Offensive religious advertising

PlayStationAdReligious depictions in advertisements are nothing new. Nor are offensive advertisements. Put the two together and you have an issue for us to talk about.

Reuters has the story that must have been all over the Italian papers of a Sony ad for the PlayStation gaming system depicting a smiling young man wearing a crown of thorns twisted into the PlayStation’s geometric logo.

The international news service’s story on C-Net’s lamely quotes an editor of a Catholic weekly in an attempt to sum up the controversy:

“This time they’ve gone too far,” said Antonio Sciortino, editor of Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family), a mass-circulation Catholic weekly.

“If this had concerned Islam there would have been a really strong reaction,” Sciortino was quoted as saying in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Say what? You want to explain that quote for us, Reuters? That quote, I believe, is an attempt to portray the controversy, but the article fails to explain exactly why the advertisements were offensive. Reuters does offer this background:

In the Bible, Jesus was forced to wear a crown of thorns by mocking Roman guards before he was crucified. In the advertisement, a young man smiles cheekily, wearing a crown whose thorns are twisted into the geometric shapes that are PlayStation’s logo.

Apparently this is not the first time someone has upset European Catholics in advertisements. An IKEA ad attempted to play off the decline of church attendance among Catholic Italians by stating that the furniture chain was open on Sundays and two ads portrayed a modified da Vinci’s Last Supper, one with a female Jesus and “glamorous disciples” and the other showing the followers of Jesus as gamblers and Judas holding his 30 pieces of silver.

I am not one to be offended easily, but I found the ads lacking in good taste. That said, I believe people should find better things to get upset over. Are the faithful in Europe making a mountain out of a molehill? Or are these adverts, as they say across the pond, something Christians — and those of other faiths — should really be concerned about? You can bet your money, as Sciortino said above, that certain radical Muslim groups would have had a few things to say about it.

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  • luke

    The yahoo news version of the story also includes a Reuters photo, as does this story from a gaming news site. I agree that it’s interesting that this ad doesn’t rely on any understanding of the significance of the image it depicts — it’s just treated as a famous image plus coporate grafitti.

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  • Dan Berger


    If the crown-of-thorns image was all they were using in the ad, I’d agree with you. But in Italy in particular, I think the ad writers knew their audience would pick up on the reference. The caption “Dieci anni di passione” plus the crown of thorns is quite explicit.

    If it were the visual image alone, it would be bad but not quite so bad as equating serious gaming with Serious Redemption.

  • Grace

    I think it’s offensive, and I think the advertisers knew it would be. That’s probably the reason I would work very hard *not* to reward them by generating any attention. A firestorm of criticism from Christians can easily turn into solid gold for the advertiser; neutrality, on the other hand, can’t.