Friday, December 7, 2007

A question of priorities

Yesterday I spied on the forums an outfit called Jihad Joe. Made by Fedor Mcnally, and advertised as

"So Gi-Joe has been getting too comfortable with Barbie and has no competition, so He has began to pimp Barbie out. Gi-Joe's technology and weapons is too great for ken, because Ken is a hippy and vegan.

BUT NOW OUT IS JIHAD-JOE. Jihad-Joe comes with a shemagh (head rag), in 2 colors, but is modifiable if you wish to customize your shemagh. it also comes with a pipe bomb vest that explodes via a grille igniter that is located on the HUD, the explosion both pushes, and kills.

4 gestures are included to shout at gi-joe to encourage him to repent and take into consideration what he is doing to Barbie is WRONG.

But don't worry, this isn't only for men, there is also a jihad-jane for Barbies who wish to convert and rebel against their rulers."

Obviously I decided that would be a riot and scampered off to purchase it. The problem comes when I have a few friends who have decided that 'jihad joe' is wrong. They didn't necessarily say it was sick and wrong. But wrong nevertheless. This got me thinking.

Yes. It's symbolic of murder and destruction. But so is a gun, which I've previously blogged as fashion accessories on the grid and no one batted an eyelid.

So why do we have different priorities? Second Life is all about dressing up in costumes and outfits, body shapes, genders, races and species that are different from the real life ones sitting at the computer. And just about everyone has opinions on which guises are tasteful and which are at the other end of the scale descending from mildly annoying to downright offensive. Dressing up like a pirate or viking is fine, humourous even, despite the fact that historically both these groups spent much of their time raping and pillaging and generally being bastardy. But dressing up like a nazi is 'in bad taste'. When does something stop being a 'sacred cow'?

Time is definitely a big factor in making distasteful subjects more acceptable - not many people cringe when the Spanish Inquisition is mentioned, but moving forward into the 20th century, into living memory, Naziism is still a highly emotive topic. Humour is a good measure of when past events become socially acceptable. It's okay to mock and laugh at the Nazis, but to do the same with the Holocaust would undoubtedly be considered in deeply bad taste. There's also a good helping of historical manipulation when it comes to uncomfortable events from the past. I doubt many people would recoil in horror at seeing an avatar dressed up as Columbus, despite his extermination policies that saw the death of millions of Native Americans, ranking as one of the worst genocides in human history.

In 2001 a british satirical show, Brass Eye, aired an hour long special regarding paedophilia and the moral panic drummed up by various media outlets at the time, leading to a witch hunt in which many innocent members of the public had their lives upended. The show inevitably recieved a slew of complaints. Despite the absurdity of the jokes (internet paedophiles can make computer keyboards emit noxious fumes in order to subdue children), many of these complaints were from politicians who later admitted that they hadn't actually seen the show. Many people were left questioning why it was wrong to take the piss out of paedophiles.

Maybe it's just human nature. People feel normal and accepted when they have something definite to fear, a shared enemy to loathe. And maybe that's a good thing.


Dorra Debs said...

The person that created 'jihad joe' probably doesnt know anyone thats over in Iraq doing a tour of service. It hits a little close to home when you do.

Fade said...

Dorra that still doesnt answer the question of why someone would find this offensive but not a Second Life gun. Do the people of Iraq not have gun technology yet? i'm pretty sure they do. Is everyone who have family or friends serving in Iraq offended by SL guns?

The number of people who have been victims of suicide bombers is miniscule compared to those who have died from firearms alone (not to mention tanks, planes, missiles - oh crap i just did) yet its acceptable to make-buy-use them all in secondlife.

Is this product outrageous? yes it is... but usually it takes the outragous to make people talk/rant/debate and when that happens people start to think or assess thier values, which is sometimes a good thing.

If this were a real action figure marketed in Middle Eastern countries, aimed at *5 years and up* kids, would that be offensive?

Would it be any more outragous than giving a 5 year old kid from the West a GI Joe (A real American Hero) action figure? Im pretty sure that concept boggles the minds of people in Iraq with dead relatives due this 'war'.

Dad: Look George junior! i got you GI JOE (a real American Hero) action figure!

Son: Wow Dad neat!

Dad: Thats right George Junior! Look at the package...see how he's mowing down the enemy with his Machine gun launcher?? My guess is they're terrorists...probably Iraqi's or Afgans!

Son: Neato Dad...whats a terrorist?

Dad: Im glad you asked son!it's a..... a... .. . well now, run along and see how many Iraqi's you can kill with him! Oh and by the way, i have it on good authority that your sisters Barbie Doll is a Commie!

