Skepticism

Bigfoot Reveal and Thoughts on Violence

Last month, I posted about this obviously fake bigfoot video. Well, it wasn’t just obvious to me because of the quality, but because the creator asked me to post about it. It was done by Skeptically Pwnd, the same crew who did the video with John Edward getting kicked in the nuts.

The Pwners just posted the reveal, and they claim that Tom Biscardi contacted them to view the footage. (I say “they claim” because they don’t post the details or correspondence, just to be clear.) Here’s the amusing follow-up video:

After the jump, this post takes a right-turn into another topic entirely: male-on-female violence.

Skeptically Pwned also did a video about Jenny McCarthy, but I had a long internal debate about it and never posted it. The reason? Because a male fake-kicking a male asshole in the crotch made me laugh, but a male repeatedly fake-kicking a female asshole in the crotch and then tazing her made me wince and think about glorifying violence toward women. Amanda summed it up nicely in a parenthetical aside about another subject entirely in this post on Pandagon:

(The comments he pulls out mostly seemed to me to be from women trying to articulate why male-on-female violence stirs a deeper ickiness inside us than male-on-male or even female-on-male, and instead of simply suggesting that it’s because it shines a light on a form of hierarchy-reinforcing that usually takes place in the dark so that it can be denied, they try to suggest that men hitting women is inherently worse than other forms of violence. It’s not, of course. But it it occupies a different cultural space, because it so often is about reinforcing one group’s dominance over the other.)

So, yeah. A part of me feels bad about laughing at any kind of violence, though I think the John Edward video (and especially the Bigfoot video) is over-the-top cartoony enough to get past the “ickiness.” Had they beaten Edward to a bloody pulp with a tire iron, it wouldn’t be funny. The McCarthy one is just too close to reality to avoid the ickiness.

Do you get the same feeling?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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38 Comments

  1. Nope, not in this case anyway.

    I do feel this Ickiness you speak of a lot more in male on female violence then in other cases, but I feel this one was cartoony enough, especially in the context of the other videos.

    On its own maybe….

  2. I agree completely with your last paragraph there. It’s not really that it’s male-on-female violence, it’s that the whole scenario is completely different from the John Edward video and just not funny.
    If it’d been Edward accosted on the street, kicked repeatedly and then tazered when he didn’t go down, that’d been as unfunny, even if, to me, it’d be slightly less icky.

  3. I’ll be honest, the Jenny McCarthy bit didn’t cause a visceral response. That said, I also didn’t find it remotely amusing. I don’t know what that means in terms of this discussion but in general I agree with most people here. These bits of violence are funny to me because they’re random, unexpected and over the top. I think male-female violence is not as unexpected, unfortunately, so it takes from the funny.

  4. As an owner of male genitalia, I’ve never found much humorous about the crotch hit. It seems a bit contradictory to find it funny but not a female crotch hit. Believe me, a nut hit is “just too close to reality” for a lot of people.

    The Jenny McCarthy video seemed pretty cartoony to me. I abhor real violence of all kinds, and fake-but-realistically-depicted violence, but cartoon violence does not bother me. That said, it wasn’t particularly funny, either.

  5. Is this their only schtick? Kicking people in the crotch? Hmm . . . .

    Well, I haven’t seen the Jenny Mac crotch-kick video (YouTube issues), but I suspect they mean it to be funny, and in my not-so-popular opinion, anything can be funny if done right, including male on female violence.

    But this is a difficult area for boys enamored of crotch-kicking to enter. If not done right, ickiness prevails, and apparently that’s what happened in this case.

  6. I don’t know if this will open me up to massive flames or what, but male on female violence for comedy makes me feel the same as male on male violence for comedy. Some of it is funny, but most of it isn’t. Gender doesn’t enter into it.

    I do find it strange that some find male on male violence funny, but not male on female violence in exactly the same context. An asshole is no less of an asshole for being a woman, but it’s okay for a man to get kicked in the bad place but not okay for a woman to get kicked there? If violence makes you uncomfortable, shouldn’t ALL violence make you uncomfortable? And if you’re going to condone violence against someone, even for comedic value, what does gender have to do with it… yours or theirs?

  7. I directed a play last year – a comedy – in which there were simultaneous seductions in the two rooms visible on the set. In both cases, the women threw the men down (on the bed and the couch) and then jumped on them. I mentioned to one of the actresses that while this would be considered funny by most audience members, if the reverse was indicated in the script I would have re-staged it. I didn’t refer to it as icky, but that certainly fits the situation.

