage people to make cookies shaped like penises, known in the PA world as Dickerdoodles.

B – Wait, what?

Now, I don’t know much about the idea of rape, having never had the action performed on me myself, but let me work out the meanings here. Rape is a forceful sexual encounter, which focuses on power and control. Culture is, as far as I know it, the beliefs and behaviors of society. So are they honestly saying that this comic is contributing to rape culture, to showing the permeation of sex in our culture?

Has anyone even considered the context of the strip?

I have heard some people saying that they no longer feel safe at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) because of these shirts. Really.

People are morons.

The idea that this shirt is somehow turning PAX into a danger zone is absolutely ridiculous. The idea that Gabe and Tycho are contributing to rape culture is also ridiculous. The argument has blown way out of proportion, over a strip which was never about rape in the first place – a strip about World of Warcraft, which was pointing out the absurd nature of WoW quests by using it in one line.

And about this comic? The one where they were making light of the controversy that the Dickwolves started?

It was just Penny Arcade being Penny Arcade.

My point is simply this: Since the shitstorm exploded, people on both sides of the argument have exploded with accusations and threats of all kinds, including one who wanted to go to Gabe’s house and kill his family.

Also, anyone who mentions “triggers” can shut up right now. I’ve never been raped, but I had a very bad Self Injury problem when I was younger. You want to talk triggers? Sit down and watch P!nk’s music video for the song ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’ and try to imagine what I’m going through as I see it. I know about triggers. I’m on the internet. I see references to cutting, the phrase “Go Cut Yourself” all the time, and every time I get a rush of panic and a desire to pick up a blade again.

I guess what I should have just come out and said is that everyone on both sides of this argument are idiots. They’re taking a comedic comic strip out of any context, reaching for points in their arguments like they’re Inspector fucking Gadget, and generally being annoying. To the Penny Arcade side, go back to doing gamer stuff. To the anti-Penny Arcade side, go argue some causes that are actually worth arguing. Because this comic strip ain’t it.