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Funny or Offensive: “Crazy” T-Shirts

Dec 13 2011 | Comments 7

These are shirts for sale at Road Kill T-Shirts. What do we think? Are we amused? Offended?

AG_0028_1130_HEAR_VOICES
PW_0310W_A12839B_IMAGINARY_FRIEND
PS_1078_VOICES_REAL


liz | 3:10 PM | Funny or Offensive?

The Donut Thing Won’t Die

Aug 6 2009 | Comments 12

I don’t know what’s going on, but suddenly the site is getting a lot of comments on the Psycho Donuts dust-up. To fill you in, there’s a donut shop in California called Psycho Donuts that uses mental illness as its theme to sell donuts. Here’s how the store’s website describes the theme:

Psycho Donuts has taken donuts to the next demented level. We bid a fond farewell to the tired, round ring of lameness, and the drab, time-weathered environment of donut past. Psycho Donuts has taken the neighborhood donut and put it on medication, and given it shock treatment.

Psycho Donuts are very unique and, well, crazy. Our name comes with a commitment to not only be the craziest/fun donut experience you’ll ever have, but one of the most unique places in the South Bay (see blog).

Try our signature Smores Donut; or for something different, how about a Green Tea Donut? Even if you’re not certifiably insane yourself, you’ll still find a handful of donuts from the past.

As a donut lover, this is an issue close to my heart. I mean, a Green Tea Donut? Is that even legal? I’ll stick with Boston Kreme, thank you, and yes, I’ll spell it that way until I die.

But the “Nutcase” display case and the padded cell in the store don’t sit well with many mental health advocates, who fear the store is stigmatizing, especially the folks at NAMI’s StigmaNet. Yet to tell you the truth, the more I think about it, the less I care. Wait — don’t hate me. It’s just that there are so many other things that are more important, I think, and the fact that this, of all issues — a single store in a single town — is generating so much controversy, seems kind of limited to me.

For instance, I got some other mental-health-related news from some people via email while I was on vacation, and without blogging about it further, I’ll just give you the broad strokes (no attribution because I’m not sure if my tipsters want it):

Also in California, L.A.’s homeless lose out in settlement

Recent news quote: “The secretary of defense is required to have a plan in place by September 2013 to increase military and civilian mental health personnel available to our troops and their families.”

Antidepressant use doubles in US, study finds

N.J. psychiatric hospitals to release 300 patients under lawsuit settlement


Suicides rising in US military

American Medical Association study: Adults near WTC disaster still being diagnosed with asthma, PTSD

I could go on and on. Every day I see headlines I worry about, and get emails from people who are suffering right now. Those people don’t give a shit if there’s a “bipolar” donut (pictured). They just want to know: Is there anything that’s going to ever make me feel better? Can I survive this? Why can’t I get out of bed? Can you help me? Can anyone help?

Personal urgency and large-scale issues slap me in the face in a way this donuts thing just doesn’t. Yet the comments keep coming. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.


liz | 1:55 PM | Funny or Offensive?, media, stigma

Funny or Offensive?: Potter Fan Commits Suicide

Jul 14 2009 | Comments 8

Andy Borowitz on the Huffington Post:

HUDSON, OHIO (The Borowitz Report) — A rabid Harry Potter fan took his life yesterday after inadvertently learning a plot spoiler from the soon-to-be-released J.K. Rowling movie, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” 



Jude Ralston, 32, of Hudson, Ohio left a suicide note indicating that since overhearing the plot spoiler at a shopping mall earlier in the day, “I no longer have a reason to live.” 



Family and friends who gathered for a candlelight memorial outside Mr. Ralston’s house remembered a man who seemed to live only for Harry Potter – and wondered if they could have done anything to prevent his tragic fate. 



“When Jude got that vanity license plate that said ‘Hogwarts,’ that seemed harmless enough,” said Polly Clovis, who attended Model U.N. with Mr. Ralston while the two were in high school. “But when he started wearing that wizard hat around town, we really should have seen that as a cry for help.” 



