Inspiration struck while I was engrossed in the latest episode of Bluey. In "The Decider" episode, Bluey and her friend has to choose allegiance between two sport teams favored by their dads and moms. This led me to embark on a creative journey to design a pair of t-shirts that captured the spirited rivalry. What I thought would be a straightforward process turned into an exploration of language, culture, and societal sensitivities, prompting me to question the evolving landscape of our society.
Designing the T-shirt
I decided I would create two fictional football, soccer to Americans, team uniforms. I created a logo for each team. I decided the shirt would come in different colors: black, blue, and pink. I found out what font Bluey uses, and selected the same font. And then I captioned it with the phrase "We're gonna flog ya" below the logo. This phrase, I discovered, is a common Australian phrase for people watching the football/rugby games when one or more people supporting their favorite team just to say that to the other people supporting the other team.
Researching the episode's nuances also revealed an intriguing twist: the term "flog" underwent a transformation in the US version to "beat." But I decided to remain faithful to the original phrasing, aligning with the show's roots, and kept the phrase as is.
With a mock-up of the t-shirt in hand, I excitedly shared my creation with my children. Their enthusiastic approval provided an initial stamp of validation. Buoyed by their response, I presented the design to my wife, who, unexpectedly, became very concerned.
My wife had concerns with the word "flog". Her reservations were rooted in its potential historical connotations, specifically concerning the context of slavery. Her concerns highlighted the broader implications of language choices, prompting me to delve deeper into the possible layers of interpretation surrounding the phrase.
A Plethora of Voices
Seeking a spectrum of viewpoints, I consulted my group of work ex-colleagues, who largely downplayed potential sensitivities, but recommend that I heed my wife's advice anyway, as it is always wise to do so; ask any husband and they'll agree.
I then reached out to an old college friend of mine. She is one of my most trusted friend who also happens to be African American. Our conversation revealed that while she didn't personally find the phrase offensive, she acknowledged its potential to be misconstrued by others. Her perspective underscored the intricacies of addressing cultural sensitivities while retaining the core of creative expression.
Censorship in Context
Delving deeper into my research, I stumbled upon an illuminating discovery: Disney had censored other Bluey episodes as well, due to sensitivity concerns. This newfound insight spotlighted the prevalent atmosphere of risk aversion and the ongoing dialogue surrounding creative expression and its reception.
Questioning the Landscape
In the wake of my t-shirt design odyssey, an overarching question emerges: have we become an over-sensitive society? Disney's selective alterations to Bluey episodes, combined with my own experience, invite us to scrutinize the interplay between cultural sensitivity and expressive freedom. Striving to respect diverse perspectives while preserving the core intention behind our words and designs demands a delicate equilibrium—one that challenges us to navigate a landscape where meaningful communication coexists with our evolving societal sensibilities.
In the end, I revised the caption to use the phrase "We're gonna beat ya!". Now that it's been changed, I honestly can say that it doesn't significantly detracts from the original spirit of the t-shirt. Since the shirt doesn't reference Bluey explicitly, it's one of those inside baseball thing. If you know, you know. And now you do.
You can find the final product here: