Sunday, October 21, 2012

Battle Bears: game firm hits paydirt selling thinly disguised homophobia to preteen boys; 19 million downloads; TV show, toys, action figures in works

Also: Paul Ryan in Iowa — football pandering, a big Keystone XL lie, and some snark for a Cub Scout.

Wednesday: Iowa Family leader candidate doesn't want to talk about his homophobic college appearance.

This contemptible game has blown up since its August release, now closing in on 20,000,000 downloads to mostly preteen boys. Since many of the install­ments in the Battle Bears series are free, in-game advertising accounts for half the revenue of the company, SkyVu Entertainment — for now.
     But soon the not-so-subtle antigay subtext of the game will be rewiring the brains of young boys on children's TV too, with action figures and toys not far behind. Hey GLAAD, did you forget to set your alarm clock?

SkyVu Entertainment facebook page shows
a happy employee sporting a shirt depicting
one of the company's pink bear villains with
its head shot off and spewing rainbow guts.

Here's how the game works, according to Friday's Omaha World-Herald:
Battle Bears is the story of a band of teddy-bear soldiers that roams the galaxy on a quest to rid it of danger — most notably Huggables. Bright pink and cuddly on the outside, Huggables just want to smother your character — literally — with love.
      When Huggables are shot with any of the wide array of Battle Bears weapons, they burst forth with rainbows rather than blood.

Tricia Duryee, in All Things Digital:
Michael Polis, the president of Wildbrain said, “Between its built-in fan base and the expandable universe that lends itself to consumer products and character-driven extensions, Battle Bears has the potential to become the next big boys action comedy brand.”
     The TV show’s plot is expected to follow the lives of six Battle Bears as they travel to a remote pink planet. The bears soon learn that the planet is home to some of the galaxy’s most dangerous threats. The bears will have to use their skills to save the day.
Last Spring, Omaha's AIM Institute gave company cofounder and CEO Ben Vu its "Technology Innovator of the Year" award. (What's next? Trophies from NOM and the FRC?)
     In August, SkyVu announced a second round of seed capital with Lightbank leading the way. NextView Ventures of Boston, Great Oaks Venture Capital of New York, Michael Chang (the former CEO of Greystripe), and the Nebraska Angels also participated in the round.

Here's some adulatory coverage from earlier this year by Channel 6, the Omaha NBC affiliate of Gray Television of Atlanta, which evasively explained that when you waste a pink bear, "colored stuffing" comes out.

Below is an uncritical profile of SkyVu Entertainment in Friday's Omaha World-Herald Money section featuring a grinning Vu holding toy incarnations of his pink bear villains while applying a little dynamic tension to the rainbow sash attached to the neck of one of them. What a cutup.


  1. As a gay man, and a videogame developer, I´m not so sure I see a clear connection between the game´s goals and homophobia. Why are the bears gay in your mind?

    I could see the argument it's teaching boys that hugging and signs of affection are un-masculine, which isn't a very good message, but I'm not connecting the dots between pink huggy bear and me as a gay man. The rainbow has another connection to cute bears, anyone remember the care bears?

  2. I'm drawing a pretty straight line from the namby pamby pink bears in the 2nd video who seem smitten by the studly Battle Bear, smilng, wagging their tongues salaciously, moving in on him, and then the even more graphic diversion of the mutated bear who sprouts several(!) appendages in his "bathing suit area," after which the game cuts to "Fight!" — (Gay panic!) In the first video, wasting the boundary-invading pink bears reveals their (lethal) true rainbow colors. I don't think seeing all this is reading too much between the lines of what appears to be a pretty straightforward and provocative subtext of homophobia. I think Ben Vu knows exactly what he's doing and I don't much like it.

    1. You are drawing a straight line because it is you who harbors homophobia. You see gay men not as men, but as "queer" and as part of a singular "people" with transsexuals and crossdressers. That used to be called homophobic stereotyping, but now that it has been dressed up in progressive language, folks like you have embraced it. That is why, when you see ridiculous pink bears, you think "that's so gay."

      Homophobia is curable, Askarbent.

    2. What fascinating reasoning:

      1) I see some men as queer, so I don't think they're men,
      2) Crossdressers aren't men either, because you conflate them with transsexuals,
      3) In your world, I evidently approve of the projection of homosexuality on pink bears, embrace it, and think "that's so gay" because LGBT people have been dressed up as a singular group by progressives and Folks Like Me, and... Oh, never mind.

      I do agree with you that homophobia is curable.

      Thank you writing, I suppose.

    3. 1. No, it is not that you see "some men" as queer, it is that you see gay men as queer.

