Almost a year ago, I wrote about how the advertising channel GiggleTV is sexist and offensive. Unfortunately, it has continued to spread, and has only gotten worse.
GiggleTV is a franchise. It works by selling screens and content to small business owners. Here’s the whole explanation. The screens are installed where customers can see them. The content is a slideshow of advertising mixed with jokes. Here’s their explanation.
Um, what? Ok, so the first part is creepy enough. But the second bit… they’re watching us watch the screen? That seems so… invasive. And how is it even technically possible?
Anyway, I complained because GiggleTV appeared in both my Doctors and my pharmacy. These are places I often have to sit and wait, and here’s this screen, right in front of me, rotating sexist and offensive jokes. GiggleTV class themselves as G-rated. These don’t seem G-rated to me.
After I complained, I got a response from GiggleTV’s director. Needless to say, they weren’t interested in my concerns. They said I clearly had no sense of humour. They refused to take any responsibility for the offence they cause.
Although you find it ‘disgusting’ it is a reality of the World we live in.
Advertising is all around us – the radio, the paper or a magazine, a sign written vehicle or the back of a bus or a billboard, tv etc. It is unavoidable and beyond the control of any one person. GTV or not there is and will continue to be advertising all around us.
I would like to request that next time you encounter a GTV you choose to take a seat where you are not positioned in front of a screen. Instead look away.
Unfortunately, I can’t ‘look away.’ GiggleTV is in my doctor’s surgery, my pharmacy, my hairdresser’s – and today, it was in the cafe I was having lunch in.
This image appeared.
I’m bisexual. I have many friends who are bipolar. This “joke” is offensive to both, and it’s also offensive to men. It suggests men are being sleazebags. It suggests being bipolar is an unattractive trait. It’s awful.
I put this image, the one above (Working Late at The Office) and this next one, on Twitter, and asked others what they thought.
Here’s some of the responses.
1. At worst this joke [the one regarding bipolar] is deeply offensive, at best it fails to be remotely funny. It is unclear if the fact that the ‘she’ being bisexual is supposed to be good or bad, or of no consequence, but its presentation with a sad looking guy has the implication that the teller was hoping for a bisexual woman. This perpetuates the culture of reducing female sexuality to something for the titillation of men, effectively erasing their sexual identity. On top of this, myself being bipolar, this once again shows a complete misunderstanding of mental illness. GiggleTV has reduced one of the deadliest mental illnesses to a punchline, an unfunny, unclear and simply offensive attempt at humour, one I might see while sitting in my doctor’s office.
2. That sort of joke is why I was terrified to get a diagnosis when I suffered from depression. I was scared people would poke fun at me. It was awful.
3. A doctor that allows this service in their healthcare environment is wasting time, goodwill, and previous work done by the people who come to them. They’re putting themselves on the opposing team.
4. I’m presuming this is the couple seen in Christchurch a few months back and for F’s sake that should never have been news to start with. It’s just cruel and mean-spirited and puerile. Leave them alone already. Haven’t their lives already been ruined enough? These are real people and they’re being made the butt of a joke for a nation, over and over and over again. Also: It’s intensely victim-blaming. Every joke of this nature claims, “Their fault, they didn’t close the curtains.” And okay, open curtains exposed them to the people nearby. But it was *other people*, including *this very joke*, that exposed them to people all over the world. So at this point, months later, the ‘joke’ is like a childish bully pulling the “Stop hitting yourself!” routine. And it’s vile.
5. I find it stomach churning, insulting and frankly quite traumatic, to see my mental illness used as a punchline. These ads are disgusting, lowest common denominator bullshit.
6. They, to me, not only trivialise mental illness itself, but also throw shame at those who deal with mental illness in their lives. Personally, as someone who has anxiety and finds it hard to cope with it at times, this sort of trivialisation of mental illness itself and the shaming and making fun of those who deal with mental illness is emblematic of the ongoing issue in NZ of how society at large on both a governmental and community level frequently treats the mentally ill. It makes me angry and just plain sad.
7. I find your trivialisation of both mental health and people’s sexuality absolutely disgusting. These are not the sorts of things that I want to see displayed as supposedly humorous – you really need to assess your sense of human decency.
8. It’s not just the mocking of bipolar, as if mental illness is automatically funny. It’s not just the assumption that “has bipolar” equals “game over” in some kind of bizarre sick relationship death match. It’s not just that dude in the stock photo who presumably wasn’t asked before his image was used with this nastiness. It’s also the casual fetishisation of bisexual orientation. In that same death match, “is bisexual” apparently equals “male partners automatically win”. It’s dehumanising, objectifying, and just plain rude.
