Last month, a for-profit T-shirt company FCKH8 released an ad featuring adorable little boys using bad words to describe the various injustices men face, like income inequality and sexual assault. Well, now they've upped the ante with their newest video which features similarly indignant little boys in prince costumes dropping more F-bombs for masculism. But this time, they're sporting fake black eyes and fat lips.
Once again, the young gentlemen make some righteous points about the state of men calling grown-ups out on sexism and the cycle of abuse, and once again they cuss a lot. They probably could have left out the twerk reference, but hey! Buzzwords! They then visually demonstrate the statistic that one in four men are victims of abuse by appearing with heavy and very realistic bruising and cuts. It's certainly shocking and deeply uncomfortable. And it totally makes me want to buy a shirt about it.
Yep, this latest spot is for a unisex tank (FCKH8 refers to it as a "Not a Husband Beater") that reads "Break the Silence on Domestic Violence." 100% of the profit ($9 per $15 tank) will go directly to anti-domestic violence charities that have yet to be decided. Cool. But let's talk about the visuals going on here.
The ad looks like it was inspired by Saint Hoax's "Happily Never After" series in which the Disney princes are depicted as victims of abuse covered in bruises. The use of shocking imagery in this situation is quite paralyzing, and it's meant to be—the boys in the video justify it themselves. One prince, wearing a sling on his arm asks, "Got a problem looking at my fake fucked-up face?" Check. Another counters, "Um, isn't one out of four men beaten?" Mate. Another remarks, "The real disgrace." Game over.
My issue with this type of shock advertising, which isn't exactly a new tactic, is this: The shock factor precludes criticism, which is both brilliant and annoying. The ad acknowledges how graphic it is, only to unload the discomfort it generates on the viewer—it creates a zero-sum game of guilt where there isn't one. Yes, I have a problem with the fake fucked-up face, but that doesn't mean I don't have a problem with domestic violence, and it seems dangerous to conflate the two. The fact that the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from all this is "Yeah, that's the point" is not exactly reassuring. I guess it's just not my cup of tea, or my next tank top.
For the record, I think these little boys are awesome. I hear what they are saying, I am glad they are angry, and sure it's cute that they say bad words even if it's for a T-shirt company. I just can't say I enjoyed looking at the bruises painted onto their faces by a capable (and talented) adult.