While most of the world worries about impending war and the current, most immediately nightmarish manifestation of climate change, those who live in Tempe, Arizona are concerned with an altogether different sort of threat: Somebody going around the city spraypainting “PENIS MAN” on everything.
As detailed in a recent news segment on ABC15 Arizona, this compelling phrase have been appearing all over the place. The spot, which plays like an excerpt from some unreleased American Vandal spinoff, explains that “Penis Man” has “struck [the] city” around 40 times throughout December with a tag that “you’d expect to see in a middle school locker room.” ABC15 shows their declaration painted on old buildings and traffic signs, the words standing as a mysterious statement that Penis Man obviously wants us to ponder until the meaning behind their insistent message becomes clear.
Rather than engage with what the graffiti may be trying to tell Tempe, the city seems to just want it stopped. The news clip calls Penis Man’s name “explicit and provocative” and interviews a local woman who thinks “it’s not very appropriate.” The camera turns to her boyfriend who, despite saying “for me I think it’s okay to think it’s funny,” also believes it should be cleaned up.
“There’s street art and then there’s just being obnoxious,” another interviewee says.
ABC15's story also features a local police officer who bemoans the resources being used to catch the dastardly Penis Man. He hopes the cops will either be able to catch the artist or that they’ll decide to stop on their own. But what he doesn’t consider is that the spread of Penis Man is about more than one person shaking a spraypaint can and giggling in the dark. Even if they’re found and held accountable for their work, there’s no putting this particular genie back in the bottle. The people now understand the power behind these words and there’s simply no way to paint over that kind of knowledge.
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