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.