    Granted, some people may have laughed if the men pushed the women down, but that’s not a laugh I would ever go for.

  8. There’s a sketch by the late Benny Hill where he’s watching through a window as a young lady neighbor undresses. After he looks down in disgust to his own sleeping wife (which is old), he kicks her in the bed. When she reacts, he quickly pretends to be sleep-walking.

    Narrative: a comedian knows that context is everything.

  9. and for the record: I didn’t find the ball shot funny. I haven’t seen the Jenny McCarthy one but I doubt I would find that funny either.

    It instantly made me think of the “Ow! My balls!” TV show from the movie Idiocracy, and that TV shows portrayal in the movie pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter: It’s pretty moronic and juvenile.

    However, the hunters shooting the guy was mildly funny for the irony if nothing else.

    Again, gender doesn’t enter into it. In fact, is it a man or a woman in the gorilla suit? “Dude” is kind of generic these days. Would it make any difference to anyone who found it funny if they knew it was a woman in the suit, or is it just that it’s supposed to be a gorilla and not a human that makes it funny?

  10. Regarding purely violence, there is a certain amount of dominance play in people of equal size pushing each other around which is often stupid, but rarely offensive. When one is much larger than the other there seems to be more danger of a conflict escalating and getting ugly. This is as true of able-bodied on handicapped and adult on child violence as it is of male on female violence.

    There is something else going on here though. Our culture’s tolerance of genital injury and mutilation is not sexually symmetrical. Considering scenarios with only the injured party, and no potential dominance implications, make this apparent. We can all imagine a movie in which a male fly fisherman accidentally hooks his penis, but a female fly fisherman accidentally hooking her clitoris seems unlikely to get and R from the MPAA.

    No, I don’t think comic male on female violence is hierarchy reinforcing, but I don’t think such a discussion is well served by these examples.

  11. @swordsbane: As Rebecca said, re-read what she quoted. There is a reason why people tend to be more uncomfortable with male-on-female violence, and those feelings are valid. Male-on-female violence is far more common than female-on-male violence, for one.

    That said, I’ve been in exactly one fight in my entire life (not counting the fighting me and my sisters did together, which was a lot, and some of it was brutal), and it was with a man.

    He called me a cunt, because he knew it’d piss me off in that context. So I kicked his ass. I swung the first punches.

    He did defend himself. There was nothing wrong with him (trying to) punch me back.

    Not that he was able. I’m kind of unable to feel pain when I’m that pissed (…and drunk, lol), and we were pretty equally matched physically, I guess, but I am a better fighter and probably have better instincts, so I outmatched him pretty easily.

    (Note: We made up a few hours later and he’s become like a brother to me.)

  12. Oh and this made me think of the episode of iCarly I was watching last night. I kind of love iCarly (shush), and you know … there’s a lot of female-on-male violence in that show. Sam beats up Freddy a lot. Sam is a very strong, agressive teen girl, and Freddy is your typical sweet, non-aggressive nerd.

    Should I find it as funny as I do? Maybe not, and it’s something I struggle with when I watch the show (because Sam is high-larious when she is kicking butt), but I do like that the show has several strong female leads who aren’t afraid of kicking butt and taking names. The fact that Sam is an agressive young girl and quite clearly doesn’t give a shit what others think of her is pretty awesome. I really like that the show has such strong, independent young girls. It reminds me a lot of Clarisa in that sence. (I Heart Nick!)

    In fact, one of the episodes I was watching last night (lol, yes, plural, shush) had a young girl with a webcast. She was a boxer. At one point, Carly’s older brother, Spencer, accidently slaps her (the boxer, not Carly), because he has some weird symptoms from pills he was taking, which include random muscle jerks. So he slapped the boxer in the face.

    Spencer: “I’m so sorry!”

    Boxer: Drop kicks him, hard.

    Spencer: Holding his stomach, clearly in pain: “I’ll go wait in the car.” He limps off.

    Me: “LOL!”

  13. @marilove: I prefer people to be uncomfortable with violence…. period. It makes ME uncomfortable to know that there are people out there who have some rule against hitting a woman or watching violence against women, but will watch the most depraved acts of violence against men without much of a thought. It’s not that I think violence against women is all right. I just have a slight problem with what seems like a double standard.

    It’s what got us in this mess in the first place: people who would never physically abuse another man but thought nothing of doing it to women. Instead of swinging the pendulum all the way to the other side, how about locking it down in the middle?

