Children of the 80s were taught to fear AIDS. The anxiety was neatly stoked by an ad where the grim reaper bowled over human skittles, a ten-pin alley transformed into a version of hell by a creative who left the smoke machine on.
Today the fear is environmental armageddon and the ABC has been making sure that kids understand just how grim things are. Their Planet Slayer website has them playing a little game: what age you should die (based on your current carbon consumption and how it impacts the earth)? The game player is represented as a pig. Oink.
Ok, so the concept’s a little convoluted, but the death factor is clear. Pity the Charlie Browns of the schoolyard.
There’s been some outrage in the media — though clearly muted in comparison with that other “protect-the-children” controversy. The Herald Sun had the story, with Victorian Senator Mitch Fifield taking the issue to Senate Estimates, enlivening proceedings with his questions to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott:
…do you think it appropriate that the ABC portray the average Australian as a pig? Is it appropriate for a website obviously geared to kids to depict people who are average Australians as massive overweight ugly pigs oozing slime from their mouths and then to have these pigs blow up in a mass of blood and guts? And that is what happens: you plug in your particulars and, if you are not environmentally friendly, the pig gets bigger and bigger until it explodes and there is a sea of blood and guts left in its wake.
To which, it seems, Scott was left suppressing giggles. Fifield asked them men whether they thought the site’s depiction of loggers was appropriate:
SENATOR FIFIELD: Let the record show that Senator Conroy has refused to condemn the depiction of loggers there on that site.
Mr SCOTT: It does appear to be a logger with a chainsaw, a hard hat, some earmuffs and significant upper body strength.
SENATOR CONROY: Possibly the cigar would appear to be environmentally—
SENATOR FIFIELD: I was going to draw attention to the cigar.
SENATOR PARRY: Have you got to the bit where he chops the tree down?
SENATOR CONROY: I have to confess that it looks like a fair few loggers that I have met. I do not know whether you have ever met any—apart from the cigar chomping aspect.
SENATOR ABETZ: You would not have met a logger—
Mr Scott is looking in to the matter. In the meantime, the site’s still up.
Tim Blair has been keenly watching the story put a girdle round about the earth. And it’s been picked up by bloggers internationally, with the issue seeming to gain some momentum, though the wait for Scott’s response has sucked some oxygen from it. (Perhaps if the ABC had put the child player’s pig in a bikini it might have generated a quicker community response?)
“I bet you won’t find anything similar even in the children’s workbooks designed by the Nazi propaganda ministry,” writes Leonard , a self-described “Socially Conservative Don Quixote from Moncton”, “yet somehow Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the Auzzie equivalent of the CBC) doesn’t mind hosting the “planet slayer” on its site.
The site includes “a calculator apparently intended to show them that they’ve already contributed more than their share of CO2, and that they would do well to go some place quiet and kill themselves. I wish I was kidding,” says The Global Warming Heretic from Texas (where else?)
Ok, so many of the commenters are just as easy to stereotype. But even GreenDaily is a bit freaked out. Ellen Slattery wrote yesterday:
Upon first glance, the site appears to be for kids, but this isn’t necessarily true. The cartoons [featuring Greena the Worrier] are pretty creepy (in one episode, she is buried alive by killer vegetables) and Greena herself isn’t exactly G-rated: she sports a midriff-baring top, a nose ring and a spike through one earlobe. Other weirdness? The episodes don’t really end happily, which is realistic but seems kind of sudden in the context of the already-short cartoons. The whole thing plays like a great idea that suddenly lost funding halfway through the project.
But the creepiest part of the site, hands down, has to be the “greenhouse calculator,” which greets you with a graphic of Schpinkee the dog-cum-professor, pointing to a sign that reads “find out when you should die!”
The site makes you a pig and sits you between an average Aussie and a “Green Pig”.
We adopted the persona of a gas-guzzling, PC-eschewing hog, responding to questions about air travel and meat eating with inflated answers.
And by the end of the questions, here’s how we looked. Oink.
And then, bam, a bacon-makin explosion saw us splattered over the screen. So just how long did we deserve to live? 1.7 years. How precise.
Is it just us or does the Green Pig look really menacing at the end (note the furrowed brow and crinkled snout)? Ah, sweet eco-friendly bias.
If you do all the right things, your tiny pig flies up to heaven, says UK site The Register.
Who needs religion for fire and brimstone.