Society’s message: Vick simply tortured the wrong species

Image from Ology.com

People care more about the lives of dogs than humans. This is not rational, but it is true.

Now I probably love dogs for the same and/or similar reasons than the next person: They’re great companions, cute and have unique personalities. They are, without a doubt, the darlings of the pet world.

With that said, I can understand why people still hold a grudge against Michael Vick. What I can’t understand is the unapologetic hatred.

Traditionally rational people lose their collective shit when you bring up Vick. (Even in the sole context of a football game.) Said people become even more inflamed when you praise him.

But how can you praise someone who spent 21 months in prison for dog fighting? He killed dogs. He drown them if they failed to perform. Have you seen the pictures? You can still “let it go” after seeing a mangled dog?

Yes, I have. And, yes, I can. It’s called moving on.

The easy aside to this is to bring up Donte Stallworth, the Washington Redskins wide receiver who spent 30 days in jail for hitting and killing a pedestrian with his vehicle while driving drunk. He seems to fly relatively low on the radar. There’s virtually no outrage over this. Luckily for Stallworth he’s not a superstar in the league with a $100 million contract like Vick. Otherwise he might get a lot of unwanted attention.

What’s a man to do?

Admit it, dog lover. You want Michael Vick to suffer the same way he made those fighting pit bulls suffer. After four years you still want him beaten and drown in a wading pool. And if he survives that, you want him locked away for life so he can rot behind bars while being surrounded by cinder blocks. The ironic thing about this is the people who believe this should happen to Vick are no better than Michael Vick circa 2007. Those who still rail against Vick with their sick ambitions are no better of a person than Vick was during his conviction.

Image from Zimbio.com

Answer this: After serving 18 months in prison, six in a halfway house, losing out on his $100 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, being thrust into our minds as public enemy number one while being judged in front of the whole world (for a short while, Vick was more reviled in American than Osama bin Laden) and receiving messages of death and torture from people around the country, what can Michael Vick – the man – do to show people he’s sorry?

Despite multiple public apologies, carrying himself in a new demeanor and publicly supporting and speaking on behalf of the Humane Society … the answer is probably “nothing.”

And, yet, PETA kills far more animals than Michael Vick ever had possession of. Where is their apology? The chart below, from Petakillsanimals.com, shows a range from 1998 to 2010 in which the number of animals PETA killed is eerily similar to the number of animals it took in.

From Petakillsanimals.com:

From July 1998 through December 2010, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed more than 25,000 dogs, cats, and other “companion animals.” That’s more than five defenseless creatures every day. PETA has a walk-in freezer to store the dead bodies, and contracts with a Virginia Beach company to cremate them.

A PDF from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Online Animal Reporting detailing the finding can be viewed here: Online Animal Report

Pets Killed By PETA

Year Received† Trans-
ferred
Adopted Killed
2010 2,345 63 44 1.86% 2,200 93.8%
2009 2,366 31 8 0.34% 2,301 97.3%
2008 2,216 34 7 0.32% 2,124 95.8%
2007 1,997 35 17 0.85% 1,815 90.9%
2006 3,061 46 12 0.39% 2,981 97.4%
2005 2,165 69 146 6.74% 1,946 89.9%
2004 2,655 1 361 13.60% 2,278 85.8%
2003 2,224 1 312 14.03% 1,911 85.9%
2002 2,680 2 382 14.25% 2,298 85.7%
2001 2,685 14 703 26.18% 1,944 72.4%
2000 2,681 28 624 23.27% 2,029 75.7%
1999 1,805 91 386 21.39% 1,328 73.6%
1998* 943 125 133 14.10% 685 72.6%
Total 29,823 540 3,135 10.56% 25,840 85.9%
* figures represent the second half of 1998 only
† Other than spay/neuter animals

Move on

Vick has done more negative things than the average person. But he’s likely also done more positive things. The closure of his dog fighting ring has opened a Pandora’s box of animal cruelty awareness. He ratted out his former friends and no longer associates himself with them.

Let’s be clear about something: I’m not sticking my head in the sand and acting as if this never happened. It is possible to forgive, but also not forget. Michael Vick was involved in a horrendous timeline of events that many of us probably cannot wrap our heads around. The scale of the operation was mind-boggling.

Michael Vick elicits more emotion from people than the Taliban. Than al-Qaeda. Than famine in East Africa. These are all events happening in our present day. Yet, come football season when Michael Vick takes the field during primetime, the same platitudes are heard from people who can’t let a changed man simply be himself.

Devolution

Vick is a football player living his life and staying relatively low on the radar in comparison to his star level. He didn’t kill your dog and he’s not wishing any harm on to you. So who are we to tell Vick his comeuppance wasn’t enough for us? Our culture wants Vick electrocuted because he needs to feel what those tortured dogs felt.

In this instance, it’s as if society is saying it is OK to torture people. Yet we speak out against torture overseas and extraordinary rendition.

What an ironic devolution of our society: It’s OK to wish the maiming of those who make mistakes as long as they aren’t pets.

Here’s to Michael Vick – the man, the father and the football player – finding success with his second opportunity.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

CM Punk held back by the superficial

Image from Wrestle Heat

Professional wrestling’s biggest stars always seem to find a way onto a non-wrestling fan’s entertainment radar. Hulk Hogan is ubiquitous. (And continues to ruin facets of the business.) John Cena does everything from movies, TV, music and appearances, all while never losing the WWE championship for an extended amount of time. There are other household names professional wresting has given our mainstream entertainment world: The Rock, Steve Austin and Chris Jericho (depending how closely you follow music.)

But what about CM Punk? You know, the guy who arguably had summer’s most intriguing entertainment angle. Why has the pinnacle of Punk’s exposure been “Jimmy Kimmel Live!?” Admittedly, Punk (whose real name is Phil Brooks) says he is not a media darling. He comes off relatively standoffish, but remarkably comfortable in his own skin.

But maybe that’s the problem: his own skin. Punk is a heavily tattooed, greasy-haired anomaly. (He actually looks remarkably similar to my own tattoo artist.) This is the major differentiation between Punk and the other stars listed above. The Rock absorbed some ink later in his career, but the look between The Rock and Punk is very different. Punk’s ink is an old-school, colorful arrangement typically seen in a (surprise) punk culture.

Stigma still alive

Tattoos elicit a love/hate response from people. (This is my experience.) Handsome, non-tattooed people elicit a love response from people. If you’re the CEO of the WWE, who would you market the most? From the WWE’s perspective – a company that puts a lot of effort into bringing kids on board to their product – parents of these kids could visualize Punk as the anti-role model. Children want to be what they see. Parents don’t want a 7-year-old CM Punk spouting off to their second-grade teacher. (This is a strange paradox because many of Punk’s tattoos would be supported by these parents. Punk is straightedge and displays symbols of that culture prominently.

Image from Bodyartfun.com

It’s no secret WWE is a company that leans to the right politically. (See: Linda McMahon.) I’m not saying all Republicans look down on tattoos. But if you look down on tattoos, you’re probably Republican. Punk is not the image that a company with a major player seeking political office wants.

For a culture that has made strides toward progression from the dark days of the early-20th century, ignorance among the population will forever slow acceptance. Historically, having a tattoo in America landed you under a circus tent. The best and worst thing to happen to body art is the cultural trend.

The trend of the tattoo (tramp stamps, barb wire and TV shows like “Miami Ink”) has helped in its acceptance. But it has also lowered the standard of what we see as unique, and why we see it as unique. In Japan, tattoos are still associated with organized crime. Tattooing is also one of the main identification keys within street gangs. Of course, the average person walking into a tattoo shop is neither in the mob or gang bangin’.

This wrongful association comes from close-minded people. And there are plenty of those in our society. This hurts Punk’s value to be elevated in the entertainment world.

What they’re missing out on

The entertainment value of Punk is off the charts. You don’t have to like or appreciate professional wrestling to appreciate his humor and wit. A trip to YouTube will offer to be quite the time waster. If Punk were void of ink in his epidermis, sans a lip piercing and had frosted hair he would be hosting a game show on ABC.

There is a reluctancy in the entertainment world to elevate professional wrestlers beyond their niche audience. Like tattoos, professional wrestling has a stigma against it. More often than not you can take the performances from WWE’s flagship show “Raw” and put them up against the latest Hollywood film and “Raw” would prevail.

Punk has the deck stacked against him. He’s a heavily tattooed professional wrestler; there isn’t a lot of room for growth in our stuck-up society for him. For a culture that complains about the homogeneity of entertainment choices, they sure are willing to to blindly deny what is out there.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Subjectivity of Comedic Boundaries

The Onion
BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage

Stepping out of it’s traditional output of write-and-post news satire, The Onion came under fire on Thursday for “breaking” the “news” that congressmen had taken children hostage in the Capitol. Nearly 20 “live” tweets posted on Twitter played out the fictional situation that prompted a very real statement from Capitol Police, forcing them to explain that everything was fine at the Capitol.

The tweets evolved and ended with jabs at the inability of politicians to come to a bipartisan compromise over how to handle the situation.

It was all in good humor, right?

The Onion
Arlington gun shop confirms Rep. @EricCantor bought 6 semi-automatic handguns, 3 rifles & 600 clips of ammo last month #CongressHostage

The Onion is constantly pushing the comedic boundaries to shine a false light on pop culture figures; it’s sort of what they do.

The Onion is not a news source, it just acts as one. (Think Fox News. They’re both funny, but for very different reasons.) But the folks behind literallyunbelieveable.org have discovered that is not always the interpretation. And they had a fun time with the Twitter universe’s response to the posts.

Protection

The Onion doesn’t “break” news. It has never even attempted to be a go-to source for news. It’s satire. Nothing more. And, with that, what The Onion did was perfectly fine in the realm of its fictional world.

Had The Onion even once attempted to keep up with a “real” news story, it would create too much of a grey area of what it considers to be real news worthy of coverage.

Case in point: The Onion did a lot with 9/11. None of it included following the live events as they unfolded.