  14. @swordsbane: You’re missing the point by branding it “some rule”. No one has “some rule against hitting a woman or watching violence against women” but will watch violence against men.

    Please re-read the quoted part of the OP. If anything, we are discussing and dissecting unconscious, visceral reactions.

  15. Please re-read the quoted part of the OP. If anything, we are discussing and dissecting unconscious, visceral reactions.

    This!

    And maybe, swordsbane, you need to see it from our side, the side of women. We see violence against women, by men, every.fucking.day. Not just physically — emotionally, mentally. Rape. Stalking. Murder/honor killings. Etc.

    No, I probably shouldn’t find violence against men by women funny, but dammit, I can’t deny that it’s nice to see the shoe on the other foot sometimes, especially in mainstream media, which tends to lean very sexist. I can’t deny the, as Rebecca said, the unconscious, visceral reaction to seeing a woman kick a man’s ass, after so many years of being told that women are the weaker sex.

    That doesn’t make it right, but it’s there, and for a pretty clear reason.

  16. @marilove: “And maybe, swordsbane, you need to see it from our side, the side of women.”

    Maybe I do, but I never will. It’s not my fault. Maybe because I’m a man, or maybe it’s because I was raised to think that all violence is bad. I don’t know. It just is. I fully understand that part of the reason things like that ARE funny is BECAUSE it’s a woman doing it to a man. That’s because it is ingrained with us from when we’re young that that sort of thing doesn’t happen. Women ARE still considered the weaker sex even as far as we’ve come as a nation (species?), but what you call seeing the shoe on the other foot I see as a symptom of the very problem you are fighting against. As you and Rebecca say; it’s a visceral reaction, but if the object here is to get us thinking about the why and what it means, those are my two cents.

    Maybe I’m making too much of this. It’s hard to intellectualize “funny” in any situation, but that’s how I feel. I don’t know what that makes me, but I prefer it to the other choices I see in today’s culture.

  17. @marilove: I know, but I feel obligated to bring it up because I think it is an important distinction that is too often overlooked. Violence is bad. It is way too easy for people to excuse it when the winner is someone they think deserves the victory, never mind the circumstances of the fight or the context it’s shown in.

    Having said that, I’m no pacifist. I’m firmly in the “sometimes violence is a necessary evil” camp and stand by that association. I just don’t get hung up on gender issues one way or the other.

  18. Okay, I just watched the Jenny Mac video, and I must say, I think it will be the last Skeptically Pwnd video I watch. It was only what, a minute and a half long, but I want that minute and a half back.

    It was somewhat informative, I suppose, but not very funny in my opinion. (Guess I’ve been pwnd.)

    Now, I understand the deeper visceral reaction we might have to male on female violence. I have felt it, too, and agree with the reasons for it cited in this thread. But, unlike Rebecca and some of the other commenters, this particular video triggered nothing of the sort for me. Perhaps because the “violence” was so far out of camera view, and so poorly executed, even in a comic sense.

    Did he kick her or just bump into her? And the tase? Well, it was almost funny because of the bad acting . . . almost. But not even in the same ZIP code as a real tase, or even a good fake tase.

    At any rate, in my view, the video doesn’t come close enough to reality to be a problem, but I’m still glad Rebecca didn’t post it.

  19. Rebecca,
    Huge thanks for the mad props and helping me out with my little comedic experiment.
    Yeah, I must say I’m not really proud of the Jenny sketch. Not because of the male-on-female aspect, but just because there was not a big enough twist of comedy. The only twist was the fact that she was a woman which is a bit shallow. The John Edward had the camera bit, the Bigfoot had the hunters, but Jenny just had the fact that she would not be affected like a ‘dude.’ It needed more.
    Also, yes, it is a bit awkward to do the male-on-female violence, but I felt that not doing violence because it was a woman was extremely degrading towards women. Also, my girlfriend insisted. I did the sketch for the same reason that I use the word “actor” instead of “actress,” because I don’t want to treat women like sub-class citizens.
    Also, who is to say that the bigfoot wasn’t female :)
    Oh and I could prove that Biscardi contacted me, but that would mean giving out the mans private phone number.
    Thanks again, Rebecca,
    Also let me know what T-shirt you would like me to send you:
    http://skepticallypwnd.com
    Thank you,
    John Rael

  20. @swordsbane: Hate to drag a joke out back so the kids don’t see, but the reason that the crotch shot works (in so far as most of my viewers are concerned) is because it is juxtaposed with intellectual/scientific conclusions. If it was just a crotch shot it wouldn’t work beyond that “Idiocracy” level… Not that Crotch Shots aren’t funny by themselves, but it’s 2010 and it’s time to step it up a notch.

