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Everyday Ethics

“A whole website just to laugh at discount shoppers?” you
scoff? 

Why, yes. Apparently, so.

I decided I had to run a mention of the site, PeopleOfWalmart.com, after a commenter
on our own blog said: “Has anyone ever noticed this sort of thing always
happens at Wal-Mart?” in referring to the story of a man
who slapped a stranger’s crying toddler
.

Without commenting personally on the megastore’s clientele –
there isn’t a Wal-Mart where I live so I don’t get to tour one regularly – I’ll
just tell you that on the site, you can view, in the site’s own words, pictures
of “400lb mothers of 6 wearing a pink tube top, leopard tights, and hooker
heels…” and they urge you to be on the lookout for 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.”

The site goes on to say it’s only for entertainment purposes
(rilly???) and that they don’t want you to be an “a*hole” and post photos of “seriously handicapped people.” In
other words, they are all about the good,
clean fun here
. They even,
oddly, offer a “charity of
the month” page
(perhaps to offset their tackier moments?)

Like Mullethunters and gofugyourself (and many other sites that cater to people’s WTF moments), the site is all about shock value. It’s also about the assumptions we make about other people based on their clothing, economic status, weight, hair, etc. We get a feeling of moral superiority out of pointing a finger at others and saying, “thank goodness I’m not that fella.”

But here’s the thing. While I feel like it’s rotten to publicly mock people (especially if they didn’t give consent), I think at some point one has to have a sense of humor. Absurd is absurd, and a guy in a Speedo carrying a goat in one arm and a shovel in the other definitely deserves a double-take. Whether that second look gets posted to the internet is another question. The creators of People of Walmart claim the site was only meant for them and their friends, but then it went viral, and the rest was history.

Is People Of Walmart funny? That’s up to you to decide. I went on the site, and, to me, it seemed kind of half-hearted at best, in a “you-had-to-be-there” kinda way. I did think the photo captions were mean-spirited and generally low, though I was heartened to see the site’s creators claiming “any picture submitted must have the full consent of the person(s) in the picture and the person(s) must be over the age of 18.”  Whether they actually bother to check any of that is highly dubious, but I suppose anything’s possible.

The overarching question here – if you can call it that – is: Are sites like these lighthearted fun, or petty-minded people picking on their peers? (Say that one three times fast!)

More plainly: What’s funny, and what’s simply cruel?


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