Animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has turned its wrath on classic video-game character Mario, who wears a Tanooki raccoon suit in Nintendo’s new 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land.
The day after the game was released, PETA responded with an online campaign entitled “Mario Kills Tanooki.” The campaign features a basic yet effective Nintendo-style game where the player is empowered as the skinned raccoon to chase the fur-wearing Mario. The site states, “When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy – even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers…By wearing tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.”
The Tanooki suit first appeared in NES’s Super Mario 3 as one of a host of costumes that confer various powers on the wearer. The first incarnation of the raccoon suit did not cover Mario’s whole body, but was just a tail and a pair of ears, and gave him the ability to fly. His latest Tanooki suit is full-body and bears much more of a resemblance to actual animal fur.
Video game powerhouse Nintendo responded to PETA’s allegations in a statement to Eurogamer: “Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games…These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play. The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves.”
Controversy around violence and disturbing behavior in video games is nothing new, but PETA seems to be taking it a bit too far in this instance. Mario is a plumber, and has never been seen hunting or even shooting a gun (which probably puts him in the minority among video game characters), much less slaughtering a raccoon. The suit in question appears from a square box that hovers over him in the air. In fact, nothing about the game is particularly realistic, from one-ups to Koopa shells that turn into coins, so it’s hard to take seriously the claim that Mario is cruel to animals.
PETA is very adept at making a stir over events in the cultural zeitgeist in order to draw attention to their cause. Throughout their 30-year existence, they have launched protests against entities as varied as the TV show Survivor, the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. This is not their first foray into video games: last year they released “Super Tofu Boy,” as a retort to the indie game Super Meat Boy.
But for an organization that shows so much concern about the pro-fur message this video game is presumably sending to children who play it, they are not exactly family-friendly in their own tactics. In September PETA announced that they were launching a soft porn .xxx website to promote animal rights and vegan lifestyles.
In reality, Tanukis are raccoon dogs that are indigenous to Asia and well-known in Japanese culture. The fur trade has decimated their ranks, and their plight is indeed an important one. But chasing down fur wearers in video games is a waste of time that distracts from the seriousness of the problem.
What’s next – the DEA coming after Ms. Pac-Man for eating too many of her energizing dots? Or the Highway Patrol issuing a citation to Frogger for dangerous driving?