  21. @swordsbane:

    I just don’t get hung up on gender issues one way or the other.

    That’s because you have the privilege of not being affected by “gender issues”.

    Guess what? We’re not all so lucky.

    This is yet another instance of male skeptics coming from the angle of their male privilege, and not even attempting to see it from any other sides, or even really acknowledging that perhaps their experiences are much different from those of us who experience discrimination based on gender on a daily basis.

    Yes, violence is bad, but you don’t have the unfortunate experience of experiencing violence and the promotion of violence against your gender on a daily basis.

  22. @bug_girl: Not a Three Stooges fan, eh? =P Ok that was lame. I think violence can be funny in the right way, the same a swear word can be. But just going around hitting people or swearing like a sailor doesn’t really do it.

    And I’ve always had an issue with the claim that showing ‘x’ glorifies ‘x’. Or further showing ‘x’ will make ‘y’ want to do ‘x’. I think psychology and statistics would beg to differ.

    ie. me playing Grand Theft Auto (including beating hookers *gasp*) doesn’t in any way make me want to do it in real life (besides, doesn’t turning off the game mean I killed everyone in the game?)

    @marilove: Promotion of violence (towards women, presumably)? What’s your definition of promotion and where exactly is it being promoted?

  23. @johnrael:

    Come on, Sam, give me another chance. Check out our John Edward video or the Bigfoot one. I realize that the juxtaposition of intellectual conclusions with sophomoric humor isn’t for everyone, but check out our other stuff.

    I have seen the others, and I’m all about that juxtaposition. It makes for great humor. But there is more in the sophomoric humor sea than kicks to the crotch, isn’t there?

    And for the record, in my opinion, a kick to the nards can be a great comedic device. But like Classic Rock radio killed Led Zepplin, over-use of a comedic device will kill it.

    The wonderful comedy troupe The State unfortunately didn’t last long, and their “I wanna dip my balls in it” lasted an even shorter time. But in the first skit it appeared, it was gold. And even South Park finally quit killing Kenny.

    A one-time crotch kick in your sketches would probably have been plenty in my view. It was good for the John Edwards skit, because he’s a guy many people would actually like to kick in the berries, but probably funnier for Big Foot, because of the whole Big Foot not existing thing.

    If you continue with it, maybe you guys could go high concept; like do a god skit, and then ask the question “If you kicked god in the nuggets, do Jesus and the Holy Ghost feel it, too?” Or “Can god kick himself in the jimmies hard enough to vomit rainbows?” Or something like that . . . but funny.

    I should point out that these are just my opinions. I’m certainly no authority on humor.

  24. @marilove if you experience violence every day you need to get help. That is not normal for women in this society, not if your society is anything like mine.

    All the gender-flaming aside, there’s a much simpler reason why these videos are not funny. There is no sense of play, and the people kicked in the crotch are not empathized with. They are merely foils for the audience to channel anger into and feel good at their suffering. The humor is the sort that is going for a cheer, it’s not going for a belly laugh. When done properly, I find violence against both men and women to be VERY funny.

  25. What do you all think about the character of Alice is Dilbert? Whenever she’s featured, the punchline often revolves around her letting loose violently on someone, or “must…control…fist…of death!” I think she’s a fairly funny character, but Scott Adams has mentioned that it wouldn’t be funny at all if the character was a man.

    I agree with the earlier posting that violence coming from women is funnier simply because it’s more unexpected. Violence from men is, alas, all too common to have much shock value.

    The hunters shooting bigfoot were likewise funny because the act was a surprise.

  26. @Sam Ogden:
    You’re opinions are very much appreciated, Sam. We always try and expand beyond the crotch shot. We always want that second ‘twist.’ With the John Edward it was the ‘camera bit.’ With the Bigfoot it was the ‘hunters bit.’
    We don’t want to settle for just a crotch shot. We want that next twist and in our next vids we will have even more twists.
    For now, we are not moving away from the crotch shot, just trying to get more creative about the following twists. Not because we don’t love other sophomoric humor, but because a crotch shot, in our opinion, is the definitive representation of sophomoric humor. I’m sure a pie-in-the-face would have been our through line thirty years ago.
    For now, at least, crotch shots are our through line, but they are not where our comedy begins and ends; they are merely the central focus to much more elaborate jokes.
    Thanks again for your feedback and we hope you catch our next installment.
    -John Rael

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