Okay, I’ve been restraining myself from getting involved in this debate, though frankly I have no idea why. At any rate, here’s the deal: There’s a donut shop in Northern California that takes an insane asylum as its theme. There’s a padded cell, a “nutcase” art display, and strange videos like this one:
Stigma watchers are not amused. In an open letter to Psycho Donuts, the National Stigma Clearinghouse’s Jean Arnold wrote:
In this bring-the-kids mecca of mega-calories, children can pose in a padded cell encased in a straitjacket. … What’s endearing about a straitjacket? Why do straitjackets, a symbol of force and humiliation, appeal to advertisers and product marketers? We can’t answer that question, but the National Stigma Clearinghouse archive shows straitjackets have been used as a marketing tool for many years. Twice in our experience, the marketers have tangled with Human Rights commissioners.
Although straitjackets are now mainly found on bondage websites and in S&M shops, for decades they caused death and suffering to untold thousands of mental institution inmates. Children are especially vulnerable, according to research by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in 1998, accounting for 25% of the deaths. That study brought calls for nationwide reform.
… Unlike other powerful symbols of oppression (a lynching noose for example), it is sad that psychiatric medications, straitjackets, and padded cells are still used to amuse the general public. We respectfully ask Psycho Donuts to rethink the theme of their new store.
That’s unlikely. In an article in the Silicon Valley Mercury News, the store’s owner is quoted:
“I think that the community out there has taken what we’re doing and has turned it into something that was never our intention. When we’re talking about Psycho Donuts, we’re not referring to people; we’re referring to doughnuts,” Zweigoron said. “Our intention in all of this was never to hurt anyone. It was simply as a fun type of thing, adding an interesting and unique twist to selling doughnuts.
“There’s a Psycho Mouse ride at Great America, and there’s El Pollo Loco. At what point do you cross the line?” … “I find that the community at large is not offended by what we’re doing.”
But NARSAD disagrees. Below, a letter to the owners from the esteemed organization:
The website also has really good games on it, like Asteroids, which I just wasted 15 minutes on, and a virtual Etch-a-Sketch. The gallery has “weird” art, which is a stupid idea, but some of the artists seem vaguely talented. I like this work called The Lonely Satellite by Nicolas Caesar.