EDIT: (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:45 NZT) Hell Pizza’s webmaster has just remarked on their Facebook page: “We’ve taken what you and others have said onboard and realised we crossed the line with some of our biggest advocates. We apologise.” Thank you for taking responsibility, Hell Pizza.
EDIT (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:15 NZT): Hell Pizza Admits “Sense of Humour Failure“.
Hell Pizza is an international food chain that started here in Wellington, New Zealand in 1996. They’ve since expanded within NZ and brought stores to the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Korea. They’re no strangers to controversy. Entirely depending on your perspective, they’ve made some really shocking dick moves in the past, and pulled off some darkly satisfying campaigns as well.
But the following “Misfortune Cookie” stunt seems especially mean-spirited, even for them:
Photo by Tamsyn Clemerson
Tamsyn Clemerson uploaded the above picture to Teh Book ov Face earlier this weekend. She has since confirmed to me in email, and to NZ NEWSWIRE, that this is a “Misfortune Cookie” she ordered from the Hell Pizza franchise:
I bought [it] on the 26th of November. I just got around to opening the last one last night, 2 December, and that was the “misfortune” that I received. I resized the photo to post it online, but aside from that have not manipulated it at all. I still have the original packaging and the misfortune, though not the cookie as I ate it because it was delicious. Please spread this as much as possible, Hell Pizza need to know that this sort of thing is not okay.
I’ve since made some calls to Hell Pizza. Two days ago, I spoke at length with a Strathmore shop manager, as well as their Wellington division marketing manager. Both employees denied knowing anything about that particular message. The latter, a very professional and lovely fellow named Jason, assured me he’d look into it, and we should keep in touch. Today, he was able to confirm that yes, this is a product Hell Pizza sells, which was signed off on by their marketing department. Apparently, they’re already getting a lot of complaints about it. And they should. Jason tells me Hell Pizza is working on an official press statement which should be out shortly. I’ll update here when it does.
I’m hardly a humorless hardnose. But for many reasons, the thoughtlessness of a product like this, especially placed in context, really fucks me off. So here’s my open letter to Hell Pizza. If, like me, you’re weary of seeing at-risk minorities be treated as the butts of hateful “jokes” (and then often further insulted by “it’s just meant to be funny; lighten up” backlash reactions) please feel free share this letter, and to join me in boycotting irresponsible franchises who stoop to this level of pandering cruelty.
Dear Hell Pizza (NZ),
If you check your Strathmore location’s online order logs, you’ll see that I’ve spent several hundred dollars on your food over the past couple of years. I love it. I love YOU! I love how yummy your many dishes are. I love that you take chances. I love that you root for underdogs and outcasts. I love your creativity. I love that you hire inked up, pierced up people with funny-colored hair. I love that you’re so irreverent and cheeky, poking fun at overbearing religious traditions and obnoxious public figures. (Granted, those Hitler and “Brownies” billboards were bullshit, but you took ‘em down after enough people said “oh HELLS no”, and all was forgiven.)
Which makes this letter a bummer to write: I can’t buy your food anymore.
Photo by Tamyn Clemerson
Even though you’re my favorite delivery joint in New Zealand, I can’t support a business that would make such a nasty, schoolyard bully-level joke at the expense of transgender people. It’s one thing to poke fun at a spiritual or political idea. Quite another to openly sneer at/put down a very real, living and breathing, incredibly vulnerable demographic in this country. (In the world, really.)
Sure, on the one hand, I know that Hell Pizza’s “Misfortune Cookies” are a frivolity. On the other, no matter what angle I come at this from, there’s just nothing frivolous to me about a wildly popular, financially successful chain offering a product that claims that being transgender is somehow wrong or bad, or that being associated with a transgender person is a misfortune.
“It’s just a joke” doesn’t fly with me. Why? Maybe because I know that my gender variant friends in NZ face constant verbal, even physical abuse, for no reason other than their identity, and that some of them actively fear for their lives after being beaten to a pulp. Remember Diksy Jones? You think that was just a fluke? No. And to me, there’s nothing remotely funny about any of that.
Look, I know you’re not personally responsible for the sad, pathetic fact that there’s a lot of dumbass, booze-fueled, intolerant, horrifying machismo fuckhattery in the world. But transphobia IS a huge problem in New Zealand, and you ARE responsible for making the poor choice to reinforce it.
Boiled down to the basics:
You’re condoning ignorance and hate and turning a blind eye to violence with that stupid fortune cookie. It’s not scrappy, it’s not irreverent. It’s a strain of bigotry that’s as base and banal and mainstream as you could possibly get.
You’re not “edgy” anymore. You’re just hateful. You’re bullies. And I don’t buy from bullies, no matter how good their food is.
I’m gonna miss you, Hell Pizza. I remain hopeful that you will withdraw that fortune cookie, maybe even apologize for it, so that I can come back.
Sadly and sincerely,
Photo by Tamyn Clemerson