GI Joe (A real American Hero) ages 5 and up

Im pretty sure the reason this would be thought 'in bad taste' is that its a recognisable weapon of the 'percieved' enemy. But then i suppose the 'enemy' depends whos side your on.
There are quite a few people from other countries(other than America) with access to secondlife.


Daman Tenk said...

Is there a landmark? Or is this avatar a photoshop?

Search doesn't bring anything up.

And you're completely right at the hypocrisy. It's apparently correct to play with GI Joes and commit virtual mass murder on muslims, but the moment the roles are turned around, you're wrong.

Over here we have a saying for those hypocrit Americans: "de boom in" ... literally it means "into the tree" but I guess you should translate it as "up yours".

theshadow said...

Cars kill more people than all the guns and bombs in the world combined... But we don't outlaw cars...

I think we need to get past the tools as offensive and instead focus on fixing the socirtu that makes guns more 'wholesome' than a naked body...

Histrion said...

In bad taste, perhaps, but isn't that also a mark of the satirist, to mock those things we fear the most? Or even those things that we don't fear, but should, such as fundamental, extremist right-wing christianity or, indeed, any extremist group of raving loons deserving of scorn. I personally find this sort of humour a riot and will probably be wearing that essential piece of fashion-wear, the bomber's vest, especially for crimbo as it will help clear the lag in no time.

Dorra Debs said...

Fade, I never stated my position on guns in SL. I merely pointed out why some people might think that jihad joe was wrong.

We all base our opinions on our own experiences(rl and sl). Just because I think an item like jihad joe is wrong does not mean that others cant buy it and have some fun.

iskandra said...

A gun has no religious connotation AT ALL. Pirates and stuff are drowned in nostalgia. Stuff like "jihad joe", by someone apparently not even KNOWING anything about what Jihad actually MEANS (NO, it does NOT mean "religious war"), only promotes more bigotry and religious hatred. I get enough of that as it is, thank you very much.

Running around in nazi uniforms is just wrong on so many levels. AND illegal in several countries, including my home country. Satire is one thing, and of course you can have satirical material on Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, or anything you can think of, and some of them are really good in exposing the idiocy of it all. But satire is one thing, and satire NEEDS the thorough knowledge of your intended subject or it just won't work. Just running around in, say, a nazi uniform isn't satire, but just rubbish. What's it intended to MEAN???

iskandra said...

...oh and besides, I think G.I. Joe is crap, too. Great toy, really, Just gives kids the right ideas about the world.

Orchid said...

Since this is an obvious spoof of GI Joe. Let's all keep in mind that the uber masculine action figure was launched circa 1963 in what would only now be considered a different world. The toy was probably the first 'doll' for boys. Mind you, this is also a period in time in America where segregation was JUST starting to fade.

I'm going to say in the 80s (to my memory) the toy was revamped to be more than just a soldier. The toys became little warriors with huge muscles and accessories/vehicles that could sustain a war for as long as your plastic army could hold out. When GI Joe was launched I'm sure that it was every little boy's dream to grow up and be a rough and tough soldier - or a cowboy.

GI Joe is a product of America. It represents what fathers conditioned their sons to be, in a sense. During the Vietnam war - the company even changed the name of GI Joe to make him/them more of a Laura Croft type in order to downplay the war.

Everyone has compared guns to cars - and has talked about how all these dangerous things are available in SL. Its because Second Life is just a RL shadow. People create things in SL that they like and even DISLIKE about RL. Hate your RL marriage? Well have a SL one! Wahoo!

Yes there are all kinds of biases in SL that float right along side the bigotry and religious hatred - how can there not be? As I said, SL is just a shadow of RL.

I agree with Fade when they said "it takes the outrageous to make people rant/talk/debate and assess their values" and I also agree that this can sometimes be a good thing. Of course regardless of what value or opinion you have over nearly any issue you are going to be met with an opposer to which you can either kick and scream or just shrug.

I just shrug. Dorra - when things hit close to home it doesn't always mean its bad. I think the discovery of this satirical mockery is not only meant in good humor - but should be TAKEN as such even if it isn't. Why? Because 1) it isn't real. And by that I mean it is an avatar in SL which is harmless to you in a physical sense. 2) Unlike a real situation where you are offended or uncomfortable, this is easily escapable without any potential risk to you. 3) Sometimes you just have to shrug it off.

Orchid said...

.. and I accidentally cut myself off - but Dorra I think you have the right idea when you had said that just because you feel its wrong doesn't mean that other's can't have fun with it.