New mural at Orbit DVD is offensive

I enjoy all the new murals being created around our city. But I take offense to a new mural on the side of Orbit DVD at 781 Haywood Road in West Asheville. The mural features a young woman on all fours in a suggestive pose. Next to her is a three-toed sloth on top of a television set.

The objectification of a young woman was disappointing enough, but what really puzzled me was theĀ  juxtaposition of the sloth. My background in art history prompted me do a little online research to determine if there existed any symbology associated with the image of a sloth.

To my horror, I discovered a popular online meme called the “rape sloth.” Graphics for this meme usually feature a sloth in a naked woman’s arms, whispering in her ear. The captions in most variations of this meme advocate rape in some manner. In one version, the sloth whispers, “Psst…you [sic] gonna get raped.” This is one of the tamer captions I encountered! (Source: knowyourmeme.com/memes/rape-sloth)

Even if we give the mural artist the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had no knowledge of the “rape sloth” meme when he included the sloth in his composition, we now know what the combination of the sloth and the young woman insinuates. I urge Orbit DVD to remove this mural without delay. I doubt Orbit wants to give the impression that it endorses the trivialization of rape.

David Lynch

Asheville

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4 thoughts on “New mural at Orbit DVD is offensive

  1. bsummers

    I have to say that this mural creeped me out too, even without the extra-weird aspect of the sloth. The exaggerated anatomy of a girl on her knees, done in a cartoonishly sexual style… I just felt it was oddly inappropriate for the side of a building on a major thoroughfare. Objectification of women is a serious issue, and this ‘truckers mud flap’ of a painting just grosses me out. Really? What’s the point of it, other than titillation?

    And then when one hears this ‘rape-sloth’ connotation – I have to ask: Why a sloth? Seems pretty random, yet very specific at the same time. I have not heard an explanation from the artist as to why he chose to put that particular animal in this painting, nose to nose with a pretty young girl, in the same way as those despicable ‘rape-sloth’ images.

    Anyway as I said, it’s mainly the sort-of adolescent objectification of a young woman, blown up to 10 feet across, that creeps me out. In the WLOS story about this last week, they interviewed a mechanic in the auto shop across the street. His first reaction to the mural? “I thought, what is this – porn?!? Hyuck hyuck hyuck…” I think that’s the initial reaction that many people will have to this huge, cartoonish, sexualized image on a busy street.

    I’m not a prude. As an student at the Art Institute of Chicago, during the NEA-censorship frenzy of the late 80s, I helped organize demonstrations supporting controversial artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Karen Finley. There’s a place for art that’s playfully sexual, even art with connotations of violence – those are human themes that can be OK to explore, in the appropriate place. But IMHO, the appropriate place is not out on the side of a DVD store – that sadly, I used to enjoy patronizing.

    I don’t think the owner knew what he was getting when he turned this window over to this painter. I hope he comes to realize that it’s not putting a great impression of his business out there.

  2. starsong

    Thank you both for your thoughts on this matter. I also find the mural both suggestive and disturbing. Even more disturbing was a comment stream about the mural on a community Facebook page. When a few (female) members expressed displeasure with the mural, they were met with derogatory comments about everything from their children to their sex lives and characters. But at the same time the bulk of the members said they couldn’t see anything suggestive or sexual about the mural, and the women who did see those things must be “sick.” This denial of the obvious nature of the artwork and violence in words directed toward anyone who saw it differently was disturbing.

    I think that artwork, even public artwork, can convey both men and women in all aspects of their humanity, including sexuality. But when a public piece of artwork, on a business whose clientele includes children, objectifies women in such a demeaning way, it crosses a line. I don’t want daughters to think that this mural is how men see them, and I don’t want sons to think this is how they should view women. I have cancelled my Orbit membership, and I know many folks in West Asheville who have done the same.

  3. think critically

    Thanks, David, for the research that sheds light on the meaning of the mural. And Barry, for explaining why the removal of this offensive piece is an appropriate request, not prudish censorship. I’m also not a prude by any means, but there is an appropriate time and place for things. Besides being the wrong place for this “art, ” it is hardly the time, what with the new war on women that is taking place. I look forward to seeing how the owner of Orbit reacts to the information that David has provided.

  4. Thanks barry, starsong and think critically for your comments. If this mural was in a gallery where people could choose whether or not they wish to see it, I doubt I would go see the work, but I would defend its right to exist. I understand that artistic expression takes many forms and I appreciate that. I also know that sometimes the line between art and pornography is a blurry one. But when art approaches that blurry demarcation, I think it’s appropriate that the artwork is not displayed in a public venue.

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