A children’s T-shirt has aroused the ire of a local shopper. The T-shirt depicts two panels of stick figures, with a male figure pushing a female figure out of a box. Captioned “Problem Solved,” the shirt has appalled people engaged in deterring domestic violence.
“I thought that shirt was very offensive, and I’m sure people who made that shirt thought it was cute,” District Attorney Evert Fowle said Friday. “But when you prosecute 728 domestic violence cases a year, it’s not cute.”
The shirt was removed briefly after a customer protested — but later returned to the shelves of the Augusta Kmart.
To me the term offensive doesn’t accurately describe the message of this T-shirt.
In the first frame the girl stick figure is jumping up in excitement while the boy stick figure appears to be frowning at her with his hands at his waist. Underneath that frame is the word Problem.
In the second frame the boy figure is smirking and has one arm fully extended toward where the girl was, but now there is now only empty space beside him. The far wall of the second frame has been shattered sending bits of the frame wall out. Two lines show the path of the girl’s descent and she is shown falling head first. Underneath the second frame is the word Solved.
Her crash landing is left to the imagination. Which makes sense since what happens to her isn’t relevant to this boy’s problem and his solution.
This attitude T-shirt is unintentionally educational.
In only 2 frames it captures the dynamics of a common and sometimes deadly form of interpersonal violence that happens in the real world. It perfectly illustrates the imbalance between the stimulus and the response. She annoys him and he shoves her through a wall. He’s left with a feeling of satisfied power and that’s all that matters.
Just as with this T-shirt, many people don’t understand why the dynamic captured in this T-shirt is offensive. They think nobody should make a fuss about this because it’s a cartoon. Those who do make a fuss must be missing a funny bone.
This isn’t satire or humor. It is reality in stick-figure form. And it makes some people smile or laugh.
That’s the real problem.
So often when a man murders a woman in his life, people ask where this violence comes from. How could an otherwise nice man do something this horrific? This T-shirt gives the answer.
Murder as simple problem solving. She was annoying and now she’s not.
That leaves the question of how we would illustrate a third box in this same style if the back of the T-shirt continued this story.
If the boy stick figure ended up in the hangman’s noose with the caption Justice (printed hangman style), would those who find the original version funny still be laughing or calling this T-shirt cute?
Would they think the revised T-shirt would be an appropriate Christmas present?
(crossposted at my blog, Abyss2hope)
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