9. I really dislike the content shown on giggle tv. These are just some examples of jokes that aren’t acceptable, especially when shown in places like doctors offices. The last thing sufferers of mental illness need to see while waiting for an appointment are insensitive “jokes” about mental illness. Not to mention a lot of the content I find quite sexist.
10. I can understand how adults might find humour in such subjects in carefully catered spaces where everyone knows the deal, and everyone knows that these things are not intended to make fun of anyone, and are just attempts to be “edgy”, as adult humour likes to be. But … G rated? On Children’s television? No. That is a very bad idea. Children can’t discern easily between edgy conceptual humour and reality yet and these forms of comedy are likely to instil in the young attitudes that lead them into measurable risk of being bigoted against these groups. If this stuff is being screened anywhere, it very much should be late night television around other insensitive stuff.
11. I have mental illnesses; disorders, differences, whatever you’d like to call them. I’m “crazy”. Sometimes I’m more like “normal” people than other times. At the moment, I’m in full-time paid employment, paying tax and “contributing to the economy”. Sometimes that’s not really feasible, and at those times I am still a citizen and a human being with exactly the same rights and worth. (More on that another day.)
12. Playing on people’s sexuality and their mental wellness is very uncool. Bipolar is often made fun of, as is bisexuality.
13. Today, I was referred to the public hospital for a completely physical issue. The thing is, when something is medically wrong with my body, I don’t suddenly stop having mental illnesses. If someone like me – “Like Minds, Like Mine”, I believe the slogan is – when mentally ill people get the flu or break an arm or have more complex things go wrong in our bodies, we shouldn’t have to sit in the waiting room in pain while garbage like Giggle TV is making fun of us.
Think about some of the reasons a person might be in hospital – as a patient, as a visitor – the stress and uncertainty they might already be dealing with – and then picture one of these pathetic little cartoons laughing, “Ha-ha! You’re different!” Maybe just imagine a schoolyard bully, because I’m sure the guy who charges a fee to make fun of us in public will have some defence about how it’s “just meant as a joke”, and it really is the kind of joke a nine-year-old might find funny. “Ha-ha! You’re not like me and I think you’re *weird*!” This sucks in any public place, but when people are sick we need medical centres to be *safe*.
Most physical illnesses are *much* cheaper and easier to treat the sooner they’re treated. If sick people avoid doctors, they risk getting sicker, developing complications, spreading disease; if they’re injured they may worsen the injury, perhaps beyond repair; they’ll skip check-ups and ignore warning signs and delay and delay and delay… Maybe it won’t even be a physical illness at all, because yes, GPs are often the primary carer for mental health, and some of the medicines that are prescribed can have really horrible withdrawal effects if the person taking them feels too ashamed and unwanted to make an appointment for a new prescription. I can’t believe I have to spell this out, but it’s a terrible idea to make fun of people with mental illnesses right in the very place they need to turn for help. A lot of the so-called “jokes” on Giggle TV are pretty mean and nasty – definitely more of them than are actually funny (maybe I’m just a snob), but these ones are actually threatening people’s health.
So what next?
As I mentioned, I’ve had contact with the directors of GiggleTV before. I got nowhere.
I tried to see if there was any copyright issues here. The images and jokes are clearly taken from the internet, and no copyright or credit details are given anywhere. But it’s hard to prove who “owns” an internet joke.
I looked at the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority, and while GiggleTV is clearly in breach of codes for both, it doesn’t quite fit the mediums required.
One of the places GiggleTV is in Nelson is in our Emergency After Hours clinic. The clinic is jointly owned by Nelson Bays General Practice Ltd, and Nelson Bays Primary Health, which is the Primary Health Organisation for the region. PHOs are funded by District Health Boards. DHBs are funded by the Ministry of Health.
So basically what we have is a situation where (in addition to private health providers) the Ministry of Health is supporting content that is clearly abusive towards people with medical issues. Ie:
As well as all the mental health ones referring to people as “crazy” and minimising or making fun of mental illness.
I’m going to write to the DHB, as a first step. I’m also going to submit an OIA. If you have other ideas, please comment below.
My intention is not to shut down the service completely. I would like GiggleTV to take responsibility. I would like businesses to realise how GiggleTV might be effecting their customers. And I would like to see the sexist and offensive jokes removed.
I would like to preface this with rant with the fact that I would consider myself to have a broad and somewhat dark sense of humour. I am not one to find just any joke offensive, in fact I’m a firm believer that humour is an important tool for humanity to deal with what would otherwise be a dark existence. But I also believe that when telling jokes about topics that may be sensitive to others, there is a golden rule – if you’re going to tell me a joke about something awful, you better be damn sure it’s actually funny.
