Bringing Up Bully: Penny Arcade & Growing Up On The Internet

Bringing Up Bully: Penny Arcade & Growing Up On The Internet

After my post back in January about Penny Arcade creator Mike Krahulik’s self-serving “resolutions”, my good friend Joe Nunweek of the Pantograph Punch invited me to write a bit more about what the webcomic meant to me as a dorky 14-year-old boy and how changing technologies and culture have affected the medium as well. TRIGGER WARNING: a whole lot of rape culture, unfortunately.


I remember the fanbase of the early years, so cloistered that we jokingly referred to ourselves as “the cult”. We were a close-knit community of smart-arses in our teens or early 20s, mostly young men, with one-liners and one-upmanship ingrained by the Penny Arcade ethos as much as anything else. As with so many straight, white, males, Penny Arcade pushed the philosophy that nothing was off-limits, however outlandish or taboo, so long as it was framed as a joke.

We loved the comic for its finely-tuned sense of the absurd: in one strip, a gauche young space frog confides in a mentor about his budding sexuality; in another, a Greek warrior daubed with his murdered family’s ashes takes a course in art therapy.

But the rape jokes were already there, and in retrospect it’s clear that an outcry over something like Dickwolves was simply a matter of time and exposure. Back then such reactions were confined to obscure members-only fan forums and dissent was easily corralled and buried beneath a morass of new discussion threads. But I can only imagine how the Fruit Fucker 2000 would go down on Twitter and Tumblr today.

(Read more at the Pantograph Punch)

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