The Wig Joke In Ninja's Mixer Announcement Sucked

Screenshot: YouTube

Superstar streamer Ninja is leaving Twitch for Mixer. This morning, he’s been serving up his first Mixer stream, broadcasting in front of a live crowd at Lollapalooza and also garnering tens of thousands of online viewers.

The move to Mixer was announced yesterday in a short ad full of lighthearted jokes aimed at the hype surrounding this niche platform announcement. One joke in the ad — an archaic gag about a character in drag’s wig falling off — baffled and unsettled me.

The ad depicts a press conference held by Ninja, who stands at a podium. He announces that in the future he will be streaming exclusively on Microsoft’s streaming platform Mixer. He fields questions from eager audience members, several of whom are in costumes. One audience member is the bush from Fortnite; another is a cooler of Red Bull wearing a hat.

Other audience members are played by Ninja himself, but in various disguises. There’s Ninja as an old man, and Ninja in glasses and a suit. There’s also Ninja in a wig and dress, sporting heavy lipstick and moustache stubble.

Near the end of the ad, the Ninja at the podium calls for a tech named Steve — who is also played by Ninja in a different costume — to press a button labelled “big announcement”. Instead, Steve stares blankly, twirling a banana.

During the wait, the camera cuts back to show the dress-clad Ninja tossing their head back, knocking off their wig. The audience gasps in shock, and the character lets loose some appalled falsetto shouts.

Drag queens and trans women’s wigs falling off is an old comedy gag, although it’s one that has fallen out of fashion as society’s view of trans people has become more accepting. The construction of jokes such as this, particularly the reactions of shock by other people, plays into tropes about trans people deceiving others or being fake.

It furthers the narrative that trans people are "really" the gender they were assigned at birth and that their current presentation is a costume or disguise. The punchline of "it’s really a man!" and responding to that with gasps normalises panic as an acceptable response to finding out someone is trans, a response that can get real trans people killed.

It’s hard to tell what the wig joke is trying to do in this ad. The audience members being disguised as question-asking Ninjas might be a play at the streamer’s popularity and a way to poke some self-reflective fun at what is a very insider-y announcement.

But a punchline revealing the most eager questioners to actually be Ninja could have been made using any character in the audience. The suit-wearing man’s glasses could have fallen off, or the old man’s bald cap. Ninja could have morphed into Steve and pressed the button himself.

But Ninja in a dress and stubble is framed here as being the flimsiest disguise, as well as the one that we’re culturally most used to spotting. We’ve seen the wig-falling-off joke before, so it reads as joke, and the gender reveal element — not just “that’s really Ninja”, but “that’s really a man” — gives it an extra punch.

Ultimately, it’s a joke that has nothing to do with Ninja, games or streaming.

By making trans people a punchline, the ad’s creators are reminding trans people such as me that we aren’t the audience for this announcement. We’re apparently not in the demographic of people targeted by the ad, which is supposed to be anyone who watches Ninja, or Mixer, or Ninja on Mixer.

As I wrote back in October when PC marketplace GOG made an equally dull transphobic joke, “every time this happens, it feels like one more reminder that at least one person who works at a company that makes things I like thinks my existence is funny, and that enough people there either agree or don’t disagree strongly enough to stop them”.

I’ve had trouble getting the Mixer ad out of my head since I saw it yesterday. I think it’s because I just spent last weekend covering the Fortnite World Cup, where Ninja featured prominently.

In my reflections on the event, I wondered whether Ninja and his adult streamer compatriots should be expected to be role models for young Fortnite players. Adults and kids play side by side in Fortnite, functioning in many ways like peers. In my weekend at the event, the huge age range of attendees and competitors seemed largely positive.

After watching the ad, I thought about all the kids I’d seen at the World Cup gazing at Ninja or calling his name from the stands. Statistically, some of those kids are trans. How many of them are actually watching a Mixer ad is up for debate, but the ad has over 1.4 million views on Ninja’s YouTube page, and it’s his pinned tweet.

Some little trans Ninja fan has certainly seen it, and I worry about how it might make them feel. If Ninja is their role model, this ad might tell them that it’s OK for people to make jokes at their expense. If they see Ninja as a peer, they’re learning not to expect their peers to treat them with respect.