And this is where GiggleTV fails. That name is a misnomer, because I have yet to see anyone eschew anything more than an eyeroll and a sigh at the ‘jokes’ presented on Giggle’s digital signage. Giggle TV repeatedly and almost aggressively fails to be funny. Not only that but their ‘jokes’ are all poorly retold versions of jokes lifted from the internet.
I know this because I grew up with the internet, spending more time that any sane person should admit to on places like 4Chan (broad, dark sense of humour, remember?), so it’s safe to say that when my response to one of Giggle’s slides is to attempt to respond with olderthantheinternet.jpg; I’m probably not wrong.
I think this is most telling of Giggle’s failing to actually be funny, it feels like my mum trying to retell a ‘funny picture’ she saw on Facebook last week, complete with poor grammar and stumbling delivery.
Now at this point, you could probably go – so what? They’re not funny, who cares? – but this is where things tie back to my opening statement, Giggle doesn’t just tell bad knock-knock jokes, or make the odd pun, instead it presents content directly from the Facebook feed of a middle aged woman who has never encountered anyone who wasn’t straight, white and aggressively ignorant.
GiggleTV presents itself as a G-Rated platform, while making many jokes I wouldn’t tell my mum, let alone my child, not just because they are risqué, but because they perpetuate stereotypes about gender and sexuality that so many have spent so long to fight, and there is no benefit to normalising such content.
It’s at this point that I would like to give Giggle the benefit of the doubt in some respects, from their brief interactions with left-wing-activist-right-handed-writer/punqueen on Sarah Wilson on writehanded.org, it is clear that they just don’t understand how humour works, or even what their business is.
When I’m surfing Reddit and stumble across something that makes me laugh, I don’t immediately publicly broadcast it, if I want to share it (and face it, its human nature to share laughter), I first assess whether a) this joke will be funny to the recipient and b) this is an appropriate time/place to present it to them.
For example, while my best friend and I love stupid Batman Jokes, I wouldn’t show this to him at his parents’ funeral http://thememorycardisfull.tumblr.com/image/119767741426
Extreme example I know, but this is my point. When I am sitting in a pharmacy, or my doctor’s office, or standing in line at a bakery, you don’t know who I am, you don’t know what I’m currently struggling with, or what values I hold most dear. You can’t even tell if I’m in the mood to be told a joke, or if something horrible has just happened (see above).
There is no feasible way for GiggleTV, to ensure that any content that could be considered risky to only reach those that are going to find it funny, which is why they do have to play it safe, and to quote their Director’s response to Sarah – be “extremely sensitive and overly PC”.
This is the realm Giggle have chosen to play in, uncontrolled public spaces, which means they have to play by the rules of the lowest common denominator, which in this case means ensuring their humour does not directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally target or upset anyone.
As a side note, can we also acknowledge that the Director of Giggle used urban dictionary to define G-Rated: https://www.writehanded.org/blog/2014/08/03/a-response-from-giggletv/ (if you read the full piece, you will also see that she actually invokes godwin’s law in the very next paragraph)
To me, this shows that the level of care and consciousness they put into their work. Aka the “least amount of effort I can put in without actively putting somones life in danger” method. As an incredibly lazy person myself, this would be commendable, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re not doing a dead-end data entry job, they’re creating content that by their own admission reaches 1000’s of people daily.
So what is the solution?
While I think Giggle’s business model – putting screens displaying content that holds the viewer’s attention while interjecting it with ads – is actually a pretty smart idea, their choice to focus on humour, something that will always be incredibly subjective, is incredibly stupid.
Anyone who owns a chromecast will be familiar with it’s standby mode, where Google feed in a stream of visually interesting images, from sources like NASA and art galleries. There have been times where rather that put on Netflix, I’ll end up sitting and staring at some of the amazing images before putting something on.
This is the kind of content that not only has mass appeal (who doesn’t like space, or photos of Prague?), it is inherently non-offensive due to the fact that it’s just a cool photo.
Giggle touts the fact that by presenting ‘funny’ content, they are encouraging the release of endorphins in the viewer, but do you what else releases endorphins? Learning(you should’ve got some just then). The human mind is an amazing thing, and interesting facts are arguably more appealing than jokes alone, you only have to look at sites like cracked.com and many other ‘list’ sites, that draw huge numbers of visitors every day to present interesting information.
Giggle has a good platform underneath the garbage of bad jokes and lazy presentation, with a bit of polish and a refocus on content that doesn’t suck, they could have a platform that not only entertains the viewer, but broadens their mind.
Hell, I’ll throw this one in as a freebie, why not chuck on some brain teasers? Show the puzzle, show an ad, show the solution, if you want to hold viewers attention, engage them on an intellectual level. They can even keep their business model of lifting content straight off Facebook.
