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Olivia Chow for Mayor

Toronto can do better. This is how.

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culture

In Which Astral Media Plays the Goon

Movie posters removed on day of premiere due to extreme puritanism. Why do we hate some ads more than others?

Our city’s ubiquitous street advertiser, Astral Media, pulled 38 bus-shelter ads yesterday after receiving an unknown number of complaints regarding their lewdness. The offending image: posters for the movie Goon, in which actor Jay Baruchel is sticking his tongue out between two fingers—what the Canadian Press called a “sexually suggestive sign.” (Duh.)

The posters were up for two weeks before coming down on Wednesday, the day Goon premiered at the Scotiabank Theatre. Frank Mendicino, senior vice-president of Alliance Films, told the Toronto Star: “Apparently different districts of Toronto had lodged complaints. They deemed the artwork too offensive.”

In the same article, Liev Schreiber, who also stars in Goon, is quoted as follows: “Having two small children myself, I can appreciate somebody being offended or not wanting that out there on the streets.”

Not a reference to going down on someone! The horror! Hide your children because the Cunnilingus Monster is on its way!

Please. To anyone at an impressionable age that sign is just a tongue. Taking offense to such an image just exposes an unwillingness to deal with and explain sex, which is your responsibility. But is violence offensive? Apparently not.

For those who don’t know, Goon is about a bouncer who leads a hockey team to glory by “beating the crap out of everything that stands in his way.” Other posters promoting the film feature the bloodied faces of Liev Schreiber and Seann William Scott, as well as phrases like “if you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em up” and “sex, drugs, and scoring goals.” Curiously, these drug-positive and pro-violence ads seem to be just fine for public viewing.

It isn’t just the sexy nature of Baruchel’s gesture that makes it so very offensive—it’s that it’s very much about female pleasure. I doubt Astral has ever taken down posters of women in lingerie or swimwear, or draping themselves over men. That would just be so silly. Besides, we’re all too used to seeing that.

The traditionally “shocking” message of the tongue-plus-two-fingers sign is different because it explicitly references female pleasure, and few things bring out more anger and embarrassment in people. Looking for a gasp, or claim of indecency, or an “ew gross?” Simply imply that you’re performing oral sex on a woman.

When Baruchel was asked about the removal of the posters at the Goon premiere, he said, “It must be exhausting to be that uptight” and repeated the gesture for photographers. According to the Star he says, “he ‘was just trying to be funny’ and playfully called the pose a ‘reflexive motion.’”

Just trying to be funny. The fact that it’s so natural to simulate cunnilingus just because we know it will provoke laughter and/or discomfort says a lot about how we think of women and sex.

Instead of debating whether or not something is lewd, and thus offensive, we should ask ourselves why we have these reactions to certain images and not others—why mocking sex workers in advertising isn’t offensive, but it’s perfectly fine to promote sexism and violence on a regular basis.

CORRECTION: February 23, 2012, 7:25 P.M. This post originally misspelled the name of actor Seann William Scott. The name has now been corrected.

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