Men are running around Las Vegas shooting naked women for their 'racks,' and I'm trapped like a deer in headlights, still trying to make heads or tails of the whole torrid affair. Two weeks ago, CBS affiliate KLAS-TV in Nevada, aired a four-part series about a new form of adult entertainment called 'Hunting For Bambi,' in which men pay thousands of dollars to shoot paintballs at women wearing nothing but their tennis shoes. The hunted receive $1,000 if they get shot, or $2,500 if they can run for a full hour without getting hit. Each client receives a commemorative video of the game.
Understandably, the public response to this controversy has been overwhelming. Both the National Organization of Women and the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence have condemned the so-called sport. Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman has vowed to put Real Men Outdoor Productions out of business. Even major corporations have taken action. Brass Eagle, a leading paintball manufacturer, issued a press release warning that nude paintball could result in 'significant bodily injury' as well as 'serious eye injury, including blindness.' According to Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter, The Disney Company 'is said to be pondering a suit over the use of the name Bambi.'
Meanwhile, skeptics have deemed the KLAS report a hoax to sell 'Hunting For Bambi' videos.
Although my initial, visceral reaction was to be outraged by this game, it has been difficult for me to discern exactly why. Clearly, this is one of the most blatant examples of violence against women ever reported. Yet, I'm uncertain whether this is an open and shut case of misogyny or a typical example of just how far someone will go to make a buck. It seems everyone else has chosen their position on this issue: the Internet is littered with chatroom banter supporting and opposing the game, for every possible reason imaginable. (My personal favorite: 'This is just a bunch of jackasses giving paintball a bad name.') While one male co-worker laughed at the obvious attempt to get a rise out of the public, another was horrified by the news footage she saw of the injury a woman sustained when a hunter shot her in the posterior.
The more I researched the story, the grayer the issue became. So I went straight to Michael Burdick, founder of Real Men Outdoor Productions, to uncover whether or not 'Hunting For Bambi' is a hoax, and to procure a better understanding of his motivations for creating it.
Upon calling him at a phone number posted in the Museum of Hoaxes chatroom, I was surprised to discover that Mr. Burdick was open to answering my questions. Mr. Burdick confirmed that he initially produced the film 'Hunting For Bambi' to make extra cash by combining his loves of hunting and women. After marketing the film on the Internet six weeks ago, he attests, both men and women spontaneously contacted him to express their interest in joining a real-life hunt. 'Society created this product,' he said.
Five weeks ago, Real Men Outdoor Productions launched a live version of 'Hunting For Bambi,' at a cost of $6,000 per player, which includes a non-refundable $2,500 deposit. Mr. Burdick reports having catered to clients from France, Germany, Australia, England, Canada, and Japan. Although he couldn't confirm the exact number of men who have played to date, he did concur that sales of the game are in the double-digits. According to the KLAS web site, the company has 'hosted 18 Bambi hunts' as of July 18.
A former magazine publisher (Florida's House & Home, and Tahoe's The Perfect Wedding Source), Burdick has unexpectedly made 'Hunting For Bambi' a full-time job. When asked whether or not he plans to expand the business to include both male and female hunters and prey, he admits that he's open to anyone, 'as long as they're of age and legal.' He doubts, however, that women will ever register to hunt, as they are 'too practical' about spending their money.
In defending his product, Mr. Burdick noted that paintball is a sport that is legal in Nevada -- even for children to play; the only difference is that in his game, 'one of the participants is naked.' Furthermore, all gaming occurs on private property that is outside the public's view. The video furnished to each client is neither sold nor distributed, and is solely for the client's private use. Mr. Burdick believes that 'Hunting For Bambi' is merely a 'humorous parody,' in which time-honored hunting traditions like yelling 'what a rack' and 'I want to mount her,' when capturing the kill, are funniest when applied to naked women.
Mr. Burdick had to take another call before I had the opportunity to ask him my final question: why is shooting women socially acceptable, when 'hunting' for other minorities, such as a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgender persons, or people of color would be considered a hate crime?
Something tells me that if there were ever a market for such a game, he'd be happy to meet the demand.