September was another bummer of a month. Lots of things keeping me away from the drawing desk. Thank goodness I had a little time in the mornings to work on graphics for a Sinktown Slink game called Saloon Smash!
It’s based on the more violent parts of the temperance movement. Notable figures like Hannah Jumper and Carrie Nation. The game itself doesn’t really take an ideological stand of any kind. The game also doesn’t really explain the historical setting, so I’ll do that here.
The temperance movement, in brief, was trying to force America into teetotalers, people who wouldn’t drink any kind of alcohol ever. As a lover of the spirits myself, I struggle to see the world from their point of view. Many of these temperance activists were ladies who grew up during or soon after the Civil War. The country was recovering from open heart surgery in the reconstruction era, and alcohol was the pain killer of choice. Women would marry men who were changed or shaped by that horrible war. Some of these husbands would be dead-beats that would spend all of the family money on drinking, then come home to pass out or abuse their family verbally or physically. I don’t know if there are numbers for how much this happened, but there must have been enough because it galvanized enough women and men to start newsletters and marches and rallies all over the nation. Eventually, some of these ladies took hatchets and walked into taverns and started wrecking the place to bring the kind of change they wanted in a more, shall we say, immediate time frame.
Personally, I wouldn’t tolerate such actions if they happened today, even in civil protest on the issue of alcoholism. However, you have to remember, women couldn’t vote at the time. They couldn’t hold office, weren’t represented politically in any meaningful way, generally didn’t run business, couldn’t run churches, and really didn’t have much social power, and, at least from their view, their husbands and boyfriend were worthless drunks! As JFK would later say, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Some of these women felt they had nothing else to turn to for change than the lawn tools in their own home. It was brave of them.
As a point of clarification, Saloon Smash isn’t a feminist game (feminist everywhere exhale in relief). I think that something called a feminist game would have more in the way of a message than what we did with Saloon Smash. I think of it an delivering a cartoonish and memorable interactive historical experience; exaggerated Slice-of-Life, if you will. This game, in no way, is to characterize the entire temperance movement as axe wielding malcontents, but holding rallies and passing out fliers wouldn’t have made as fun a game.
As a further point of clarification, I don’t think I’m a feminist either, I just try to be.