Man Commits Suicide After Learning Harry Potter Spoiler


liz | 12:14 PM | Funny or Offensive?

Goodbye, Anti-Sacred and Profane Writing Machine

Jun 25 2009 | Comments 2

After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”

We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.

Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.


liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence

Funny or Offensive? “Guantánamo Detainee Ruled Not Mentally Fit To Testify About Psychological Torture”

Jun 2 2009 | Comments 6

From the Onion, so you know what I think:

WASHINGTON—In its first major hearing on the use of abusive interrogation tactics at Guantánamo Bay, a blue-ribbon panel found detainee Omar Khadr mentally unfit to testify … “Because of Mr. Khadr’s fragile state due to unknown hours spent under the most brutal, mentally straining conditions, he cannot be trusted to speak competently on his own behalf,” said Rep. Kit Bond (R-MO), the panel’s chairman. “It is unfortunate that someone with such intimate knowledge of the horrors of waterboarding, stress positions, and induced hypothermia is so emotionally unstable. He bursts into tears at even the mention of mock torture.” ….


liz | 2:51 PM | Funny or Offensive?

Funny or Offensive?: Psycho Donuts

Apr 21 2009 | Comments 35

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.


liz | 10:01 AM | Funny or Offensive?, hospitals / hospitalization, suicide

Observe and Report

Apr 14 2009 | Comments 21


I have serious issues with this film, which I saw this weekend. Putting aside the date rape issue, there’s the mental illness angle, which is, of course, my milieu. I won’t get into a whole hyperventilating mess about it, because that would be boring. But Seth Rogen plays a bipolar mall security cop who goes crazy when he goes off his meds — though it should be noted that he’s pretty crazy to begin with. Once again, a film that associates the mentally ill with violence … yawn. I mean, come on, Jody Hill. You can’t do better than that?

But what bothers me is the pharmacological inaccuracy in the film. Though the character makes clear mention of struggling with bipolar disorder, he’s only on one medication: Klonopin. It makes no clinical sense. What dumbass doctor prescribes like that? I would have felt a lot less outrage about the whole bipolar portrayal if, in the scene about his meds, he’d said he was on Lithium. I know that’s nitpicky, but hey, I love copy-editing too. Sue me.

P.S. Speaking of litigation, ABC.com has an article about the date rape scene. Its headline is “Funny or Offensive?” Copyright infringement!


liz | 3:51 PM | Funny or Offensive?, media

Funny or Offensive?: Babies and Manic Depression

Mar 31 2009 | Comments 15

98% Of Babies Manic-Depressive
NEW YORK—A new study published in The Journal Of Pediatric Medicine found that a shocking 98 percent of all infants suffer from bipolar disorder. “The majority of our subjects, regardless of size, sex, or race, exhibited extreme mood swings, often crying one minute and then giggling playfully the next,” the study’s author Dr. Steven Gregory told reporters. “Additionally we found that most babies had trouble concentrating during the day, often struggled to sleep at night, and could not be counted on to take care of themselves—all classic symptoms of manic depression.” Gregory added that nearly 100 percent of infants appear to suffer from the poor motor skills and impaired speech associated with Parkinson’s disease.

From—where else?—the Onion.


liz | 12:34 PM | Funny or Offensive?

The Trouble With Spikol: Print Edition: Bonus Funny or Offensive

Mar 11 2009 | Comments 2

Spikol the Blog merges with Spikol the Column — OMGWTF!!!!

Schizo-phrenzy’s Sour Humor

I remember when the first arcade videogame touched down in Center City, around 1979. It landed at 18th and Spruce at Day’s Deli, a diner/convenience store. The game was near the cash register so the cashier could chastise us if we shook the machine (which didn’t work the way it did with pinball) or cheat by feeding it Canadian pennies. A year later, its novelty was gone: Videogame parlors crowded Chestnut Street—with everything from Asteroids and Space Invaders to Galaga and Ye Olde Pinballe in the back.

