Murder Culture: The Blasé Internet and Double Standard of Horrific Crimes
(Trigger warnings folks: Real talk in here about terrible stuff like rape and murder)
Recently, Twitter and Tumblr have been all abuzz in the nerd sector over comments made by Mike Krahulik, artist and co-creator of the internet’s most popular web comic, Penny Arcade. PA usually writes about video games and related culture, with occasional jaunts in other directions. It’s always been frank and taboo-breaking; not in a “ha ha look how edgy we are” way, they’re just trying to make people laugh. And being inappropriate with societal taboos is a long-standing tradition of comedians etc.
To the point, they made a comic a few years ago with a throwaway line about a character in a demon-hell like world (I believe it was a Skyrim strip) complaining to the hero that they are “raped by dickwolves” nightly. It brought them heat, Mike’s first response was defensive: F*** you, I’m gonna make t-shirts that say “Raped By Dickwolves” and wear it to our convention (they put on one of the biggest video game conventions in the world).
Cooler heads prevailed, and he backed off the idea and somewhat apologized. This year at PAX, he stated at a panel that he regretted not going through with it, which brought cheers from the audience and the outrage of the social media overreaction squad.
I’m not against a dialogue about how we use the crime of rape in our creative works. Some claim for the sake of comedy, nothing should be off the table. We should constantly seek the line and cross it for the sake of not stifling thought and creating dialogue. Others believe the use of rape as a punch line, even a throwaway one, is not only insensitive to those that have survived this terrible crime, but perpetuates a “rape culture” mentality that leads to so many women (and so many unreported men) getting violated.
You know what’s another horrific crime? Murder. Arguable the only one worse than rape. And there’s no dialogue anywhere about how we’re perpetuating a murder culture.
No one is talking about how using horrific murder as plot device or a punch line is insensitive to the family and friends of murder victims. No one is talking about how it perpetuates a society that is so blasé to the idea of the killing of another human being we become completely immune to the idea of it.
We hear about killing in wars, crimes, and wholesale genocide around the world. At best, when you get up to the word “genocide” you may get a “dang, that’s terrible.” Otherwise, with a few exceptions (the murder of a child will trigger an emotional response for instance); it’s just a part of life. It’s so invasive to our culture that it pervades our daily language.
“My roommate left the milk out again! I’m gonna kill him!”
That wouldn’t even make you bat an eye if your friend said that.
“My roommate left the milk out again! I’m gonna rape him!”
Now, you’ve got someone’s attention. Even in the context of ridiculous hyperbole, the word rape creates a visceral reaction in you. If we say nothing else about the terrible idea of a “rape culture” in this country, at least that crime can provoke an emotional response from you. As it should.
So yes, let’s dialogue. But let’s expand the dialogue. There’s some talk about how homosexual rape is used as punch line (especially in the context of prison), and is usually dismissed, and written off mostly as a deflection. No, we need to talk about that too. It should all be on the table, not just the one we have an immediate, emotional response to. We should explore why we allow ourselves to treat ALL these with less importance than they deserve.
So call out those that are treating rape and sexual assault as a comedic device. Also call out your friend who casually mentions how he wants to strangle his boss and bury the body in a swamp. Call out the next oh-so-original Facebook poster laughing about how some criminal on his way to the big house is gonna meet his roommate Bubba (damn, that dude gets around) for some “quality time” after lights out.