They’re learning, even if only in a subtle way, that this aspect of who they are is something to be laughed at instead of something to be proud of.

By now, I’ve been out as trans for over two decades; I live a life surrounded by other trans people, where I can be out, generally, without risking my safety. Ninja being part of a tired joke with a transphobic history can’t really do anything to me, not in the same way that it might have when I was younger or earlier in my transition.

But it can potentially do a lot of harm to his young audience. A lot of young eyes are watching Ninja’s move from Twitch to Mixer, and it’s a shame this is the first thing they had to see. 


Comments

    If you see that announcement video as being anything but some light hearted fun, you might actually be the problem. Not the other way around.

    And perhaps you're the one who should stop putting ideas into the minds of younger people about how they should be offended or some such nonsense with garbage articles like this.

    Because videos like that aren't giving them that perspective, people like you are... And you're doing it quite directly.

      I don't really see an issue with the article, it's far from the angry, knee jerk outrage, get out your pitch forks, stuff we usually see.
      (Frankly it's almost refreshing to see an article like this without the fire and brim stone and more like a discussion from a personalised viewpoint)

      Personally I don't find the joke upsetting or amusing but it doesn't take much to understand why somebody in that sphere is going take notice, lighthearted or not.

        i think your desensitised to the subject because of the usual pitch forks etc etc.

        Think about how a young trans person would feel reading this article, the writer says at one point that being "found out" as a trans person ie being found to present as a the opposite gender from your biological sex, leads to being murdered. That is fucking terrifying and also bullshit.

        I get that your saying this is much tamer than what we would normally see like some twat screeching transphobia and then progressive twitter dragging it's nutts all over our faces for 2 weeks doxxing everyone in his family including the goldfish, sending threats to his wife and trying to get twitch to ban him and the cops to imprison him. Whilst also accusing anyone who tries to point out the obvious (your overreacting) of being a transphobe.

        The above rant was meant purely for comedy people i don't need anyone explaining that nobody has ever doxxed a goldfish.

        Personally i didn't find the joke funny either and while i can understand a trans person noticing it and having a different reaction. What i cannot understand is that same person being unable to stop thinking about it or linking it to murder, that seems plenty enough a "knee jerk outrage" reaction to me.

      Nice attempt but once again a fail at basic empathy and reasoning.

      Basic research shows that exactly the above kind of jokes reduce understanding and respect, and comments like yours coming from a position of privilege fail to understand the devastating impact public narrative has.

      Imagine if being white was a punchline. The rage so many "free speech" advocates would have.

      Or are you so sensitive you don't like it when victims of life long ridicule and bigotry have had enough of it?

        Imagine if being white was a punchline.

        You must not spend much time online.

        Lol. Whites are literally the punchline right now.

        You don't get out much do you?

          Rubbish

            As a non-white person. I can definitely say that it is not rubbish.

            Have a look around online, white people this, white people that, Karen's and Brenda's and Chad's everywhere.

              I only ever see people pretending it's true.
              Both sides are indeed a joke but neither one has any impact on the subject aside from feeding off each other to justify their prejudices and stall genuine discussion.

              Don't forget Kyle and his can of Monster.

        Ha... I guess we'll just ignore that this article probably wouldn't even exist if Ninja was anything but a white guy.

        It's really quite impossible for something to die if it is constantly being revived. Which is precisely why bigotry and the likes never will so long as people like the author are forever finding problems everywhere. Actual bigots, racists, etc, are very much ignored by reasonable people. Intentionally, actively ignored and disassociated with in an attempt to suffocate them and NOT give them the oxygen or spotlight they require to survive and spread their bullshit.

        Meanwhile the author and anyone like them is out there offering fresh air and floodlights.

        As for your last little 'too sensitive' jab... There's a very significant difference between victims of life long ridicule and bigotry, and people who have made a profession of being offended.

      Someone has experienced shit you might not have and they're willing and in a position to raise in a public space the possibility that what we are acculturated to see as "light-hearted fun" is inimical to their being. And all you've got is the usual hegemonic gamer-take - go back to playing games.

        You want to condemn me for supposedly dismissing someone else's experience, while actively dismissing someone else's experience and/or 'take'?

