Why The London Dungeon's Valentine's Day Campaign Apology Isn't Good Enough
The Debrief: Clearly the London Dungeon didn't get the memo that we're now in the twenty first century
Here we are: it’s 2017, firmly in the twenty first century, and, yet, not everyone seems to have got the memo. The London Dungeon has been forced to apologise following a very misjudged Valentine’s Day social media campaign which has come back to bite them.
‘What on earth’, I hear you wonder, ‘could the London Dungeon, the least exciting tourist destination in our capital, have done to cause such indignation?’.
Well, the answer, of course, is that they ran a social media campaign for Valentine’s Day which was bloody sexist, glorified murder, made light of femicide and trivialised sexual violence against women.
Yes, that’s right. The London Dungeon seems to have hired someone from Breitbart to manage their social media strategy and, while they’re ‘very sorry’ for any offence caused by their overt sexism and misogyny, they don’t seem to realise where they went wrong.
Of the more controversial posts, which has now been deleted, read: ‘what’s the difference between your job and a dead prostitute? Your job still sucks!’. The London Dungeon also attempted a foray into giving Valentine’s advice. Their top tip? ‘If you want to live another day, don’t say this tonight’, they wrote, followed by a picture which said ‘wow, you should really wear makeup more often.’ It didn’t stop there guys, oh no. They also posted a series of explicitly fat-shaming memes.
‘Dark Valentine’, indeed. Except, it’s not funny and it’s not satirical. Why? Put simply: violence against women broadly and sex workers specifically are serious issues. So serious that they are, literally, deadly. Why would anyone in their right mind think that it’s appropriate to co-opt either of these issues into the marketing campaign for what is, essentially, a place that parents take young kids?
Clearly the London Dungeon’s PR team don’t check the news very often. According to the UN one in three women experience physical or sexual violence today, mostly at the hands of an intimate partner. The UN also estimates that of all the women who were the victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by either partners or family members. How many men suffered the same fate in the same year? Just six per cent. For sex workers, it goes without saying that the threat of violence is ever present.
So, how did it all begin? Well, The Debrief wasn’t there (thankfully) but, we’ll take an educated guess. Picture the scene: The London Dungeon’s social media team can see Valentine’s Day on the horizon. They’re wondering what they should do on Instagram and Twitter to let their followers know that they are #relevant. A brainstorm huddle is arranged. Ideas are thrown around, chins are stroked and brains are wracked.
Eventually, someone has a bright idea. ‘I’ve got it’ they shout to the group, ‘let’s do a “Dark Valentine’s Day” campaign that totally reflects our usual gallows humour…’ Some members of the team are a bit hesitant. ‘Do we need to do anything at all’ someone pipes up, ‘after all, people don’t really associate our brand with Valentine’s anyway and, you know, it’s not actually a real holiday it’s just a way of big corporations cashing in on the only authentic part of the human experience that we’ve got left.’ ‘Oh hush’ the bright spark replies, ‘this is genius. You just don’t understand me’. ‘Well’ the wokest member of the team says, ‘I’m a bit worried that some people might, you know, think this is a big inappropriate’. ‘Pffft’ everyone tuts. And, just like that, an outdatedly sexist marketing campaign was born in an airless, glass-walled meeting room.
It seems as though one of the central tenets of the London Dungeon’s idea was shock and awe, riffing on the pervasive cynicism that surrounds Valentine’s day and adding a heavy dose of morbidity.
The attraction has issued what can only be described as a half-hearted apology on Twitter, saying ‘we recognise that we’ve upset some people and for that we’re very sorry’.
We recognise that we’ve upset some people and for that we’re very sorry. pic.twitter.com/RW8d4VRC8D— The London Dungeon (@Dungeon_London) February 15, 2017
Clearly they don’t understand that the normalisation of violence against women is a serious issue. It’s exactly this sort of insidious misogyny that devalues women’s lives and sends a message that sexism is acceptable under the auspices of ‘banter’.
There’s nothing funny about the millions of women who experience sexual violence today just as there’s nothing amusing about the deaths of women who were murdered in the past, by Jack the Ripper and countless other men. They were denied respect and privacy in death, shouldn’t we afford them that now by sending the message that sexism and violence against women are never, ever acceptable?
In a statement, the PR manager for the London Dungeon told The Debrief:
‘We apologise that our social posts caused offence. Our ‘Dark Valentine’ campaign was a range of posts aimed to highlight the darker side of history and create debate and conversation. As a brand we strive to entertain our guests so they can enjoy the London Dungeon experience – both in our attraction and on social media. However, on this occasion we recognise that some of the topics many felt were inappropriate and therefore we apologise for any offence caused.’
‘Some of our brand communications is designed to startle and surprise, but in this instance we recognise we have overstepped the mark and upset people, and for that we are very sorry.’
The repeated use of ‘upset’ in their apologies implies that people have had an irrational emotive response to their campaign, when, in fact, it’s just outright inappropriate at best, thoughtless, carless and archaic at worst.
The Debrief verdict? Still not getting it. Back to class. Try harder next time.
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