Animal rights activists aren’t typically thought of as being misogynistic, violent perverts, but maybe they should be. Well, at least the geniuses over at Wakker Dier should be. Wakker Dier (which means “Animal Awake” in Dutch) launched a viral video campaign last week, complete with a countdown to the unveiling of this video (Warning: The following video contains graphic violence):
Q: Was that snuff film starring a fetish model supposed to make viewers sympathetic toward fish? A: Yes. WTF???
This Wakker Dier video is a massive fail on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin. To simplify, let’s break it down into three parts: misogyny, violence, and animal rights (doesn’t that sound like the name of an emo band?).
Fail Part I: Misogyny
This viral campaign enlisted the sexiness of famous Dutch playmate and fetish model Ancilla Tilia. Even if we take away the horrific gutting (it would be nice if we could, wouldn’t it?), the fact remains that this woman’s body was used to get attention in a way that objectifies her. Not only does she perform a strip tease in the video itself, but apparently the campaign leading up to it used her as a kind of teaser, implying that something sexy would happen if people continued to visit the Wakker Dier website. Since Tilia is a fetish model, there is no doubt that the promise of kinkiness was a big draw for certain viewers, which is weird in itself, since we’re talking about a campaign to raise awareness of fish-gutting practices, not the opening of a new sex club.
However, fetish models aside, the real shock in this video comes from the out-of-control gutting scene. While we’re still talking about misogyny, a “promiscuous” (i.e., sexual) woman being murdered in front of an audience of pervs screams “woman hate” pretty loudly. Which brings us to…
Fail Part II: Violence
A WOMAN IS GUTTED ALIVE IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE IN THIS VIDEO. How much more violent does it get? And how on earth does this raise awareness or sympathy for the fish? Are we supposed to feel so upset by this woman’s brutal murder that we somehow transfer those feelings to the local trout farm? It’s upsetting, of course, but it doesn’t have anything to do with fish. And even if it did have something to do with fish, it’s not okay. Making light of violence against women in order to make a point about fishing practices is offensive no matter which way you gut it.
Yet another layer in this multi-tiered cake of offensiveness is that of the lighthearted tone of the video. “Don’t strip alive” has a tongue-in-cheek quality to it that is completely inappropriate given the subject matter. And not only does it make the horrific nature of the live-action murder even less acceptable, it also takes away from the intended message of the campaign. If we’re making light of the brutal death of a woman (although she is just a stripper, you guys) then we’re also making light of the brutal death of a salmon, thus weakening the argument that fish need our sympathy.
This campaign is an extreme example, but it’s certainly not the first time that an animal rights group has pushed the envelope when it comes to violence or sex in an attempt to encourage people to equate human suffering with animal suffering. (Mandy wrote a blog post on that topic here a few weeks ago.) Which brings us to…
Fail Part III: Animal Rights
How on earth does this video encourage awareness when it comes to animal rights? Though Wakker Dier counts this campaign as “highly successful” (more at AdRants) they seem to be basing that claim on the number of hits the video has gotten on YouTube. This is somewhat of a false sense of success, then, since the clips on YouTube only contain the striptease/gutting, and not the follow-up video from Wakker Dier’s website that explains the connection between the video and the plight of the fish. So basically, people might be tuning in to see a little T & A, or some sensationalistic violence (or both), but they aren’t tuning in to learn about animal rights.
So where does that leave us? Sure, this video is an offensive failure on many levels, but there is also the idea that it has sparked some debate about animal rights. Does that make it a success as well, then? Or can a video that makes light of a woman being brutally murdered in order to drum up sympathy for fish just a big piece of fail no matter what? And is it okay for animal rights groups (or other activists) to use sensationalist tactics to raise awareness, even when those tactics are unbelievably offensive and gross? Discuss.