SOAPBOX TNT // Does Size Really Matter?

TONY: Well, that was wholly unexpected…

(Tati is poking at a socket with a screwdriver.)

TATI: Yes, fuck a duck with a Christmas tree!

TONY: Erm, no. I’d rather not, thanks. I’m still recovering from the naughty video you sent me.

TATI: What naughty video? Stop babbling, Tony! It’s a children’s television series! It’s aimed at four to eight year olds!

TONY: John the penis man? I don’t recall television ever being like that when I was growing up!

TATI: Oh, of course. Your sweet childhood when the trees were tall and green, and men were supposed to fix things in the house! How on Earth did you manage to break this, Tony?

TONY: I dunno. I just plugged my PS4 in and the socket kind of died… a bit.

TATI: PS4? I thought you had ordered a PS5… Oh. Was that the real reason, huh?

TONY: Tati, this is not Teti-à-Tête. This is a different feature. So let’s stop playing dickheads and just have a good, adult discussion here, eh?

TATI: Oh, really? Well… okay, let’s. Have you already posted the link to the video you’re so outraged by? Are our dearest readers aware of what we’re talking about?

TONY: You’re right. Just a moment…

TONY: There you go. All they have to do is click on that image. Oh, and if I’m honest, I’m not outraged by this at all. If anything, I’m just a bit speechless. What can you say about a children’s show that features a man with a prehensile penis?

TATI: It’s we, the perverted adults, that highlight certain parts of our bodies over others for shaming. Don’t you feel so?

TONY: That’s true. You don’t see a very young child reaching for a fig leaf out of a sense of modesty, do you? It’s usually only adults that get shocked over this kind of thing.

TATI: Firstly, shall we give some background for our readers, Tony?

TONY: Well, again I would encourage them to click the image above if they haven’t already done so. And as for what it is, it’s the first season of a Danish stop motion animated series aimed at young children. It features an adult male who wears what appears to be a striped bathing costume, and has a long, posable penis. (God. How many times am I going to say the word ‘penis’ in this conversation?)

TATI: You forgot to mention that it was developed together with a child psychologist—and other professionals—who reviewed the scripts to ensure that children wouldn’t misinterpret what they saw.

TONY: That’s the part that troubles me slightly. There will always be at least one child who interprets what they’re seeing in this show in a way that the experts won’t want them to. But then… what would an incorrect interpretation even look like?

TATI: Okay, while I’m thinking about a smart reply, just give me your professional opinion. I believe you previously studied animation at university, yes? Do you think this show is technically well made? Or is it trash?

TONY: I think it works well enough for the stories that the creators want to tell. It’s stop motion animation with what appears to be a mixture of cut outs and some claymation figures—I can’t quite tell. But the overall art style works because it seems to be designed to look like a toy set that a very young child might play with. Everything moves in a slightly clunky and limited way, but again this might be to enhance the whole visual aesthetic they’re aiming for. I believe this show very much appeals to quite a large younger demographic, so they must be doing something right.

TATI: So, do you feel it was really made for children? Or, rather, is it a cynical move where they’ve realised that it will be discussed by a wide adult audience? Is it a way to generate some ‘hype’?

TONY: For publicity you mean? Sure, that’s certainly a possibility. Having the main character be an adult with a… well, ‘versatile’ penis… and it’s a children’s show? That’s bound to generate a lot of discussion at the very least. Outrage even. I can imagine that many parents wouldn’t want their children to view such content, but the more attention they draw to it then the more success it is likely to enjoy.

TATI: Would you allow your children to view the show?

TONY: In a way, I’m kinda glad I don’t have children. Can you imagine having to decide whether or not it’s okay for them to watch something like this? On the one hand, I don’t want them to grow up being ashamed of their bodies, so I can see how watching this show could help them to laugh at the beautiful absurdity of the human anatomy. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to inadvertently expose them to something that could be considered wildly inappropriate. It’s a tough call to make. Would you allow your children to view ‘John Dillermand’?

TATI: Well, like you I can only theorise this. I believe our dearest readers who have children and grandchildren will give us much more reasonable pros and cons. As for me… hell, yes. I would allow them to view it. Though I am surprised that they don’t have something like a warning or disclaimer at the beginning of each episode. Even the most silly videos where people do something completely idiotic include ‘performed by professionals’ and ‘don’t try this at home’. But why don’t they explain to children that poking a penis into a lion’s cage can be rather dangerous? Or touching a bare wire? Everything looks like mere fun here.

TONY: Yes, I take your point. Mere fun with no consequences. And, actually, when you think about it, it’s a wonder that you and I didn’t immediately perish from our own stupid mistakes when we were growing up. We were children in an era that had no warning labels for anything, so we had to learn stuff the hard way!

TATI: Do you mean that it makes no sense to warn children about danger? They will do it anyway?

TONY: I expect children will do what they do anyway. I mean, we did, right? Of course, this doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t fulfill their role as caretakers, but perhaps some of the most indelible life lessons that children learn can only be done through personal adversity.

TATI: Anyway, I think there are no right or wrong answers here. Let’s try to sum this up and then our readers can add anything if they want. Do you personally say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to such TV shows?

