Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Shit, Mister Splashy Pants!

Mister Splashy Pants Icon

Let me tell you the story of a humpback whale.
Humpback whales singing
That's one right there.

Humpback whales are massive, beautiful creatures that sing a complex, twenty-minute-long-on-average song under the sea. They average around 50 goddamn feet long and weigh around 80,000 pounds, which is about the weight of something that will crush the life out of you. Like two semis stacked on top of each other.

They're also a favorite target of whalers, who hunted them right to the brink of extinction. 90% of humpback whales were wiped out in the 20th century, and the world didn't get its collective shit together enough to slow down the population's decline until 1966. Nowadays, Japan still seems to have a soft spot for humpback whale meat, and that makes a lot of people (and presumably whales) very unhappy.
Whale and calf killed by whalers
I hope you weren't planning to not be depressed today.

Case in point, Greenpeace. Being self-proclaimed tree-huggers, Greenpeace puts a lot of effort into shedding light on the whaling industry. Most of that effort is directed squarely at the tree-hugging choir and consequently gets precisely fuck-all accomplished. That was the direction one of their most successful campaigns was heading before the Internet stepped in and hijacked it.

In an effort to stop a specific whaling expedition, Greenpeace started tracking a specific humpback whale's movements and decided that it needed a name to humanize it. Names make us much more inclined to feel empathy for something. There was some debate over what to call the great mass of blubber, so Greenpeace took to the Web and held a poll.

Most of the names to choose from were predictably bland and intended to rope in the same diversity-loving, tree-hugging, hippie-dippie crowd that always supports Greenpeace movements: Aiko, Libertad, Aurora, etc. Very beatiful, very meaningful, and very likely to make anyone who isn't actively involved in the Green Party snort condescendingly.

But then there was Mister Splashy Pants. It was a joke entry in the poll, because surely no one would bestow a pedestrian name like Mister Splashy Pants upon a majestic creature like a humpback whale.
Apparently they were new to the Internet.

The Internet thought otherwise, and Mister Splashy Pants emerged as the victor in a landslide, garnering almost 70% of the votes. You see, some social media sites like 4chan, Reddit, Facebook, and BoingBoing got wind of the poll and decided to make a farce of the whole thing. Greenpeace was on the verge of putting the kibosh on the whole process, but when Mister Splashy Pants rose to 80% of the vote, they relented.

Mister Splashy Pants made headlines. People loved him. People who couldn't give two shits about whaling. Everyone. Because who names a whale Mister Splashy Pants? That's the dumbest, most awesome thing ever, right? Hell yes it is.

In fact, it was so ridiculous, and so awesome, that when Greenpeace got on board with the idea and started selling official Mister Splashy Pants merchandise with the slogan "Save Mister Splashy Pants" plastered all over it, people bought it. And people agreed. We loved Mister Splashy Pants, and we didn't want some asshole whalers murdering him.
Save Mr. Splashy Pants
I mean, look at him! What'd he ever do to you?

What could have been a fringe movement of zealous and well-meaning environmentalists became a massive outpouring of public support. Greenpeace's total loss of control of their marketing got the whaling expedition cancelled. What started almost as a way to make fun of Greenpeace ended up giving them one of the most profound victories in the history of their organization.

Holy shit.

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