Everyone already knows I'm the most Humorless Feminist in all of Nofunnington, so I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I'm not keen on the new series of LG PSAs/adverts admonishing teens to think before they text, featuring Inside the Actors' Studio host James Lipton:
[A teenage girl sits on her bed in her very pink and feminine bedroom, looking her cell phone. Lipton sits across from her; she is unaware of his presence, which seems to be spectral despite his appearance of corporeality.]While I quite genuinely appreciate the humor of James Lipton referring to a unicorn collectible by the name "Clippy-Clippy Clipclop," my delight was somewhat diminished by: 1. Finding the implied absurdity of a girl in a beard to be transphobic; 2. Feeling vaguely creeped out by the idea of a man in a teenage girl's bedroom, of whom she's unaware even as he touches her face; 3. Objecting strongly to using a beard, culturally associated with masculinity and maleness, to represent thoughtfulness—note that the girl isn't thoughtful until she's marked with a symbol of masculinity. Fail.
Lipton: Tracey has received a particularly cruel text rumor. She was about to forward this juicy gossip to her friends—[Lipton removes his signature beard from his face and puts it on the girl's face]—but Tracey got to thinking. [The girl strokes the beard contemplatively.] If she forwarded this rumor, what kind of example would she be setting for Clippy-Clippy Clipclop and Princess Pussywillow? And the Honeysuckle Twins? [Camera cut back and forth between ceramic unicorns, and Lipton and the girl; the girl then closes her phone, having resolved not to forward the text.] A bad one, that's what! Before you text, give it a ponder.
[A teenage boy sits on a bench in a locker room, texting on his cell phone. Lipton stands beside him; the boy is again unaware of his presence.]If Zoe tweets pix of Stefan's junk, it's not just "the last thing he needs," but a possibly criminal violation of his trust and privacy. And even that possibility is not the primary reason Stefan shouldn't be sending her unsolicited pix of his junk. That would be because doing so, without explicit consent, even to one's girlfriend, is sexual harassment. Fail.
Lipton: Stefan was having a steamy back-and-forth text with his girlfriend Zoe, and was about to text her a pic of his junk. [Stefan looks all hot and bothered; Lipton removes his beard and puts it on the boy's face.] Suddenly, a thought came to Stefan. [The boy strokes the beard contemplatively.] Zoe is a Twitter addict. And the last thing he needs is Tweets about his feats (?). [The boy quickly closes his phone, having resolved not to forward the text.] Before you text, give it a ponder.
[A teenage girl leans against the kitchen counter, looking her cell phone. Lipton stands across from her; she is also unaware of his presence.]Wow. Just…wow. Fail.
Lipton: Vicky has always wanted Jessica's boyfriend, Luke. He's hot. Oven mitt hot. Vicky thinks maybe sending a mean text rumor to all of her friends could pry them apart. [Girl makes scheming look; Lipton removes his beard and puts it on the girl's face; she strokes the beard contemplatively.] Vicky got to thinking: If Jessica found out she started the rumor, there would be an all-out catfight. It would be all: Rrrow! Rrr-oww! [Lipton makes cat faces and turns his hands into claws.] Rrrraaawww! Rrrow! Hiss! Hiss! [Girl looks scared and closes her phone, having resolved not to forward the text.] Hiss! No one wants that. Before you text, give it a ponder.
[A teenage boy stands at the mirror in his bathroom, brushing his teeth. His phone buzzes, and he picks it up to read the incoming text; Lipton is revealed in the mirror standing beside him, though the boy is unaware of his presence.]Minus one billion points for fiery Latin lover with bruised machismo stereotype. Minus one billion more for the idea that women deserve to be "punished" for breaking up with men. Fail.
Lipton: Carlos is angry. He just got dumped by Claire. He wants to send a nasty text rumor about her to his buddies. [Lipton removes his beard and puts it on the boy's face.] Then, Carlos had a thought. [The boy strokes the beard contemplatively.] He remembered that Claire is allergic to nuts. She will never know the delicious perfection of a pecan or walnut. No! He will not send this text. Claire has been punished enough. Quite enough. [The boy closes his cell phone, having resolved not to forward the text.] Before you text, give it a ponder.
Wait, wait—don't tell me…they're edgy!
A big part of the reason I'm so disgusted with the megafail in this campaign is that the idea behind it is a good one—and a necessary one: Today, Cara's got a heartbreaking post [repeated trigger warnings for both suicide and sexual assault-related content] about "a 13-year-old girl named Hope Witsell, who committed suicide after a photograph of her breasts, which she sent to a boy's cell phone, was forwarded all over the school." Cara makes the excellent point:
The set of circumstances here are increasingly common ones — and by "set of circumstances" I do not mean "teenage girls sending sexual photographs of themselves to others" but "the non-consensual spreading of said photographs."As well as the girls who non-consensually forward sexual content, too (as one of the participants in the Hope Witsell case).A poll conducted by her organization, WiredSafety, found that 44 percent of boys in co-ed high schools had seen at least one naked picture of a female classmate. Overwhelmingly, they shared the images with others.And while everyone sure as hell seems to be worried about What! We're! Teaching! Our! Girls! that they send the photographs, no one seems to be saying a goddamn peep about what we're teaching our boys when they think that non-consensual sexual conduct is okay.
Addressing why it's wrong to participate in the sexual harassment, slut-shaming, victimization, rumor-mongering, gossiping, and/or any other kind of bullying against peers is an important message. And LG had a chance to responsibly communicate that message, but instead buried anything resembling an ethical exhortation to not hurt other people underneath ten metric fucktons of failful stereotypes, bigotry, misfired anti-harassment advocacy, and other rubbish.
A real missed opportunity here. Too bad.