TONY: There’s no point me saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a show that already exists without my say so. All I really can do is raise my hypothetical children as best as I possibly can, which would include gently guiding them in their viewing choices. And, on second thought, I think I’m probably leaning more towards your earlier response. I would allow them to watch at least one episode of this, and hopefully their reaction would clue me in on whether or not they should watch any more. There you go. That’s my long-winded answer to your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question!

TATI: Okey-dokey, Tony. I think the socket is fixed now. How about we watch one more episode?

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

BUT IS IT ART? // Stheno

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TATI: It looks like you’re obsessed with Gorgons, Tony.

TONY: Only insofar as they’re fun to draw. Especially this one!

TATI: Yes, I saw you had a lot of fun with this. Is this a man or a woman, by the way?

TONY: A woman. Stheno was the oldest of the three Gorgon sisters. She was immortal too.

TATI: Hmmm… so, it’s not a bunch of penises here…

TONY: Nope. Just a bunch of pubic snakes that would be very unfriendly to one if it ever got close.

TATI: Now it’s getting interesting, Tony! So, do you have a theory about Gorgon physiology? Every hair is a snake? Not only the hair on their heads?

TONY: Exactly. Everywhere there would usually be hair, are snakes instead. So, it stands to reason they wouldn’t have any form of hair removal. No Brazilian wax for Stheno!

TATI: I had hoped for this answer, Tony. Now I’m going to have fun!

TONY: That sounds… ominous.

TATI: Hee hee hee…

TONY: Now you’re scaring me.

TATI: Question number one. Her brows. Where are the snakes?

TONY: Oh, she plucked them.

TATI: Plucked? But plucking doesn’t get rid of all the hair. It only makes the brow a different shape, or thinner. There would still be snake heads there.

TONY: Okay, then Gorgons don’t have eyebrows.

TATI: But I see them on your drawing!

TONY: Oh, shit. Erm… Those are cosmetic tattoos!

TATI: And what about the lack of armpit hair?

TONY: Laser hair removal!

TATI: But moments ago you said something about no Brazilian wax for Stheno!

TONY: Next question!

TATI: Hm. Okay. Your wish is my command. What kind of black liquid is that dripping around her feet?

TONY: That’s blood from a… well, penis. It got too close. Can you see it lying there in the middle?

TATI: Oh, so this blob is a penis? I was sure it was her reflection in the water. Or a part of her left leg. I dunno.

TONY: Nope. It’s a penis. A willy. Man’s bouncy ball buddy. A one-eyed wonder weasel. Hitler’s salute. A salty pube kebab.

TATI: Okay, you can stop phallomorphologising, Tony. I got it. It’s a penis.

TONY: Well, I didn’t want there to be any ambiguity.

TATI: Where’s the head?

TONY: Erm. What?

TATI: The head, Tony! The man’s head! His noggin. Pate. Bean. Dome.

TONY: Oh! I thought you were still referring to the penis!

TATI: Sigh. It’s plain to see where your thinking centre is located. I’m referring to the upper part of the human body that (usually) contains the brain.

TONY: Are you saying that there should be a man’s severed head at Stheno’s feet?

TATI: Of course! Let’s speak sense, shall we?

TONY: Well, I could have put one there, but I felt that a severed penis would be a more powerful statement of her independence and ferocity.

TATI: But a man approaches Stheno with an obvious intent to copulate. (I don’t comment on his taste though. They say never speak ill of the dead.)

TONY: Perhaps he was attracted to thickset women with unmanageable hair? I don’t know!

TATI: Obviously, his head was equally as close and important a target as his penis. Agreed?

TONY: Well, yeah! What’s your point? Are you saying I should have drawn a severed head instead of a severed penis?

TATI: No. I’m just trying to be logical. At the same time Stheno’s lower serpentry was busy with his penis, her higher serpentry would have been busy with his head. But, for some strange reason, the snakes on her head look clean and pretty relaxed. Do they have a different attitude toward men?

TONY: Maybe her ‘higher serpentry’ was tied up in a neat little bun at the time? I don’t bloody know! I just drew the damn thing. I didn’t think too much about the logic of it all!

TATI: It’s evident that you didn’t think at all, Mr Artist. Let me tell you how it should loo—

TONY: Oh. Fucking goody.

TATI: The serpents on her head should be dripping with blood also, and the man’s severed head should be laying somewhere around.

TONY: Somewhere around, huh? What if it’s just out of shot? Did you think of that? Huh? Did ya?!

TATI: Of course! Her posture, actually, can point to the possibility that she has just kicked the head off his shoulders—like a soccer ball—and her happy expression can mean that she scored a goal.

TONY: See? I didn’t need to draw a man’s severed head after all. There’s a perfectly legitimate story behind its absence.

TATI: Well, I’ve just explained it, Tony. What would you do without me? Those angry art critics would tear you apart with their tricky questions!

TONY: Really though? It’s not like they’re even paying any attention.

TATI: Yes, they are! And we need to invent an explanation of why the snakes on Stheno’s head are clean. Only then will I allow you to post this picture on your Instagram.

TONY: Oh, I’m sorry, your highness. I didn’t realise I needed your permission!

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019