Two Tuesdays ago, as every Tuesday, was notable for two reasons: my Arabic lesson in the evening, and the joy of watching The Guild in the morning. This particular episode, Festival of the Sea (which is awesome, as always….nice work, Felicia) portrayed an interesting twist in the Codex-Fawkes relationship.
For those of you who don’t watch The Guild: you need to start. But, to bring you up to speed for the time being: The Guild is a web series about a gamer named Codex and the other members of her guild in an MMORPG (like World of Warcraft, although for copyright reasons the game in the show is left nameless). Codex (and the rest of the cast, actually) is more than a bit neurotic, and she feels awful about herself after having a one-night stand with Fawkes, the leader of a rival guild, at the end of the last season. Fawkes explains that he intends to “sample” everything that womankind has to offer, so he never sleeps with the same girl twice. He does, however, agree to pretend to continue dating her to cover her shame at having a one-night stand. But apparently Codex’s devilish charm has been winning him over, and he’s decided he wants to keep dating her. In this week’s episode, he asks her to go out with him again. She rejects him, calling him a “d-bag,” at which point Jeanette, a coworker of Codex’s, joins the conversation. Fawkes is dismissive of Jeanette, who he apparently also slept with recently, so she says, “you think you can get all up in Jeanette and then treat her like hired help?” She proceeds to throw him over a railing and beat the crap out of him. (Rereading this paragraph, I realize I have somehow not captured a single iota of the crazy, zany, geeky absurdity that makes this show awesome. This sounds almost like a normal plotline on a normal soap opera. I promise it’s better than that.)
Anyway, that scene prompted the following comment by Robert in SF on the show’s website:
“Normally I enjoy the shows, but I don’t really find physical violence and abuse against someone because of emotional hurt to be very funny or appropriate for this kind of show.
I guarantee that if the genders had been reversed, it wouldn’t have even made it past a brainstorming session in the writer’s room, if it even made it there.
But then this is the same group of writers that gave us a domestic violence scenario for giggles with Zaboo and his girlfriend last season. So I guess I should have expected this.”
And I must say, touché, RobertinSF, touché. This was followed up by the expected “wow, lighten up, it’s just a show, it’s a joke, don’t take it so seriously” etc etc sort of comments, but I think it’s a concept quite worthy of discussion.
You see, when Snooki got punched in the face by some guy at a bar, and people went crazy to the point where MTV pulled the footage, I thought it was ridiculous. Especially because the trailer for the next episode showed J-Wow attempting to beat the crap out of someone. This, my friends, is what we call a double standard.
There is a fundamental, underlying question here which needs to be addressed first, and that is: is violence entertaining?
I don’t think it makes me a horrible person if I say: sometimes.
In the movie Hotel Rwanda, the violence is not entertaining. In the movie Kill Bill, hell yeah the violence is entertaining! What’s the difference? You don’t watch Hotel Rwanda to be entertained, you watch it because it’s a Serious Movie with a Powerful Message. You watch Kill Bill because Quentin Tarantino makes stuff that makes you want to eat popcorn.
There is clearly room for debate here, but I don’t think this makes us horrible people if we sometimes take this laid back attitude towards fictional violence. Violence is a fundamental part of the human experience, and as such it will be used in both serious and frivolous ways in books, and movies, and videogames. People will have frank, deep, serious conversations about it sometimes, and make crude, stupid jokes about it other times.
Why? Because violence, like death and love and pain and hope and whatever else, is part of the life we scramble to make sense of as human beings, and it takes all kinds to unravel such a well-woven mystery as Life.
So if it’s ok to make jokes about violence, why is it ONLY ok to make jokes about violence against men? What kind of society are we if we tell 50% of our population, “It’s only funny, and we can only show it on MTV if someone punches YOU in the face”?
Like most double standards, this does everyone a disservice. What does this attitude teach women? That it’s okay to hurt people? Go ahead, hit a man, because you’re so weak it doesn’t even matter? He can overpower you anyway, so go ahead? What does it teach men? If you can’t overpower your woman, we’re going to laugh at you? Yikes. Hopefully I don’t need to lay out all the mines in that field.
So what about The Guild? In this episode we’ve been talking about a very specific kind of violence, namely, domestic. I’m not sure if my glib attitude towards violence really carries over here. Is it ever funny when someone hurts the person they’re supposed to love? I think mostly that just sucks. So I guess in my mind, I draw some sort of line at domestic violence. I personally don’t find it funny, but I’m not sure it should be unacceptable.
So in some ways it’s not that The Guild shouldn’t have gone the scorned-woman-beats-up-man path, it’s that maybe some others should go the scorned-man-beats-up-woman path. Because hey, people laughed at the first one. But at the same time, they are playing the unfair double standard. They are letting Fawkes get abused for laughs in a way they would NEVER let Codex. They let Zaboo for an entire season. We were all supposed to chuckle about how whimpy little Zaboo wasn’t man enough to keep his woman in line. Really we should have been sad, because he’s a person (albeit a weirdo creepy one) who had never been in a relationship until Riley came along and beat him regularly. Instead we were supposed to blame him for being abused.
Either that, or we should have laughed at the whole thing. But then we should have laughed at Codex being beat up by…oh wait. Never happened.
Whether you think these kinds of jokes are funny, or even acceptable, is completely beside the point.
Either it’s acceptable to make jokes about violence, or it isn’t. But it should NEVER be acceptable to make jokes about violence against one portion of society but not another.