Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Limits of Good Taste and Knowing When to Pack It In - Part I


Now, when I'm talking about good taste, I'm not talking about the difference between fine wine and PBR drinkers or whether or not someone likes Citizen Kane. I'm talking directly to the idea that we should take care when we're painting our little toy soldiers to avoid offending people, being crude and/or creepy. An important component of my narrow definition of good taste is knowing when to not pursue or stop pursuing a bad idea in progress.

I am also not talking about armies that are silly or stupid. They may still be bad ideas, but they don’t offend anyone. Bad paint jobs, unfortunate color choices and even joke armies fall within the limits of good taste as I have defined it for this article. Just look at my own unfortunate McJack experience. Retarded? Yes. Offensive? Hardly. Hell, joke armies can be great fun and a good laugh – things that enhance the hobby experience.

For various reasons I'm going to stay away from the extremely offensive things like painting furry porn on your grav tanks, anything involving any kind of penis shaped objects of any size and configuration or even using swastikas on your dreadnoughts. The kind of idiots who would do this have to have been consciously aware of what they were doing. These things are obviously well past the limits of good taste and beyond the scope of this article.

What I am trying to do here is to (hopefully) help people avoid letting offensive things sneak into their work and help. I am trying to help regular nerds who seem to have just gotten lost in an idea or simply not considered all the implications.

I will also be making fun of people.

Examples of what I’m talking about
Following will be three examples of what I think are beyond the limits of good taste. Each of them have a number of things in common.
1. A heavy reliance on fluff of dubious quality of the artists own creation
2. Some kernel of a bad idea that has potential to take root and ruin the project
3. A heavy dose of tunnel vision
4. Over reliance on forumhammer players as a sounding board

Now while all examples I’ll present have these things in common, there are not all present in the same magnitude. At the end of the article, I'll discuss these areas and give some ideas on how to avoid them that have worked for me.

GMMStudios’ Armored Company – “Oops, I’m a Nazi”
I’ll start with this one because in my mind as it’s the most interesting to me as an (amateur) artist. The guy is super talented and an otherwise great army was ruined be a few poor choices.

This is a also great place to start because it got a ton of response in its dakka thread (making it very visible) as well as an apology from its creator. Additionally, the artist is a known quantity (or as much as anyone can be on anonymous forums) – GMMstudios. He’s active in the community, does commission and, to me, is clearly very focused on the artistic side of the gaming hobby – which may be the problem (more on this in later installments). He's not just some lunatic on a forum (as far as we know).

Now, moving passed all the GMM apologist stuff: Oops, you’re a Nazi. In his fluff section, he mentions the kind of influences he wanted to include- Thor, Empire… WW2 Germany. Wait, WW2 Germany? Wasn’t that that zany time when someone named Hitler was in power? I feel vaguely like he did something bad…. If only I could remember! Wait! Oh, yeah.

Bottom line: WW2 Germany is inextricably linked with the Nazis. There’s a reason it’s called Nazi Germany during this period.

Now, I am not going to accuse GMM of being an actual Nazi or even a bigot. I’m also not going to run him out on a rail. I will, however, accuse him of exercising poor judgment.

You see, anytime you are dealing with WW2, there is one thing to keep in mind – A LOT OF REALLY BAD STUFF HAPPENED AND YOU HAVE TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT REFERENCING ANY OF IT. Mostly, because people are a little touchy when it comes to things like genocide and nuclear weapons. Just an FYI.

Over any other element (with possible exception for his overt Aryan implications), is the symbol he decided to use that damns this project. Not a swastika, but definitely red, black and white (same color placement) and very reminiscent. It’s a very iconic symbol and even using something that is derived from it, calls into mind the original and all the awful that it was stamped on. Its use is even outlawed in Germany, so that should be a hint to anyone to stay the hell away from it. There's not a lot you can do with a swastika that will take the stigma away without making a joke out of it.

Add in the German propaganda, the german text, the blond Thors and blond tank drivers and you have yourself a nice little “nazi taco’ as the artist puts it. Not his intent, but there nonetheless. There is very little you can do to distance Nazi based imagery from all the terrible things that happened while still maintaing the look and feel. Now matter how good an artist you are, you simply can't unlink genocide to Nazi Germany.

In fairness, I think the reason this guy got so much negative feedback is because he is so talented. The ideas he makes use of are a little scary when they’re presented so well. Additionally, not every model has the Nazi stigma; some would be fine out of the context of the whole army - but a select few really drive it home. Everything plays into the one, very obvious breach of good taste.

However, none of these are an excuse for any reliance on Nazi Germany as a starting point. Just don’t do it.


  1. The fuck is wrong with you? None of his models have any 'nazi' on it. and WWII Germany was only ruled by a madman, that does not mean every german was a nazi.

  2. His models are VERY Nazi. He uses imagery straight from WWII German propaganda posters and films, coating his murals and tank drivers in full Aryan regalia. The symbol on the flags he uses is the Teutonic or "iron" cross, a long standing symbol of the german military and one of the most common symbols of Nazi military gear that isn't a straight up swastika. His placement of it (in the middle of a white circle on a red flag) is CLEARLY meant to invoke the Nazi flag. It's like painting your marines bright pink with rainbow colored shoulder pads and then getting offended when people assume they are the gay marines.