      2. If you object to conflating crossdressers with transsexuals, take that objection up with whatever ideological hack dreamed up the umbrella term transgender, because that is the concept that conflates the two groups. To that term are added LGBs, who are overwhelmingly neither crossdressers nor transsexuals. Thus, we have a thoroughly dishonest term which conflates multiple discrete groups and falsely calls them a "people." Yet you breezily use that term in your blog and in your comment above without a second thought. Not that I would ever expect you to actually think about the terms you use on your own blog, of course . . .

      3. Your own post above shows that you see the depiction of cloying, overly emotional, pink teddy bears as a stand-in for gay people. You are the one doing the projection here, not the creators of this show. You hypocritically denounce the very thing that your mind created. And at the same time, you embrace homophobic stereotypes, so long as they are dressed up as "LGBT" activism.

      You seem like a smart guy. You should give a little thought about the assumptions you hold about gay men and the language you use to describe them.

    4. <"a thoroughly dishonest term which conflates multiple discrete groups and falsely calls them a "people."

      >Gosh, are you referring to that LGBT community so often seen together in certain bars, beaches, cruises, rodeos and parades? Shame on reality for conflating such discrete groups and for not putting them into the separate buckets of an new ordered mind!

      <"whatever ideological hack dreamed up the umbrella term transgender, because that is the concept that conflates the two groups."

      >Cross dressers are not considered to be transgendered people except, apparently, by you. Um, clothes and anatomy are, like, separate, y'know? Most male cross dressers are straight, with nontransgendered sex lives — to the great relief of their often otherwise-nonplussed wives and girlfriends, I'm sure.

  3. As a gay man I never thought I'd say this, but: They're trying to brainwash and convert kids to the anti-homosexual lifestyle.

  4. Personally, I'm gay and have never been offended by this game. If anything I've found some of the early cut scenes to be funny and it to be a challenge to survive.

    Teddy bears are supposed to be cute and cuddly, so pink works for that. The rainbow blood to me is about as homophobic as a clown barfing a rainbow into a toilet.

    As for the "gay panic" to the mutated teddy bear. It was a big tentical monster, and if you look closely at those phallus looking tentical things around it's nether region, they turn out to be an udder (not penises). So, not so much "gay panic" as "oh god, a giant mutated thing is coming at me".

  5. Sorry but pink and effeminate is not the same as gay. Same-sex orientation is not the same think as girly or pink. I am not offended.

  6. Sorry, but I'd only see a problem with this game if the Battle Bears were killing other bears that were clearly male and engaging in sexual activity with each other. Pink is not gay. Cute is not gay. Rainbows are not gay. Yes, all this symbology has been embraced by many in the LGBT community. But, in general, this game is just an example of playing into and promoting socially constructed gender roles. Boys should not like pink and rainbows and love and hugs because that stuff is girly. Rather, they should like guns and violence. This game makes that as unsubtle as possible, but if you have a problem with that message then you'll have to color most children's toys with the homophobia brush.

  7. Looks plainly homophobic to me.

    What if the pink bears were all black, wanted to stuff you full of soul food, and exploded with red, green, and black "colored stuffing" when you killed them? Would anyone be arguing that it isn't racist?

    This might fly in the (cr)app world, but they will have to change it if they hope to get it on TV or into theaters.

  8. I don't like it much (what's the cachet on destroying the weak and the unarmed? The harmless and soft: why don't they fight an enemy that's actually going to put up a fight?) but if anything , the game-makers should be sued by Hasbro (was is Hasbro?) who are clearly the owners of the copyright on the awful CareBears of the 1980s, which is OBVIOUSLY what these 'Huggables' are based on. The Care Bears weren't gay, any more than My Little Pony or Teddy Ruxpin or teh Sylvanian Families: they were just uber-wet and plastickally sentimental.

  9. It's not so much about homosexuality as about enforcing corporate gender roles that define girls and gay boys as pink and feminine, weak and passive, sentimental and dripping with false emotions, and boys and real men as blue and green, harsh and masculine, murderously aggressive, active and emotionally cold.

    It's just as bad for both groups.

  10. You know what's not very masculine? Schlumpy overweight young men who should be living through the absolute prime of their youth, lolling in recliners eating garbage and designing and playing games based on children's cartoons from their own babyhoods.

  11. As a gay man, and an avid gamer, I don't find this at all homophobic. The game is definitely anti-femininity, but that's only homophobic if you consider all gay men to be inherently feminine, and I, frankly, don't. If you want to have a discussion about how this game will teach pre-teens to be violent towards anyone with a love of Lisa Frank, then sure, we can have that discussion. But to assume that the bears are gay because they're all cute and pink is, honestly, I think a little homophobic on your part.

    Plus, if we're basing our opinions on steretypes, you could argue that this game would be very pro-lesbian.