Monster trucks and guns may not look like they have a lot in common, but they do. Besides the fact that many who enjoy monster trucks also enjoy shooting, that is.
You see, when I talk about the stigmatization of gun ownership, I’m talking about deep cultural issues that manifest themselves in very different ways. One way is when guns, even the images of them, are quietly pushed aside, like what’s happening with monster trucks.
When Monster Jam roars into Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, something will be missing from the enormous trucks— all images of guns.
There are still trucks with menacing names like Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction. But Slinger, formerly Gunslinger, was quietly redesigned in 2017 to turn the gun images on the truck to slingshots.
The gun turret from Soldier Fortune was removed that year. And the Metal Mulisha monster truck was redesigned to remove the image of a gun.
Ellenton-based Feld Entertainment is the producer of Monster Jam, Disney on Ice, Sesame Street Live and a host of other live family-oriented shows. It saw its share of protestors and controversy when it operated the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In an attempt to assuage animal rights protestors, Feld took elephants out of the circus in 2016. But attendance plunged, and the circus closed for good in 2017.
Feld declined to make executives available for an interview this week. Stephen Yaros, Feld’s senior vice president for global public relations, released a written statement.
“Monster Jam is a family-friendly brand with an international presence, and we are always innovating and evolving the intellectual property associated with our Monster Jam trucks,” Yaros said. “We represent over 50 different Monster Jam trucks and have a truck and design that is relatable to our wide range of fans and their interests.”
It’s a risk for companies like Feld to potentially alienate its fan base, said Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s why they were smart to make the change quietly, he said.
Except, they’re talking about it now.
Look, if the owners of these trucks decided to change the imagery for whatever reason, so be it. But Feld Entertainment’s involvement in that process represents yet another company making a political stance on the issue of guns.
Unlike Dick’s and Levi’s, this isn’t about a perception of making our communities safer. I disagree with what they’re doing and will fight them to my dying breath, but at least the argument could be made that they’re just doing what they think is right.
But Feld isn’t doing anything that will impact public safety.
Instead, they’re trying to make a subtle shift in our overriding culture. By removing the imagery of firearms, they’re trying to push them out of the public consciousness in any way not associated with crime and criminal activity. In a way, this is even more nefarious than clothing companies using a percentage of their profits to fund gun control.
At least gun control measures are a straight up fight, one we can win.
The idea of removing guns from the public’s minds except as instruments of evil is much, much more difficult.
This is the stigmatization of gun ownership on a different front, make no mistake.