Being heavily modded is a disease?

First, watch this video until the end.

This ad, designed by Zeitsprung Commercial in Germany got sent to me last night by ModBlog reader Broodje.  For those that can’t watch the video at work, allow me to sum it up for you.  A man dressed in a bear costume is walking around the streets to cheerful music giving out hugs to people as he strolls along.  Then, the lighting darkens as the man in the costume pulls off the bear’s head to reveal his heavily modified face.  The tagline of the ad appears as he roars at the camera and stalks away:  ”You can’t see H.I.V.  But you can prevent it”.

I’m not sure how you may react to this, but I’m on the same page as Broodje, in that we’re both more than a little upset by the implications that this PSA gives off.  While the message itself is a good one, the end result may be giving a lot of people a bad impression of the modded community.  To me this is saying that not only can you get H.I.V. from a hug, but that someone who is heavily modified is probably infected and it is best to stay away from them.

As for the actor in the bear costume, I have no idea if he knew what the PSA was for, or if it mattered to him how he would be portrayed in the final cut.  The fact remains that as much as we try to show the world that modded people aren’t any different from the rest of the world, things like this come along and tap into some base fear that people have of the unknown, setting any progress that has been made back in the process.

I think what troubles me most about this, is that this type of thing is exactly the reason that Jessie had such a huge media circus around his arrest.  The media is consistently associating heavily modified people with as many negative connotations as they can.  Now we’ve come to a point that not only are heavily modified people scary because they’re “all violent”, but they “all have H.I.V. and should be avoided at all costs”.

What do you think?  Am I reading too much into the ad, or is there really an undercurrent in the media that is directly attempting to demonize a group of people just because they choose to take control of their bodies.

UPDATE:  It turns out that this video was part of the 2009 HIVisible campaign, and is starring none other than BME’s own IAM:Sicko.  So it appears I was completely off base with my interpretation of the ad.  Thanks to Bastian for filling me in and clarifying the message.

42 thoughts on “Being heavily modded is a disease?

  1. i choose to believe he contracted HIV from the 4 year old child he had to bend down and hug.

  2. I understand your worries, but at the same time I’m thinking they were really just going for the huge dichotomy between a big fluffy bear and a heavily modified person.

    …At least I hope they were.

    Safe sex!

  3. You are reading too much into it. It was a matter of, if that guy walked down the street and looked for all those hugs, they wouldn’t have happened. Plain and simple. You couldn’t see what was underneath that costume, just like you can’t see an infectious disease under the skin. The guy played it up for the camera. There was no other way for that to have been taken, I am certain who knew what he was doing when he did this.

    They did it for shock value, and for most people it worked I am sure.

  4. Rob: I think you’re way off here. The “actor in the bear costume” is none other than Chris -; Sicko on IAM. The clip was a contribution to the 2009 “HIVisible” aids prevention video campaign (see the winning entries here). Please interview/ask him about it and then do a follow-up on this not-really-well-researched article….

  5. I think its a really well done clip. There portraying the dude as being the virus and the suit as protection. I don’t think there saying heavily modded people have aids there just saying some of us are scary… like HIV :P

  6. @Bastian: I had a feeling someone would know who he was. I’ve updated the post to include the information that you shared. Thanks for filling me in. Some days it’s tricky to track down all the information given, and the only information I had to go on was from e-mails from people sending in the link and a couple of German websites that translated poorly.

    When I can’t get all the information for a story I try to present what information I do have, and allow the readers to discuss their opinions on it, as opposed to stating information as facts that I don’t have confirmation of.

  7. Very Dumb. Dont you know all modified people have AIDS. My hats off to this stupid PA.

  8. Very Dumb. Dont you know all modified people have AIDS. My hats off to this stupid PA.

  9. Thanks for updating the post! And next time, when you need something translated from German – I’d be happy to provide some help! :)

  10. FFS Bastian, and so what if it was someone from IAM for an “HIVisible prevention campaign? It doesn’t change the context in which a modified person was used – someone scary and personifying disease, so Rob’s analysis is really not off the mark. The media DOES continue to portray modified people in this way, and unfortunately, it seems that many modified people taking the part don’t really give a fuck. I recently stumbled across a website for “Flesh and Blood”, a documentary about Steve Harworth ( While the website is made in cheap shock value aesthetics, in the “about” section they name 3 reasons for people having heavy body mods: attention, sexual kicks and the “pain of the procedure itself”. Obviously, none of us have ever done heavy body modification other than for the lame cliche of “attention seeking pervert” reasons. I also loved some review quote flashing on the website about “a journey into a dark side of absurdity”. Whoaa, here come those nasty freaks! I do wonder if Steve Harworth and others participating expected that kind of coverage.

