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PETA: Super Mario's a Monster!

Is dumping on a beloved videogame character — even jokingly — the best way to help the tanukis?

 

It appears that PETA is out of actual bad guys and has resorted to shaming made-up ones.

PETA has set its sights on the cheeky, Italian-via-Japan videogame character Mario — you know, of Super Mario fame — in a Nov. 14 PETA press release. The organization is lambasting the character because of his use of a tanuki “suit.” (It’s a pretty sweet and elusive power-up, as “Tanooki Mario” is able to fly and turn into a statue … for some reason.)

“Tanooki may be just a ‘suit’ in Mario games, but by wearing the skin of an animal, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur,” the press release said.

The press release also says that, “Tanukis are real-life raccoon dogs who are beaten and, as PETA's undercover exposés show, often skinned alive for their fur."

Oh boy ... I have some problems with this.

First, are we not remembering the good work that Mario did about 25 years ago in Super Mario Bros. 2? Are we forgetting that he, along with his brother, the Princess and Toad, saved all of those animals from the oppression of the malevolent dictator Wart? Sure, he had to step on some ostriches and kill some three-headed snakes along the way, but the end justified the means.

Also … are we forgetting that Mario is not real?

PETA’s criticism appears to be on the heels of the recent release of Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS. From the previews I’ve seen, Mario does wear the tanooki suit in the game.

The only reasonable explanation is that Mario hates raccoon dogs and has a penchant for fur.

Or … it could be that Nintendo is paying homage to the classic videogame Super Mario Bros. 3, which was released in 1990. This is the first game in which Mario donned the tanooki suit.

That game was one of my favorites as a kid. I remember camping out in the parking lot of Toys R Us on Aramingo Avenue in Bridesburg with my parents on the game’s release date, hoping to get a copy of the Nintendo game. After playing it, I had no desire to buy a fur coat any more than I had the desire to wear overalls, grow a moustache or eat flowers and mushrooms. Introducing the tanooki suit in 3D Land gives the game a cool retro factor; it’s a smart move, as older gamers, like me, might check out the game.

The press release makes no mention of the fact that Mario also wears a raccoon tail and ears and an entire “frog suit” in Mario 3. In fact, the press release doesn’t mention the 21-year-old video game at all.

Maybe PETA should print a very-relevant list of fur retailers that were in business 21 years ago.

The press release goes on to say that PETA is launching a “Mario Kills Tanooki” campaign. The campaign includes a rudimentary videogame in which a skinned tanuki chases a flying Mario — who is dripping with blood — through what appears to be hell. (Maybe to get its skin back?)

It’s actually pretty graphic and nasty as far as 2-dimensional side-scrolling video games go. It’s also really creepy and hard as hell.

The link for the game is here.

I understand that the press release is probably a joke. I also understand that mistreating animals is a problem  – and skinning tanukis sounds pretty terrible — but Mario wearing a tanuki suit isn’t tantamount to Nintendo saying fur is OK. And though it’s likely a joke, how much money and resources went into crafting a “Mario Kills Tanooki” campaign? 

If the oft-maligned PETA thinks skinning tunukis is a real problem, is creating a “joke campaign” really the way to spread the message?

Now excuse me, I’ve got a video game to dust off.

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