        The hypocrisy in your comment is so blinding I had to put sunglasses on.

      This is a valid criticism of the tone of this article, but you called it garbage so this comment should be removed as its clearly a personal attack, what say you, thought police?

    All author wanted to do was raise awareness of this issue and the imapct it can have on people. As, I'm willing to bet, most people watching didn't consider how the severely outdated attitude conveyed in the ad can affect people, it did what the author intended. If we haven't walked in their shoes, maybe we shouldn't fling shit at people who are affected.

      While we're at it, how about we don't go around telling other people (especially children as per the authors talk of younger people) "Hey, put my shoes on... Be offended just because I am, and not because you found it offensive yourself!" eh?

      How about we DON'T tell children to find things offensive 'just because I do'?
      How about we DON'T push all our own personal insecurities and issues onto children who may have been doing perfectly fine until we came along to 'protect' them?

      How about that maybe?

      How many people were offended because for a legitimate reason vs the amount offended because its a competition for them to be as offended as possible over the smallest things?

      I'm guessing 99% is the latter.

      If we haven't walked in their shoes, maybe we shouldn't fling shit at people who are affected.

      How about this? If you haven't walked in that person's shoes, You can't say what is offensive for them.

        This is a real problem for some people. I don't think you or other people understand that. That's all the author wanted to say. It's a legitimate reason for them. Like the author said. Trans people get killed by and because of small-minded fuckwits.

        Last edited 04/08/19 7:13 am

        But the author is transgender, was affected, and described for himself what he found offensive. Nobody here said what was offensive for Riley, they've just supported him in what he said himself.

          Being offended does not make an opinion factual or right.

          The author is acting like a harmless joke will result in people going out and killing trans people.

          If the author is so offended he should not watch. We should not have to self censor based on what one person finds offensive.

            Nobody said being offended makes an opinion right. You were dismissing Bear's comment by implying he was inappropriately dictating what was offensive for transgender people, but the reality was he was supporting a statement on what was offensive by a transgender person. The latter - what Bears did - is the right one of those two things to do.

          As a non-white man, I'm offended I wasn't represented at all in the commercial. I mean, if being made an "apparent" punchline means "the ad’s creators are reminding trans people such as me that we aren’t the audience for this announcement. We’re apparently not in the demographic of people targeted by the ad, which is supposed to be anyone who watches Ninja, or Mixer, or Ninja on Mixer." Then surely not being represented at all means the same, or even worse. I didn't choose to be POC

          Being a person who wears glasses, having someone portraying a caricature of someone like me was very upsetting. Making a joke of those who are sight-challenged is rather ableist. I didn't choose to have bad eyes

          Considering baldness runs in my family, and my grandfather and father both suffer from it, having someone make fun of that is quite offensive and upsetting. They didn't choose to be bald.

          *Shrug*

            If you genuinely were offended by your likeness being omitted then that's something we could discuss, but you're not. I don't think mocking a person for expressing their opinion on something they find offensive is helpful. It's easier and certainly more polite to just simply disagree with him.

    Reductionist humour around drag is never a good thing in a civilised society

      Reductionist humour is never a good thing in a civilised society.

      Getting offended on behalf of others without actually talking to said person you think might be offended is also not good for society.

      Considering the drag community is literally built on reductionist humour, this is a pretty dumb statement.

    Anyone else never heard of ninja?

    Article tl;dr

    Trans person fails to recognise difference between trans and drag. Queue internet outrage.

      Imagine trying to show Dame Edna Everage on tv today. The outrage would be hilarious.

        The sad thing is that people will be offended at Dame Edna, but then they'll point and laugh at Sir Les...

    Sure, the gag is tired and not even slightly funny, but is it really worth getting offended about?
    You've clearly spent far more time thinking about the gag than the people who made the video ever did.

      If these people don't find something to be offended by, what purpose for existing do they have?

      Being offended is integral to their identity

    Wow now articles here are telling us what to think and when to be offended.

    How bout just state facts and let people form their own opinions?

    Agreed. I was surprised/not surprised to see it included. It was lame, boring, inappropriate and likely hurtful to trans people even without the wig coming off.

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