Those were days, I’ve been told, that videogame aficionados think of as a golden age, and it was the last time I could call myself an experienced gamer. Recently, though, I tried Adult Swim’s newest online game, Schizo-phrenzy, on the suggestion of Aaron Fisher, a reader of my blog. He thought the game was perfect for Funny or Offensive?, in which I ask readers if something is comical or just plain rude.

Let’s get you in the mood:

Example A: A few years ago, The Onion published an article headlined “GOD DIAGNOSED WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER.” It began: “In a diagnosis that helps explain the confusing and contradictory aspects of the cosmos, … God, creator of the universe and longtime deity to billions of followers, was found Monday to suffer from bipolar disorder.”

Funny, right?

Example B: In 2002, there was a fire at New Jersey’s Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and The Trentonian ran a headline that read: “ROASTED NUTS.”

Oh, boy. Offensive.

You could debate either one, and the same can be said for Schizo-phrenzy.

The premise of the game is that the protagonist, a private eye with schizophrenia, has paranoid fantasies about the mayor of the town, who’s pictured as a looming clownlike face. The P.I. fights multicolored gremlin-y hallucinations that come from all sides. The score is kept in terms of his “sanity,” which is measured, in part, by how many blue pills he takes. The less sanity, the more frequent the hallucinations, which also affect the players—only instead of cartoon gremlins, their hallucinations are gruesome photographs that flash, strobe-like, on the screen. Players also hear auditory hallucinations while they navigate Schizo-phrenzy’s landscape.

The game’s platform isn’t especially sophisticated; I’d put it at the level of Donkey Kong, circa 1982. But is it offensive?

I asked Kristin Bell, a popular blogger with more than 1,000 YouTube subscribers, to play the game. Having suffered with schizophrenia since she was 15, the 35-year-old talks frankly about her experience in her videos, and she does so with a great sense of humor.

“Part of how I’ve dealt with my mental illness is to joke about how ‘crazy’ I am and to try to laugh about something that is seriously devastating,” she says. “I’m well medicated, so sometimes I even forget that I’m so weird. And I try to accept that probably 98 percent of the world knows little to nothing about what it’s like to have schizophrenia.”

At first, Bell enjoyed the game. “I thought, ‘Well, at least it’s showing how irritating and ever-present the hallucinations can be,” she says. But the more she played, the less she liked it. “This game is operating within the context of a culture that doesn’t understand mental illness,” she says. “Do we really need another way to make fun of ‘the crazies?’”

More »


liz | 3:45 PM | Funny or Offensive?, SCHIZOPHRENIA, media

Funny or Offensive: Local Version

Mar 9 2009 | Comments 6

I don’t mean to belabor this topic, but this one hit my radar as it’s “about” Quakertown, Pa., where I’ve spent sufficient time.

Anorexic Realizes She Just Has To Eat

Quakertown, PA resident Jasmine Strotz, a 22 year-old who has been struggling with the eating disorder anorexia for three years now, was relieved to hear, during a class discussion at the college she attends, that all she has to do is eat and her disease will be cured.

“For years, I’ve wondered, ‘How can I stop this?’” she said in an exclusive interview. “I thought and thought, but I just couldn’t figure it out. It was the hardest problem I had ever faced.”

When the problem first surfaced, Strotz was reluctant to go to a doctor, believing she could fix matters herself.

“I tried some home remedies, like trying to pack clay onto my body in hopes that it would absorb into my skin and become weight,” she explained. “I also tried sleeping with the food, as well as looking at pictures of food. But still I remained hungry!”

Normally, I don’t offer my opinions on these ForOs. But this one? Its poor writing offends me. Click here for the rest.


liz | 3:34 PM | Funny or Offensive?, eating disorders

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