Don’t call me Freakface

Mind Candy is a very successful multi-million pound British business making online games and toys. Its Moshi Monsters are played by 70m children worldwide. And you would think, wouldn’t you, that as a very modern company, it would adopt 21st Century values with relish and without hesitation?

You’d be wrong. Mind Candy is stuck in the middle ages.

Ever since last May, Changing Faces has been trying to persuade the company to revise its characterisation of its ‘bad’ Monsters. In early May, I wrote to their founder and CEO, Michael Acton Smith as follows:

Our attention has been drawn in the last 24 hours to some of the characters in your Moshi Monsters ‘series’ especially those in the Glumps family some of whom have faces, names and characters that are decidedly stereotypical and unhelpful to anyone with a disfigurement. You may be aware of a blogger, Victoria Wright, who is one of our champions and who has written very powerfully about this: http://www.victoriawright.net/view_blog.php?id=20

Victoria’s blog is just one of many stories that we hear every day about how our culture affects people’s lives and I’d be very keen to see if there is a way in which you at Mind Candy could work with us to tackle this issue…

His response was a stone wall. “No chance of change except, perhaps, if we create new characters” sums it up.

I am not easily blocked by a stone wall so I persisted. We met a woman from their Corporate Social Responsibility team. She listened carefully as we explained why characters with names like Freakface, Fish Lips and Bruiser put children with unusual faces at risk and were stereotypes that need to be consigned to history.

Phrases like “Bruiser’s scarred skin makes for a scary sight” do nothing to enable children with scarred skin (after burns, for example) to be included and respected by their peers.

But it had no effect. Eventually, after chasing, we got this:

Again, we are sorry to hear that any offence has been caused by any of our characters. Moshi Monsters is an imaginary world with 100s of varied characters of different shapes, sizes and origins. We work very hard to create enthralling story lines that engage and inspire kids and this includes a variety of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. We’re not alone. Many other children’s entertainment characters, from Disney to Marvel have featured characters that represent both good and bad. These have captivated children with exciting narratives over the years and are the essence of good storytelling.

As our name would imply, our characters are all ‘Monsters’ and there are many that have characteristics similar to the Glumps and are portrayed in a very positive light, (including some of our most popular characters, Zommer, Big Bad Bill and Gingersnap).

It is unfortunate that we have not been able to find a resolution that is to your satisfaction.

Wishing you all the best…

It is a weak argument. Of course, children’s thoughts and actions are influenced (unwittingly) by the imaginary worlds in which they play, the books they read and the films and visual images they are exposed to. I grew up in the 50s and 60s and know that I swallowed racial prejudice without questioning.

There is absolutely no justification for today’s toy and games makers to be perpetuating outdated facial prejudice and legitimate offensive name-calling based on people’s appearance. Actions not appearance make a person or character evil.

So today, with Anti-Bullying Week in full swing, the charity has launched the “Don’t call me Freakface” campaign which aims to get Mind Candy to:

  1. Change the names of the Moshi characters called Freakface, Fish Lips and Bruiser
  2. Stop referring to scars, spots, missing features and unusual faces as ugly, evil, scary sight, angry etc.

Please would you support the campaign by taking at least one of the following actions:

If you tweet, please tweet @mindcandy, @acton and @moshimonsters using thehashtag #freakface and a phrase like “I have acne, facial scars or other or my friend, spouse, partner, daughter has… Don’t call me/her/him #freakface”.

If you email, please email your views to info@mindcandy.com with a message that includes:

Please take the following actions:

  • Change the name of Freakface, Bruiser and Fishlips as these are common terms of abuse for people like me (my child)
  • Please remove all descriptions of the Glumps which refer to scars, spots, one eyes, snuggle teeth, face like a squished blueberry, mouths that can’t close, as being evil, scary, monstrous, angry, scarface smashes etc.

Actions not appearance make a person or character evil.

If you agree, please sign our petition.

I hope you will give this campaign your support.

It is time for the way we think, write, film and talk about unusual faces to be imbued with the 21st century values of inclusion, equality and above all, respect.

Thank you.

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