Look, at this point Penny Arcade have created their fair share of controversy. I’ve gotten into fights on Twitter. I’ve argued where the line should be drawn between freedom of speech and expression of opinion versus when offensive views and forms of expression are no longer okay.
I’ve seen the repeated exclamations that Trans Women are not true women, I’ve seen their support for offensive panels at their conventions and I remember the whole scenario surrounding Dickwolves (something I hoped we were finally done with).
For those unaware, here’s the story of Dickwolves up to this week. Back in August 2010 Penny Arcade released one of their regularly occurring comic strips, in which the punch line was that a character had been “raped by Dickwolves”. Many on the internet were upset about the obvious problem here, which is that you are making rape into a joke.
About 2 months later Penny Arcade escalated the issue by starting to sell Dickwolves T-Shirts in their online store. The shirts were styled like american sport team shirts, pitching the wearers as supporters of “Team Dickwolves”. The shirts were completely horrible in my opinion, creating an environment that was pretty exclusionary within their conventions. It made Penny Arcade Expo somewhere that was no longer a safe environment for women, rape victims, people like me who constantly fear rape when travelling alone at night. It encouraged the idea that it was cool to buy merch that advertised you as being a rapist, or at least someone who thought rape was a humorous punchline to a joke.
Early 2011 fans of the Dickwolves comic and Penny Arcade supporters took the terrifying step of creating “Team Rape”, an online group that took to forming harassment campaigns against anti rape and anti Dickwolves campaigners. People standing up against the Dickwolves merch were regularly met with comments like “I hope you get raped by a million Dickwolves” and it was genuinely distressing trying to stand up against the horrid situation that was unfolding.
The incident came to an end when the Dickwolves merchandise was removed from the Penny Arcade website and Mike Krahulik made an apology for the statements made during the arguments that had occured on blogs and Twitter. Jerry Holkins made a final post on the matter summarizing that while Penny Arcade know they create a webcomic that is reliant on this type of humour, they were in no way supporters of rape culture. That was the end of it….. Or that should have been the end of it.
This weekend at PAX, it was announced that the biggest regret that the staff of Penny Arcade have is their choice to pull the Dickwolves Merch, they feel they should have stood by their creation and continued their support of Dickwolves.
Rather than embedding the whole video, I’ve linked to important part of the video below. If you wish to see the entire panel for context, you can still do so by following the link.
So…. I don’t honestly know if I’m more upset by the fact that they regret removing the shirts, or by the disgusting audience reaction to that statement. Seriously, what audience applauds bringing back a joke that marginalises anyone whose life is affected by rape or the threat of rape? I’m so glad I wasn’t sat in that room, as honestly sitting in a room of people applauding and cheering on a rape joke would have been too much for me to take. I felt unsafe just watching the stream at home, imagine putting me in a crowded room, surrounded by those people, with no way to escape. It’s unforgivable, it really is.
I’ve had my problems with Penny Arcade in the past, I’ve been offended, but I at least thought they had the decency to step back from this one joke. I thought they had the decency to draw the line at rape. I can to a degree ignore the anti trans sentiments and brush them off as pure ignorance of the issues, but not this. This is Penny Arcade making an upsetting rape joke, encouraging rape culture within their community, finally taking a stance against rape culture and admitting they were in the wrong, then undermining any good they did. They know the effect this joke had on people, why would they tell their community that rape jokes are okay this way.
Penny Arcade, if you appologise for a rape joke then please tell your staff to have the intelligence to go quiet on the issue. For me, this is the final straw. I can no longer hate your actions while still supporting your content and conventions. This is where I draw the line. I can no longer support anything you do.
The worst part for me? I’m finally withdrawing my support for the amazing Extra Credits, who are currently hosted and funded by Penny Arcade. I can’t keep watching something that is putting money in the pockets of a disgusting company. I hate having to do this, but I can’t put any support to Penny Arcade any more.