The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have never eschewed controversy in their pursuit of animal rights. Whether you agree or disagree with their stance, I have to say their latest action has left me a little stunned. Their target was not fur coat manufacturers, the meat industry or even the local McDonald’s. Strangely their latest quarrel is aimed squarely at everyone’s favourite plumber, and Nintendo’s mascot, Super Mario.
The group’s anger is aimed towards the plumber’s Tanooki suit, a power-up most gamers will be familiar with. Originally introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 way back in 1990, the Tanooki suit has been a favourite of Mario fans for over two decades.
With the launch of Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo decided to return the cult favourite to the series, which sparked hatred from PETA members almost immediately. In retaliation PETA have created their own Mario adventure, in which a skinless raccoon tries to get its fur back.
Now having played these games it has never crossed my mind, or most gamers I imagine, that Mario would have skinned a raccoon to obtain his power-up. I don’t think at the time of creation Nintendo gave it much thought either.
PETA aren’t the first group to point the finger at video games and I’m confident they won’t be the last. Over the years I’ve found myself shaking my head at countless news reports citing Grand Theft Auto as the reason behind various violent acts. As a gamer I’ve never felt the urge to go out and kill after playing a few rounds of Call of Duty and I certainly haven’t felt the need to skin a raccoon after an hour or two of playing Super Mario Bros. 3.
Attacking a cultural icon, such as Mario, was always going to cause controversy and has most definitely got people talking about PETA again but for all the wrong reasons. The vast majority of feedback from the campaign has been against PETA and for Nintendo. It is my opinion that although PETA’s goal was to get animal rights back in the media all they have done is generate more animosity towards themselves. Now that is a shame.