If The Onion attempted – even once – to blur the lines between its satirical news and a real-time current event, it would be stripped of its identity. There is not one iota of flexibility for The Onion, and that makes it a pretty interesting case study.

No harm done

No children were harmed in the making of this joke. That could have been the tagline for this stunt. (And I use the word “stunt” without negative connotation.)

There was never a threat to national security that spawned from the story. There was a mild inconvenience, but never a threat.

The only harm that was done was to the American psyche. Congress can do some fucked up shit, and that has become ever apparent the last four years. But kidnapping children and taking them hostage? People fell for this? How stupid are we?

It wasn’t funny

Then what is? Has humor in America been limited to a grown man with his hand up puppets’ asses making funny voices? (No, I’m not talking about Joey Gladstone.)

It seems, from my point of view, that the darker the societal time, the darker the humor produced by said society. This type of humor offends prudes and the humorless, but provides a philosophy championed by comedian Lewis Black. To paraphrase, Black said in order to move on from national tragedy (he was referencing 9/11 and the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan), we must be able to joke about it, not only with ourselves, but with others. To become a humorless society would be to become the enemy.

His tangent is poignant and sadly relevant.

Today, depending who you associate yourself with, political humor is borderline treason. Joking about America’s issues (or just bringing them up) means you’re not “patriotic.” (One of today’s most manipulative words)

This is a shame because today’s political landscape provides for great humor. (See: Chris Christie)

Humor is subjective. It always has been. It seems like natural logic that a more sensitive society would be the side effect of edgier comedic tastes.

But I’ll side with Black on this one. If you silence the humor, you are the enemy.

The complete Onion story: “Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage.”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Is Mean Always Mean? An Intro to the Blog

I’m fascinated with mean people.

Not “Hitler mean.” Or “12th century Inquisition mean” or “Mother Teresa ‘suffer-before-you-die’ mean.”

I mean … like “Jeffrey Ross mean.” Ross makes a living by being mean. He’s the Roastmaster General at the New York Friar’s Club. His working life is a constant stream of verbal catharsis.

Jeffrey Ross

Ross is known to the masses for his work on Comedy Central roasts. For 5-8 minutes he picks off D-list celebrities like a spoken sniper. He calls people fat, talentless and takes jabs at their personal downfalls and mistakes.

And he laughs. His sparring partners laugh. The audience laughs. We all laugh.

But, why? Isn’t this cruel? Why does cruel feel so good?

The simple answer is that Ross and the rest of the “roasters” say things we are all thinking but have the self-awareness to reserve saying. (This is a “social norm.” It’s also a norm worth breaking.) As the adage goes, “It’s funny because it’s true.”

This logic seems applicable for Ross. He is a proxy for American culture. We love making fun of actors and the TV shows they’re in. Who wouldn’t want to make inappropriate sex jokes about the character Danny Tanner from “Full House?” And the audience, well, shit, they’re three drinks deep and will go along with just about anything.

But what about the person being “roasted?”

They’re (mostly) comedians. They can “take a joke.” But does something manifest itself in Lisa Lampanelli’s mind when she gets her umpteenth fat joke lobbed her way? (She always has the same reaction: She tilts her head as far back as it goes and guffaws.)

Mean elicits laughs. But is there more to breaking the social norm of insults?

For starters, a lot of what the roasters say is true. Lampanelli is a hefty woman. It’s not as if they’re taking swings at a vulnerable anorexic. “It’s all for fun” is a platitude that can only go so far.

Maybe Lampanelli is that strong, though. I hope she is. She claps and enjoys herself and can certainly bring the pain when needed to. Self image and awareness is crucial for a comedian. They’re naturally observant people. They’re comfortable in their own skin

It takes a special person to sit on stage in front of a crowd and have every nuance and idiosyncrasy about you exploited for entertainment. Could you handle it?

Get to the point, dude.

This post isn’t exclusively about roasts. It’s more of a buffer to explain this blog. Hell, to explain me. For a couple years I’ve toiled with the idea of a blog. I always had ideas for posts, but they came and went. I could never narrow my focus as to what I wanted the blog to be.

I’m not inventing the wheel. But I want to be a spoke that stands out on the wheel.

I’m lucky enough to have found, understood and embraced my writing style. It has gotten me into trouble … but it has also won me awards.

When in college, I wrote columns for the school paper. This is usually pretty easy to do because any idea works for a “college” audience. Nowhere in life (probably) will you work for a publication that is catered to a more diverse crowd. When writing, I always tried to answer the question, “What are we doing, and why do I think we’re doing it?” It has been my most useful approach to writing for an audience.

I would love it if the comments section became popular on this site. A big part of why I want to approach this is to create conversation amongst others. I, by no means, have all the insight to the world.

I want it to be fun. This isn’t a serious psychological journal that gauges the breadth and depth of an inane topic. (You’re thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s goals.)

I want this blog to make people laugh. It’s my opinion about our society. It’s political. It’s sociological. It’s pop culture. It’s why-the-fuck-are-we-doing-this?

It’s a roast of our culture, our world.

And it’s not rated “G.”

Tagged , , ,