One swift glance at the People of WalMart blog and I've got all the fodder I need to write this post. It's almost too easy to critique it. This site is an example of what happens when people fail to have class consciousness, folks. It's the kind of thing that happens when people either ignore or do not see the ways things like gender and race and geography intersect with poverty. It's what happens when someone fails to think through their idea to provide "satirical social commentary of the extraordinary sights found at America's favorite store" by posting pictures of "the most ridiculous and insanely disturbing people who call Walmart their home." Satirical social commentary the People of WalMart blog may be, but in this writer's opinion that commentary is more in explaining why three guys (and over 54,000 Facebook followers) think it's amusing to make fun of the working poor in the U.S.
So, let's consider their About Us page first. According to these dudes, the people deserving of our scorn "obviously don't have mirrors and/or family and friends to lock them in a basement." And who do they give as an example of someone who should be removed from public view? A "400lb mother of 6 wearing a pink tube top, leopard tights, and hooker heels." Uh-huh. So if you're a mother and/or fat and attempt to conform to MTV standards of fashion then you're officially worthy of ridicule. Pray tell, who else can we point a finger at and snicker? A man with "the greatest mullet of all time paired with a mustard stained wife beater (which only accents the extreme amount of body hair) and camo pants that were actually used in Vietnam." So, a poor war Veteran who is probably more worried about where this month's rent will come from than how he styles his hair and may not have a clean shirt to wear? This is getting better and better. One more try fellas: "the 6'2" bull-dyke with a shaved head, rockin a wonder bra, flannel cutoff shirt, and jean shorts." So, disparaging butch lesbians is funny too because, well, they're butch lesbians! Gotcha. The only group that is explicitly off limits are "people that are seriously and unfortunately handicapped." Well, at least these guys draw the line somewhere.
And now on to the pictures and this purportedly hilarious and biting social commentary. Aside from the numerous fat jokes, it's apparently also cool to insinuate a man is gay because he is wearing pink shorts. And we've never heard a woman in a skintight, short dress called a stripper before. Or a black man in a shiny blue costume called a pimp. You starting to recognize a pattern? Cuz I think this site is screaming something like "homophobic, sexist, racist, and uncreative to boot!" All this and the site has only been live for a week. Aren't you excited about what stereotypically cliché remarks will come next?
Listen, websites like these are nothing more than a demonstration of the anxieties people feel about their own social position. The site owners and participants dehumanize ("submit your Wal-Creature") those they seek to distance themselves from, and convey contempt for expressions of poverty in an attempt to reinforce their own "superior" position in the social hierarchy. While that may come across as fun and funny to the ones who are doing it, really, it's just a sad show of their own ignorance and prejudice. And that is worse than any sight one may find in WalMart.