“Resolutions”: Penny Arcade rewrites history in its latest “Dickwolves” apologia


Penny Arcade co-creator Mike “Gabe” Krahulik has said some pretty terrible things over the past year and is vaguely alluding to them in a post called “Resolutions”. They don’t need the extra webtraffic, so here’s the gist:

As a young person I imagined myself a sort of vengeful spirit. A schoolyard Robin Hood who attacked the strong and popular on behalf of the social outcasts. I’m 36 years old now though and I realize what I am is a bully. I may have been the one who got beat up but I sent plenty of kids home in tears. I also realize that I carried those ridiculous insecurities into adulthood. I still see people who attack me as the enemy and I strike back with the same ferocity as that seventh grader I used to be. I’m ashamed of that and embarrassed. The crazy thing is I don’t even necessarily believe the stuff I say a lot of times. It would probably be more noble if I did. The truth is I just say them to be mean. I say them because I know they will hurt. It’s pretty fucked up.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching this year. I’ve tried to figure out what sort of person I am and what sort of person I want to be going forward. I know I don’t want to be this angry kid anymore. I take medicine to control my anxiety and depression but there is no pill I can take to stop being a jerk. That’s a deeper problem and it’s something I’m working on.

This kneejerk anger is something he’s written about before and as a victim and perpetrator of childhood bullying myself it’s something I can relate to. But there is a very specific reason why I think that, in this particular instance, it’s self-serving horseshit.

Penny Arcade’s biggest hornet nest in 2013 was indisputably the resurgence of the Dickwolves affair, relating to a 2011 strip which angered many rape survivors who felt it trivialised rape as a punchline and perpetuated rape culture (a play-by-play of the whole sorry saga and Penny Arcade’s escalation can be found here. TW: rape, naturally). Presumably Krahulik is at least partly alluding to this.

But his latest mea culpa draws attention exclusively to his anger management problems without ever once acknowledging that Krahulik singlehandedly re-ignited the Dickwolves controversy as an act of wilful cruelty, without provocation or prompting in the cosiest setting imaginable.

There’s nothing to dispute here since the exact moment is right here on video. At PAX 2013, in a panel dedicated exclusively to Gabe and Tycho’s work and attended entirely by a supportive fanbase, the pair were quizzed by their friend and business partner Robert Khoo: the ultimate soft-ball interview.

Again, I ask you to watch the footage yourself. Robert asks if there was anything he handled on the business side of Penny Arcade that they would have done differently. This is an open-ended question with no mention whatsoever of Dickwolves.

Mike pauses before deciding, entirely unprompted, to make a categorical statement on the affair:

“I think that pulling the Dickwolves merchandise was a mistake.”

A wave of raw-throated cheers washes over Krahulik from the crowd, which he receives in silence. This is not a low blow from someone backed into a corner. This is a cool, collected statement from someone in an environment of total adulation.

Things kicked off again. Mike published a “clarification” in which he offered regret for “everything we did after that comic”:

I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an asshole on twitter to people who were upset. I don’t think any of those things were good ideas. 

“I regret pulling the merchandise” is not a clarification. It’s the opposite of clarification, it’s blunt bullheaded repetition. As it stands there’s no way of interpreting that statement other than “I regret attracting negative attention, but having attracted it I regret that we didn’t capitalise on it”. Actually that’s not strictly true: there’s also the blunt I wanted to keep selling the shirts over and above the protestations of rape victims for the sake of self-indulgence.”

To date Krahulik has never clarified or explained his statement, which represents an entirely different mode of behaviour from lashing out on Twitter in the heat of the moment. This latest post is at best muddying the waters, and at worst a pity party for a misogynist industry figure who’s still refusing to hold themselves to account.

This isn’t a case of demanding impossible standards with a barrage of “why aren’t you perfect?”.

It’s “Your apology doesn’t reflect what happened. Why are you blaming a defence mechanism for something you single-handedly reignited in the most supportive environment imaginable: a panel all about you and attended exclusively by your fans, in an interview conducted by your good friend, at a con made by the company you own?”

6 Comments on ““Resolutions”: Penny Arcade rewrites history in its latest “Dickwolves” apologia”

  1. DovS says:

    I can understand your skepticism. I am not entirely convinced myself. Speaking as someone who has sworn off PAX over Mike’s behavior, I’m hesitant to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I do think sincerity might be *possible* here.

    Your interpretation that his mea culpa doesn’t make sense is based on the assumption that he actually understood what he was doing. Long before now, Mike has admitted that he is a bully but he was so delusional that he was actually proud of it. It’s not until this past year that he started to realize it was a problem, a realization he only made because he was forced to do so as a result of the unrelenting public backlash from the Dickwolves fiasco. So when you ask why he brought it up again at the PAX Q&A, maybe the reason is that he was at the point where he knew he did *something* wrong but he was still too delusional to understand exactly what he did wrong. Maybe that’s why he said he regretted the whole thing – because he honestly did not yet understand what his error was, only that he had made an error. Referring to the t-shirts makes sense in that it was the only part of the fiasco that Khoo was involved with.

    I hope that he really has finally had the epiphany that he claims and that he actually will start to get better. I’m not holding my breath over it because, much like you, it’s going to take a lot of work from Mike before I’m going to trust him to control himself. But I think it’s at least plausible that, maybe, he’s finally made a first step in admitting that he has a problem.

  2. […] “Resolutions”: Penny Arcade rewrites history in its latest “Dickwolves” apologia (Media Darlings) […]

  3. […] “Resolutions”: Penny Arcade rewrites history in its latest “Dickwolves” apologia (Media Darlings) […]

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