I’m a minority, on the unpopular side of the People of WalMart (PoWM) fence. I’ve always been for the underdog. Shoot, I’ve often been the underdog. Why change things now? No, I’m all for Awkward Family Photographs (AFP). My reasoning is sound, though you may not agree with me. Here’s how I see it. PoWM subjects have their photographs taken mostly surreptitiously. If you’re going to take them, that’s the way to do it, because if I ever saw someone taking my photograph without my permission? I’d instantly abandon my pacifist vows and beat the crap out of him! And take his phone! And some more stuff! (I’ve never actually punched anyone so I’m not exactly clear how this would work out).
So what, you may ask, is wrong with taking someone’s photograph? A law student or attorney could probably tell me if I’m correct or not, but I believe that, unless you’re a celebrity or newsworthy, you have to ask someone’s permission to photograph him or her and have them sign a release to use said photograph. It’s acceptable to take someone’s photograph if he’s say, governor of Wisconsin, or you just got indicted in a major ponzi scheme, or saved from a collapsed mine. I don’t believe wearing S&M clothes when you go to buy your weekly supplies at WalMart counts as newsworthy. Obviously, there are many who must disagree.
Trey* said, “Let me get this straight, these ‘people’ come outside, lookin like they do………AND U THINK THEY’RE WORRIED ABOUT………PRIVACY!!!! REALLY?? Come on, really?” Patricia* offered this advice, “Just remember not to pick your butt while you’re at Wal-Mark…if you do, the whole world may be watching!”
Okay, does anyone have a problem with Big Brother? I do. I hate the thought of going places knowing that there are video cameras installed. A couple of years ago a friend of my was in NYC and texted me that I should go online to some website, because she was waving hello to me from a video camera and I could access the feed from that camera instantly. Ugh. Well, to me, and yes, remember I am a Luddite, this is cool if it’s someone else, but not something I want for myself. So in this day in age, if I don’t want the world to see I have a zit, I have to walk with my head down not looking up, left, or right? I can tell you that I think about my ensemble before I shop at WalMart. I was once cleaning house and ran out of Comet™. I was in a t-shirt I got from a women’s health fair and I ran out the door. Halfway to WalMart, I thought about the advertisement on the back for the female condom, and turned around and returned home to select something else to wear. I am a very private person in a very non-private age. Being human, I’m full of contradictions. I blog (anonymously). It was a huge decision for me to have an account on Facebook. But I’m ever so glad I did because I’ve reconnected with so many people from whom I had isolated myself, classmates I really didn’t know that well because we weren’t in the same circles and I’ve found I really like, and met some really cool people through them. But photographs of me on the internet placed by someone else for the purpose of laughing at me? No.
PoWM has been called “a bona fide repository of Americana” My friend Constance* had this to say, “I think the People of WalMart must be very secure in their self-esteem to go out of the trailer looking like they do…” Yes, that’s true, and I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing most of what people on PoWM wear, even on Halloween! But do they know that their fellow shoppers may be taking their photographs to post online? No. That’s my main problem with the site.
There’s also a moral issue for me here (getting up on soapbox). I refuse to apologize for being sickened by people who take photographs of others just to laugh at them and then send them to PoWM, so other people laugh at them. I’m very sensitive to the feelings of others. No, I’m not perfect. I have hurt other people, usually without intending it, but knowing full well in some part of me that I’m doing damage. So there’s some disconnect within me, or was some disconnect within me, about having hurt the people I love and who love me, yet being concerned over the tender feelings of someone I don’t even know at whom the world is laughing.
Have I laughed at some of these photographs? Yes. Have I been horrified by some of these photographs? Yes. Have I been sickened by some of these photographs? Yes. I have a very weak stomach and photographs of people’s soiled pants soiled turns my stomach. Am I a hypocrite? Most likely.
Last night Trey and I spent an hour or more laughing hysterically (me, Trey doesn’t laugh hysterically) over photographs on the AFP site. Hypocrite? Not so much in this instance. You see, people actually posed for these photographs. They knew what they were doing (except for the children) when they posed for and posted these photographs. By (hopefully) submitting their own photographs, they are laughing at themselves, and therefore inviting us to laugh with them. There’s a big difference, to me. It’s laughter I can feel good about. Maybe I’m fooling myself by splitting hairs, but I don’t think so. “Making fun of” falls pretty much in the same category as bullying to me. It’s not something in which I want to participate. Also, the comments on AFP are moderated,”***Any comments that are offensive to the point of being viciously personal, racist, homophobic, exceedingly profane, violent or too graphic in nature won’t be posted. We want to keep this site a friendly place to be awkward. Thanks!*** afp.” I really don’t laugh so much at the PoWM photographs. I cringe over them. I wonder over them. I fall in love with their subjects (honestly) . But mostly, I check my wardrobe before walking out the door.
1.) My children, always. You say that I embarrass you by posting baby pictures on Facebook. I haven’t turned you into http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com…yet! Negatives are stored in a bank vault, and the key is stored on my person in a very awkward place. Be afraid! Be very afraid! (j/k)
2.) Trey*, who has the best laugh I’ve ever heard, so much that I don’t even mind that he’s laughing at PoWM photographs.
3.) http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com for all of the above pictures
4.) http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/, for the photo below. How could anyone resist those soulful, seductive eyes?
5.) Constance*, thanks for all the advice and for sharing your thoughts and experiences.