  11. I think the ad is interesting, but I still don’t know what else I feel here. Part of me sees it as a problem where a regular Joe will read into it that modified people are dangeous, carry HIV, or worse they see it as a predatory person with HIV may hide as a bear and maliciously go around infecting kids. This is coming from a person who has seen a lot of stupid things and people since moving to Oklahoma. If aims at the appropriate and educated audience I think it could be seen as a creative and outstanding diversity to make a person think about HIV – but if seen here I think there would be news stories about someone getting beat with a baseball bat by a father when a costumed person tried to hug his kid after he watched the commerical followed by an investigation by police as to why the person was dressed up ad trying to hug the kid with a drawn out trial and probably a law banning dressed up people as a risk to children. Oklahoma is a mess…

  12. I really like this ad. I think it was very well done and even though it can be taken as if it’s saying that modified people are being portrayed as having HIV… I think if you really look at the ad for what it is.. Well, it’s pretty damn awesome.
    I knew underneath the cute, cuddly, welcoming, bear was a scary monster of a person.. but I even said “Whoa” when he took the head off the bear.

    Sicko on Iam is a beautiful person but he caught me off guard there!


  13. Good message; bad execution. People who aren’t reading into it will paint it as people who have mods are dangerous. This is an outrage; not because of the message (obviously), but the whole “playing up” of the scary guy. Not helpful to us, and to anyone in general. I’m not impressed or pleased.

  14. I like the ad.

    No matter how they chose to portray the person inside the costume, someone from the associated community (or opponents of that community) would be upset.

    If the person in the suit was from a racial minority, people would say it’s racist, and that the ad was implying that all “_____” people have HIV.

    If he was depicted as a red devil with horns, people would say the ad had Christian overtones, and that the ad was implying that all “heathens” have HIV.

    The ad is great. I’m going to echo Mandic’s sentiments: To most people, a big white fluffy hug-happy bear mascot looks friendly and safe. The dude inside (to most people) looks pretty scary, especially whilst screaming, and definitely wouldn’t get many hugs. HIV is scary. Mission accomplished.

  15. I understand the idea of the ad and I understand why Sicko would want to be involved but the cut still bothers me. I am, by BME stands, relatively minimally modified. Half-inch lobes, 4mm conches and flats are my only mods visible on a regular basis, yet in the area I’m currently living in, I am frequently viewed as “dangerous” or “extreme” because of my appearance. While this doesn’t bother me on a a regular basis, as I am happy with my appearance and only looking to increase my level of visible modification, a PSA like this makes me worry that people who are already uneasy about modified individuals, may become hateful or violent toward the those who populate BME, simply because of a misplaced perception. While I make no political statement with this comparison, it is similar to the misplaced hatred of Islam nine years after the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.

    Once again, I am not condemning the ad, but even with the luxury of context, the ad bothers me and it continues to seem that the ad portrays modified individuals as dangerous. It is very easy to view the ad differently than it is intended.

  16. Conversely, the inner peace that modders find by adorning their bodies could been deemed a positive (pun not intended) more synergistic aspect of our general make up and inner personalities.

    Perhaps if the souls of modders vs non – modders were visible there may be an entirely different view of this advert and of society as a whole.

  17. This add is not about modded people having HIV and it does not say, that you can get HIV by a hug. It says that you often can’t see HIV on first sight. A beautiful girl, a handsome guy, charming, funny – could have HIV. That’s the bear all cuddly. But if you look underneath the surface you might find something scary – in this add they used the modded guy as a picture for that (… his heavily modified face might scare some people off).
    It does not say, modded people or people with HIV are to be avoided.

    (hope i used the right words here… english’s not my mother tongue)

  18. I don’t think this has anything at all to do with modified people having HIV. (How many do you know, or have been reported, anyways?)
    I think its him walking around in a cute bear costume and hugging people, and then showing he’s heavily modded and “scary” at the end, and I don’t think if he walked around yelling and showing his teeth, people wouldn’t hug him, like they would the bear.. Hence the whole “you don’t know whats under your skin” (or whatever it was).
    Complete misinterpretation.

  19. if you view hiv+ as negative(no pun intended) it certainly implies a negative connotation by contrast to whoever was in the suit (be they modded or not). by that association, this could also send a message that someone hiv+ is someone the viewer wouldn’t want to hug had they known they were.

  20. If the intention of the ad was not to portray modified individuals as HIV spreading (and terrifying, hence the ‘growling’ at the end) people, then it’s just a poorly done ad.
    No offense meant, but the message was completely lost on me.

  21. The modded person was used to represent something negative and was meant to be seen as scary. No matter what, there will be people who see it and let it reinforce or develop negative feelings about/towards modded people (however subliminal or subconscious-or not-it may be).
    That’s my opinion anyways. Seems simple to me.

  22. I highly enjoyed the bear suit. Then turns into a wikked modded guy. But not really seeing the HIV side of it.
    Mabye i missed something.

