Look, this past week, the internet was forced to talk about The Torso.
No, I don’t mean the Italian horror movie with the absolutely horrible English language trailer (that Edgar Wright parodied for his contribution to Grindhouse, btw), I mean the “collector’s item” that was meant to accompany the UK and Australian deluxe editions of Dead Island: Riptide.
Yeah, THAT Torso.
I don’t really want to go too deeply into WHY it’s offensive, other outlets like Jezebel have touched on that already and, honestly, across the board in video game, comic and other media fandoms, explaining why shit like this is upsetting is getting pretty tiring. It seems like every damn week we have to try and have this dialog again: This is offensive, here is why, no I’m not being too sensitive, no I should not have to deal with sexism/racism/homophobia in my media Because Straight White Guys Say So, do you really still not get this, FUCK YOU.
So it is to the point that I have to make this absolutely horrific assumption: despite all the half-assed apologies and “oops our bads!” (we’ll get to the ZI:R one a little later) we get handed after the fact, companies that launch these kinds of things do so on purpose, knowing how offensive people will find it. And it’s not that they don’t CARE, it’s that they WANT us to be offended.
Look, we’re a generation raised with advertising literally everywhere, but we also like to think we’re too smart to fall for ‘BUY THIS OR YOU SUCK!’ logic. I mean, it is still out there, don’t get me wrong, but advertisers also work in really subtle, manipulative ways that are outright scary. If you want a better overview of this sort of thing and how even underground and supposedly subversive art are being used to advertise to us, pick up a copy of Unmarketable by Anne Elizabeth Moore.
Our age is seriously “no publicity is bad publicity.” So, if you release a photo or an ad campaign you know people will be offended by, it will get them talking. You’ve gotten them to post your logo, your images, your product all over the place. You’ve just saved millions, maybe billions, on your ad campaigns just by re-enforcing some sort of bigoted bullshit.
Of course, at this point many people are aware of THAT as well, and you often get told “if you talk about it, you’ll just give them what they want.”
Welcome to a massively fucked up catch-22. Because the options become:
- Talk about it, call out the company for actions you know are deliberate, give them the publicity and pray you start a dialog
- Don’t talk about it and leave it out there without commentary and without challenge that might potentially start a dialog…and the company still gets what they want, they still sell product and/or get their name out there.
Oh, but there’s a dialog, right?
See, that’s the best part: if you DO try to start a dialog, it gets bogged down in details about the specific case. With The Torso it was largely “the game is about violently killing zombies, why are you offended by this?” I will, in return, as you “if it wasn’t attached to a zombie game, would you know it was a zombie torso?” Looking at the statue versus the in-game undead, well…you probably wouldn’t wanna go to bed with the in-game zombies, no matter how large their chest or small their bikini.
But even then, there’s a problem. We aren’t examining the sexism in society that surrounds this single issue and makes it that much worse, we aren’t able to properly explain that nothing exists in a vacuum so, yeah, a sexualized bloody woman’s torso in a world with already alarming rates of sexual violence against women IS part of the problem.
And yeah, it’s NOT just The Torso. It’s the gross quotes about Lara Croft nearly being raped in the new Tomb Raider game so the audience could better “identify” with her. It’s Women in Refrigerators. It’s that the US censors believe that showing a woman orgasming is deserving of a higher film rating than showing a woman being bisected by a saw. It is all of these things combined and the facts of the culture they exist in that is the problem, not just a single incident or “collector’s item.”
But that gets shut down, and instead we get offensive followed by an apology that doesn’t really apologize for anything. For example, the apology from Deep Silver, the developers of Dead Island, is double offensive. Half of it is basically saying “we didn’t think people would be offended.” Bullshit. This company went through public outcry with the first Dead Island game because of the leaked “Feminist Whore” code. There was no way they didn’t realize something like this was going to set off the internet.
The other half was sneaking in an insult to anyone who was offended: “a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.” Fuck you, asshole, that’s basically saying the same thing you want your defenders to keep saying “The video game is violent so the violent statue is appropriate.” Which, as I mentioned above, ISN’T REALLY THE POINT.
Here is THE POINT: this is a serious social issue that needs to be addressed. We all need to put on our big girl panties and our big boy nuthuggers, suck it up and actually try to communicate with each other. Because this pattern of intentionally offensive -> offended outcry -> profit is detrimental to our world as a whole. And it’s not going to stop otherwise because so long as the last step is “profit,” companies will keep at it.
-Ashly is an IHOG contributor who has a TORSO! TORSO! TORSO! TORSO! Learn more about her TORSO! on twitter @newageamazon