Long story short, Giggle, you suck at being funny, and you shouldn’t be trying to be anyway.
Picking on the vulnerable or different is OK if you’re in a position of power. GiggleTV shares the stage with Wicked Campers as unfunny, irresponsible business, and baaaaad comedy, unwilling to budge even with valuable feedback. Given the Director’s lack of feels, I’d say it’s a big job… like those against Wicked Campers, and with mainstream media’s push to successfully remove all of the offensive material. Happy to sign a petition and/or send an email. Good luck
Thank you Sarah. Yes, as I’ve seen from past interactions with GiggleTV, they’re not willing or able to see the position of the vulnerable. I have a few plans of things to counteract them, but like you say, it is a big job. A petition could be another idea. I’m currently waiting on responses from the DHB and Ministry of Health. I’m considering supplying content so people can copy and paste emails to businesses they know are running it.
Good for you writehandedgirl, please provide updates on your complaint to the DHB and MOH.
Also, surely there’s a larger governing criteria than broadcasting standards ,… why do you think it doesn’t meet the criteria to complain to the BSA?
Totally agree with Sarah, what seems funny to some, is a living nightmare for those living with such disabilities……..I read her blogs every time she posts, I feel for her plight. Why is it that even you Anna, have in a soft manner, have contributed to her disappointment by once again, posting the offensive photo…………..Thanks for nothing…
Hi Brent, if you’re referring to Ana’s Sideswipe column, I approved this. I wanted her to use the image so that a wider audience could see what the issue was. It’s absolutely fine. Thanks 🙂
Oh for goodness sake get over yourselves.
Mike, you clearly think I, and others, are arrogant in our emotional response to offensive material being shown in public spaces. The response is entirely justified. There is nothing arrogant about asking for spaces we need to go to be safe. Seeya.
What is it with this recent need to ‘not be offended’. Is it about ‘safety’ or is it about being ill equipped to deal with the world?. I mean those jokes are as old as the hills, they’re poor but so what.
“I approved this. I wanted her to use the image so that a wider audience…”
WTF is this, How can you give approval for someone else to use a copyrighted image that you’ve stolen from someone else’s website.
You also looked at using copyright law to stop these people, copyright is NOT a censorship tool. There should be no censorship tools. As lame as the jokes are, you are looking to take away someone else right to speak and their means to earn. Because why? Because it made you feel not nice. So what, go start another useless change.org petition and see how they respond when you’ve got 36 digital signatures backing up your butt-hurt.
Eddy – while I otherwise agreed with your comment, I was a little disappointed by this:
” it presents content directly from the Facebook feed of a middle aged woman who has never encountered anyone who wasn’t straight, white and aggressively ignorant.” As a middle aged woman, I’m a bit tired of such being steretyped as ignorant and intolerant, especially with so many odious exemplars across all ages and genders.
I’m sure this column has had a lot of traffic from the Sideswipe column, so readers who also find this ‘humour’ offensive could speak directly to management of wherever they see it broadcast.
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Wiggle-room, point by point:
It’s about safety. Do you have any other rhetorical devices than ad hominem reduction of the people you disagree with?
A lot of jokes are as old as the hills, are poor, and so *shouldn’t be broadcast in public spaces*, that’s so what. Your argument wouldn’t hold if the jokes were explicitly worded or overtly racist, and it doesn’t hold just because you lack basic empathy with the people or causes that are affected here.
It’s not a freedom of speech or censorship issue. These aren’t original or interestingly subversive ideas being suppressed. It’s a piss-poor business plan trading on the back of “free” material and wrapped in some pseudo-scientific waffle. Contrary to popular belief, even in our pan-capitalist dystopia, nobody has a “right” to turn a buck shilling any old nonsense. Freedom of speech is precisely the freedom to say “This Is Nonsense”. When people can’t say that without being shouted down as PC or overly sensitive, that’s censorship.
Petitioning can be an effective tool to raise awareness and initiate change. Of course, you don’t *intend* to be helpful – it is interesting that you would cynically recommend a course of action you (wrongly) consider to be ineffective. Are you worried that the current approaches might be working?
To Mike, Wiggle-room et al: You know what I find amusing? When Aussie Rules player Adam Goodes’ spear gesture got racists worked up. When Michael Laws blows his top over a letter of the alphabet. When mass surveillance apologists have their dirty laundry leaked on the Web. When the Yes Men cause share prices of Big Oil to tank.
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It’s punching down and it’s not even remotely funny. I find their response to you totally baffling – it’s just weird, you’re hurting people, you can easily stop it, so why not stop it? It’s not hard, so I don’t know why they can’t even consider doing it.