Retail giant Target has cowered before Australia’s concerned moms and announced the decision to pull the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto 5” from its shelves, citing the game’s graphic depiction of sex and violence. Fans were not pleased, and devised an ingenious way to show it: Call the store’s bluff and see if they would get rid of the Holy Bible for the very same concerns.
Target Australia said “consumer feedback” led them to ban the game after a Change.org petition received tens of thousands signatures demanding Target “Withdraw Grand Theft Auto 5 – this sickening game encourages players to commit sexual violence and kill women.”
According to the petition (emphasis theirs):
It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
This is Grand Theft Auto 5. This game means that after various sex acts, players are given options to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned.
This has been a common criticism of the game and its predecessors, although it is slightly misleading. The game does in fact give players the option to kill women (and men), but the violence is never specific to women and the storyline never explicitly encourages the players to target women other than in the vague sense that the game revels in crime in many of its manifestations. One could argue that even that depiction of violence is not appropriate for children, but the game is rated “Mature” and intended for an adult audience.
After Target Australia erred on the side of conservative moms, fans of the game or people who just didn’t like the idea of censoring a product because of its perceived vulgarity, created a new Change.org petition that requested that the store also ban the Bible… for the exact same reasons
From the petition (again, emphasis theirs):
It’s a book that encourages readers to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘god’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
This is The Holy Bible. This book means that after various sex acts, readers are given options to kill women by stoning her unconscious, Setting them on fire, cutting off their hands, and killing their children!
The Bible certainly has a disturbing amount of sex and violence. In fact, there have been whole books written on the subject. Oftentimes these passages are overlooked by modern audiences and can cause quite a shock to people who have never bothered to actually plow through the whole book. In a hilarious illustration of that uncomfortable fact, a story goes that while fighting in the Second World War, Winston Churchhill’s son, Randolph, was bet that he couldn’t read the entire Bible in a fortnight. Randolph, who had never read the Bible before, found the task a breeze when he realized how much crude sex and violence the pages contained.
As his unfortunate trenchmate explained in a letter:
“In the hope of keeping him quiet,” he wrote to Nancy Mitford, “Freddie and I bet him £20 that he cannot read the whole Bible in a fortnight. Unhappily it has not had the result we hoped. He has never read any of it before and is hideously excited; keeps reading quotations aloud… or merely slapping his side & chortling ‘God, isn’t God a shit!’.”
The hypocrisy that the campaign exposes must have struck a nerve. As of this writing, nearly 47,000 people have signed the petition – roughly the same amount that had supported the original petition that got Target to ban Grand Theft Auto. If Target had any scruples, they would be forced to concede that either they reacted too quickly in removing the game or that they indeed should also remove the Bible for the sake of ethical consistency. It’s a tough position to be placed in. Obviously, neither option would make conservative parents very happy.
Whether Target decides to stick to their guns or bring back the game, Take-Two Interactive, the developer of GTA 5, probably isn’t hurting too much. After being released last year, the game smashed sales records, quickly becoming the best-selling game of all time and earning almost a billion dollars in just it’s first day. The game has recently been in the spotlight once again as it is being aggressively marketed for the holiday season, coupled with the new video game consoles.
Australia has had a checkered history with violent video games. The country has one of the toughest ratings systems in the world and frequently rejects games that are deemed too violent, too graphic, or too sexual. In a statement released in 2013 explaining how its decisions on what games to censor comes about, the Classification Board said:
Computer games that “depict, express, or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified, will be Refused Classification.”
This has done little to stop Australian gamers from playing those games however, as international versions or pirated copies can still make their way into a consumer’s hands.