Homophobia/Misogyny in “Fobbies are Borange”
It’s come to my attention that there are some discussions buzzing around the internet that ”Fobbies are Borange”, an EarthBound radio play retelling the story, is laden with homophobic and misogynistic jokes. I was the co-writer/”sound designer”/whatever the hell in the production of this show, and I also played “Jeff” as well as many other characters. I’m here to tell you, tumblr, that a lot of what you’re saying is pretty true! Not all of it, but some of it.
I’ve gone on the record more than once saying that I don’t even like Fobbies are Borange. So let it be known that I don’t even think this show I was a big part in making is very good. I mostly think so for production reasons, I think it’s very hard to listen to. FaB was an enjoyable experience because we did it all live on an internet radio stream, and it’s full of errors indicative of such, and some jokes were even born out of it. I don’t think that works in an archived format and I think it is just a drag to listen through. But aside from that, I don’t think at times all of that funny, and I do think we resorted to using some cheap and insensitive humor for laughs. However, if we had ever done anything that veers into the category of “oppressive” as people are claiming, I would only say it is our flippant use of the word “retarded”. For that I have never been a fan, and I’ve always sort of wanted to redo the show and have it more professionally edited and produced, and I always wanted those jokes to go away.
Now, me saying I wished the insensitive jokes didn’t exist doesn’t excuse them existing. But I also don’t quite get where the specific comments about homophobia and misogyny are coming from. First of all, none of us on the show were homophobic, as Mar Tovar, who played Paula, was gay and is now transgendered. I myself am not a straight person either, more generally “queer” than anything else. Of course, this doesn’t automatically make us more politically correct, it’s like saying “I’m not racist, I have black friends”. Generally speaking on these comments though, I just don’t think they’re correct. I’m not sure what is being interpreted as homophobic.
People are upset by our portrayal of Tony, who is a canonically gay character in EarthBound. They’re upset by how the character of Jeff treated Tony in the show. It can be said that our portrayal of Tony was fairly stereotypical and in that case it just isn’t very funny, but Jeff wasn’t a dick to Tony because Tony was gay. Jeff was a dick to Tony because Jeff was a sociopathic dick. Jeff’s reaction to Tony was never one of, “ew, gay”, it was one, very similar to Ness’s to Trisha (it’s literally the same joke), of uncomfortability of someone having a crush on you who is REALLY OVERENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT IT. This shit’s done all the time with a heterosexual perspective, we just did it with two male characters. The joke wasn’t that Tony was gay. It’s that Tony was annoying and overattached. And later the joke moreso became that they turned out to be RELATED and that Tony didn’t care and wanted to move away with Jeff to somewhere where siblings and cousins could get married. That wasn’t about him being gay, it was about him being a creepo. Again, it’s a stupid joke, but I really don’t think it was an overtly offensive one.
And on Paula’s portrayal being misogynistic, that I’m also fuzzy on. The whole goof was that Paula was voiced by a male at the time, so we just snuck little self-aware stabs in that regard. We weren’t making a statement about her personality being indicative of women or anything. Not every girl is a jerk who smokes cigarettes and murders people. Paula’s personality just came out of my own personal interpretation of the character when I was a kid. My first impression of the character is that she was kind of bossy because of how her dialogue was written, as a kid I didn’t quite get the tone Itoi was trying to put across. She had a very snarky tone to me, saying things like “You’re here to bust me out of here” or “Kick butt like I know you can!”. I now know what the writers were going for, but at the ripe age of SIX, she kinda came off as bossy to me initially. We just decided to run REALLY FAR with that approach because it was a funny way to approach such a nice girl originally.
That aside, I really think our Paula was a strong female character. She kicked ass! She didn’t sit around and talk about boys constantly, didn’t exist to service anyone but herself, and if anything, she is by far the most developed character out of the entire Chosen Four. The end of the series is basically all about her and her story tying up. She existed for goofs just like the rest, but she played more into the mythos of the whole world we built than any of the stupid gag dumbo boy characters we wrote. I’m actually quite fond of that. She’s a strong girl who can fight for herself, and she does. If the complaint is that we got a man to voice her, it was what Mar wanted from the very beginning. She’s always been a really feminine person and she wanted to play Paula and be a snarky jerko. Basically, chill, it was for silly goofs.
Now, I also must admit that it’s been a really long time since I’ve revisited Fobbies are Borange. That being said, since it has been so long, we’ve all matured a lot since then, and I’m sure all of us involved with the project have aspects about it we don’t like anymore. Again, I do think that there are insensitive jokes althroughout. For the actual insensitive comments we made, I am deeply sorry for them. I regret being a part of them as much as you are upset hearing them, as are the rest of the cast. But Tony being an insult to gay people and Jeff being homophobic, as well as Paula being a misogynist view on women, I really don’t think those hold.
If there are any stand-out lines you have that prove me otherwise, please message me them and you will have me stood corrected. I wouldn’t be marvelously surprised if there were a couple of jokes about them that were offensive, but at the least, do not misunderstand our intentions. We were dumb just-out-of-high-school dumbos who made some stupid jokes sometimes.
-Benjamin Carignan/Katon/sociopathic dick Jeff Andonuts