A couple of my fellow Strip Search contestants have already pretty succinctly summarized my feelings on the latest Q&A incident at PAX: It’s complicated and conflicting. It isn’t a black and white issue for everyone. Those who are upset by it have every right to feel that way, and should do what they feel is best for them.
But I don’t feel that severing my ties with Penny Arcade is the right move for me.
While the hurtful things that have been said are at odds with the positive acts they’ve performed, they don’t undo them. While some of their actions—or lack of action, in some cases—have been bitterly disappointing, and their apologies imperfect, I still believe in the sincerity of their remorse and efforts to learn from their mistakes. And with this latest slip, it was the vocal subset of the audience that cheered and vied for the offending shirt’s return that really disturbed me, not the lapse in judgement surrounding Mike’s answer. It turned a gaffe into an utterly toxic moment that polluted what I’ve found to be an otherwise welcoming and safe environment.
These people do not belong at PAX.
But in the case of the creators, I don’t believe that repeatedly stumbling over a contentious issue they clearly struggle with is proof of some deep-seeded malice. Some minds simply cannot be changed quickly. Their life experiences have shaped them, just as ours have shaped us, and it may take several more years and several more fuck-ups for them to fully understand what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it.
This blindness is a symptom of privilege. It’s something born of social grooming and ignorance; something they need help to overcome, and they aren’t going to get that help if they’re abandoned by their friends. And they are my friends. My relationship with Penny Arcade is personal as well as professional, and I feel I can play a much more constructive role by forgiving their mistakes and encouraging them to do better. If I never forgave my friends for fucking up (or they never forgave me), I’d be friendless.
I completely respect the fact that for some of you, your patience is far beyond spent. Your comfort and safety is of the utmost importance, and no convention is worth compromising that. But I’d like to stick around and, at the very least, occupy one person’s worth of space at PAX so the real assholes can’t have it.
I know I’m speaking in fairly general terms here, and haven’t covered every transgression or facet of the issue. For an in-depth critique of the situation by someone far more eloquent than me, I highly recommend MC Frontalot’s recent essay. It is constructive in its criticism, and comes from someone much closer to the source, with much more experience in this environment.