  23. Personally, until we as a community are able to sue for our portrayal as evil sadistic creatures in the media, able to claim discrimination when we are denied jobs because of visiable modifications, and able to charge slander/libel when picked out by police officers for our modifications. I do not think the media should have the right to use us in any context.

    I think it is unjust for us to have no legal standing, however a feminist can claim sexism because the requirements for a job is to difficult as man is physically more fit to do a job… Which are set purely for saftey reasons.

  24. I don’t think the add is intended to imply that modified people have HIV, but it is saying a modified person can be used as a metaphor for a horrible disease. There was an add in the states just like this where a person was incredibly sick looking, greenish skin and pustules as far as I remember, and the add said if Hepatitis effected your face the way it effects your liver you would do something about it. Except in this case it made sense and was a diseased individual.. The bear suit business was done for a good reason and I don’t think it will in any way make people feel any worse towards the modified community, at least from anyone who isn’t already a dick, but it still is a modified person as a metaphor for HIV. It makes me think of an commercial from a few years back where a dad is very upset because some guy named “spike” comes to pick up his daughter for a date and he is pierced and tattooed and rounds it off with a mattress hanging out the back of his van. It puts out a similar message. I’m quite sure the intentions of this add were not to add any more negative stigma to modified people but it certainly doesn’t cast a positive or neutral light on us, intentionally or not. But hell, if it makes even a few people where a condom and not get HIV then whatever.

  25. So they are saying Sicboy looks like a nob?

    Rob, there’s loads of pics of him on this very site. I’d find them for you but I can only look at about 3 pictures in the galleries nowadays.

  26. this add seemed like it was going to be very good and well thought out but after watching it with a friend, we both went from being happy to very sad. Rather than the intended happy to scared. IMO the add would have worked just as well if the person in the costume had devil makeup on, or something like that. Implying a bad thing within rather than a heavily modified person who clearly likes to be the center of attention with “scary” mods. This add really just rubbed me the wrong way.

  27. My two year old daughter got really excited and laughed hysterically when he pulled off the head. So obviously she wasn’t ‘scared’ at all. Awesome! I’m doing something right. I think.

    I feel like we might be over-thinking it a bit (we’re from the community, obviously we fight to defend our choices). But I agree that it’s just another example of being made to look like ‘the bad guys’ and I’m surprised the actor actually chose to participate.

  28. this makes me think of strange land

    in the fact a bunch of over sensitive modded folk are all up in arms over our depiction by the media

  29. Um, seriously? I’m more offended by what you have to say. What exactly is so wrong about people who have a chronic disease?

    “The fact remains that as much as we try to show the world that modded people aren’t any different from the rest of the world, things like this come along and tap into some base fear that people have of the unknown, setting any progress that has been made back in the process.”

    I find it hard to fathom that you’re making this issue about you, when it’s obvious that you realise that people who are HIV positive and people living with AIDS face considerable oppression and stigma. You know who’s not any different from the rest of the world? People who have contracted HIV or AIDS.

  30. No you’re right I feel the same way-I’m completely offended it’s horrible that they need to make us modified people seem like we are diseased and bad people just because of how we look! One day some old lady that I’ve never seen or talked to before came up to me in a grocery store and said “you know those rings on your face will lead to diseases!” That made me so upset I wanted to scream! “My response was that just because you have piercings doesn’t mean they’re diseased, I take good care of my piercings which are all healed and I’m a very sanitary person! You shouldn’t be rude to people who you know nothing about and assume things so terrible!”

  31. I agree with what Charon has to say. There will always be people that associate negative things with body modification. And we don’t want people under the wrong impression, right? Well what about the people that do have AIDs and HIV? They are sometimes treated like lepers. I really doubt the infected individuals enjoy the negative stigmas associated with AIDs. The same way that we don’t like the negative stigmas associated with body modification. Yes, I realize they are two ENTIRELY different things, but there are some similarities. People with AIDs are not disgusting, and they don’t deserve to be treated like they’re lepers and need to be quarantined. They’re people too. Normal, functioning human beings. We hate when people are uninformed and ignorant, right? We hate when people are quick to jump to conclusions and say that we’re “violent” or whatever. I’ve heard it all, as I’m sure you have too. Well people that have AIDs or HIV are probably irritated with the ignorant people that refuse to inform themselves because they’re afraid. I really don’t know where I’m going with this. Basically, we are trying to defend ourselves as a community and some of us are having negative responses to this ad and acting like we can’t believe we’ve been associated with something as awful and deadly as AIDs. Just stop and think about those who have the disease. The same way we wish for others to educate themselves in body modification, they wish for us and everyone else to educate ourselves on the disease.

  32. Let’s be frank, he looks scary to a lot of people and he makes a scary face. That being said, it says something bad about modded people.
    It would have been fine if it had been a person wearing a scary mask under. Wolfman? Perhaps a ghost to illustrate the death part?

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