Postal is not offensive.
Postal is a dark comedy about Mental Illness, Racism, War, consumerism, class disparity, and feelings of self destruction and suicide. The games (and the movie) tell the story of the Postal Dude a protagonist that (depending on the game or movie) is either a violent psychopath or a whimsical violent psychopath.
The First game has a far darker tone that I am only barely qualified to speak on as I never played it. The themes of Self destruction and Suicide are more heavy as the first entry is not as willing to lighten the mood with jokes, showing the player character to be unhinged and only getting worse, that's about all I know.
This is where you get my version of a trigger warning because I am ONLY going to tackle more complex and gross subjects from here. I don't condone [ANYTHING] and I do not hate [ANYONE] in particular. I also am not talking for Running with Scissors and when I talk of their work and how I interpret it, I am not condoning [ANYTHING] or [ANYONE] period.
If you want to nail me for anything nail me for having been a young edgelord. I too could have been one of those unironic dweebs who misused this game's content as a reason to act hatful and dumb. I would apologize for it but I don't feel guilty for having to grow up. Like everyone else, I was taught some wrong things and had to either learn to reject it or spend years un-doing it. This is still an ongoing process and I imagine a lot of you can relate.
if you need a break or don't want to hear this, I honor that. My opinion is not worth it. However, on this inaugural You Can Interpret Anything my opinion is:
Postal 2 is about how the American system keeps us all down with systemic racism, classism, propaganda, false promises built on tradition, Self Destruction and Suicide. It depicts a world where everyone is a hair away from pulling out a gun and shooting someone. So lets stop there to talk about NOT video games. Things an uneducated person might call politics.
Pulling out a gun and shooting someone isn't a fucking joke. If someone does that something is very VERY fucking wrong. You need to realize the gravity of this to follow me here. "Going Postal" is in no way funny. It is also not the result of "someone being crazy". Sometimes it can be so chaotic and brutal as to make that an easy answer but no murderer just becomes the guy from HATRED. It isn't always mental sickness, it isn't always societal dysphoria. It isn't always anything. The first postal games have some disturbing art that you don't need eyes to see is depicting a decent into madness:
Just to do what I can to lighten the mood I won't try and play at being educated about mental illness either, but it does help the article if you know I don't think those who suffer from it get what they need in America and writing any group off as "crazy" is something I'd put up with the worst -ism you can imagine. It ain't fair how we treat our sick and that's all I am qualified to say, if that ( A sentiment I will be repeating).
Postal 2's world pulls an old video game trick to tone down a lot of this by making the NPC's "dummies". Idiots who go around saying stupid shit, being radicalized, abusive, antagonistic, racist, dismissive, every -phobic in the book and most of all REALLY liberal with the early 2000's anti-Muslim sentiment. This creates a disconnect for the player in 2007 because the way these NPC's act was cartoonish. When everyone is a stereotype no one is a stereotype is how I think it works.
As an example: When I play Grand Theft Auto V my personal willingness to butcher innocent people is portioned to my character. Michael often makes me think about if that was MY wife or kids. Franklin clearly wishes out of the thug life, so that too stops me from going crazy since I don't want to see him fall into it either. Trevor doesn't have this problem for me because he is almost to cartoonish for me to believe he is a struggling addict and not The Joker. Postal 2 has a cast of Trevors who run the shops, police, construction, mall security, Chinese restaurant, church etc. so you don't quite feel like you are participating in a simulation of a "mass murder" as much as a particularly violent episode of South Park.
So, using the trick of filling the world with "dummies" the game tries to shift the tone from "The Earth Hungers" to "You Gotta be fuck'n kidding me". To sit here an try to pin down an exact thematic point and purpose for every chore (the goals of the game) would be a waste of in,k even in the digital medium. There is one theme that runs throughout the base Game of Postal 2 and that is the crushing of the modern American man by an uncaring and spiteful system of government.
The Postal Dude is in an unhappy marriage. He clearly suffers from a form of antisocial disorder and no one around him would bother to help if they could. His boss (the games Director, Vince Desi, the king) fires him during a clear economic depression, his town is a vice den courting anarchy daily and they are all armed to the teeth. The way the Postal Dude sees it the world is his antagonist it will never give him rest as these grotesque human shaped monsters do everything in their power to stop him from succeeding anything. The game doesn't depict any of this as part of The Postal Dude being delusional, well, ok some parts, it is all real and sadly The Postal Dude is very at home in this town.
In Postal 2 the enemy is the system that makes your fellow man your enemy. The bigotry you were taught that makes you mutter a goat joke when you enter the middle-eastern owned shop. The Impatience of waiting in line at an opulent bank that only bothers to pay one teller, the unreasonable nature of mob mentality, the drudgery of menial labor and the shame that comes with lacking higher qualifications. All of these are symptoms of a broken system that allows an entire town to be so economically depressed and so radicalized on the American dream that they can commit mass shootings EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK and then just get back to their lives knowing that they will do it again tomorrow.
To say that none of this was intentional is to believe the truly foolish sentiment that games aren't political. Similarly to believe every story beat in this game was made without some inherent bigotry or hate to be a part of it is just as foolish.
In 2020 we really need more than ever to be able to properly compartmentalize inflammatory humor and what it is a symptom of. We don't, all of us, need to tolerate it, enjoy it or believe it has it's place. However, it is important we do not let it become a weapon that slays us. There is a healthy catharsis in the crossing of lines and there is an unhealthy one too. Choosing to forego the former for the latter is not the path to interpretation. It is a path t dismissal and I again open that path to you because now we have to talk about:
Postal The Movie is a a 2007 film directed by Uve Boll and it is his masterpiece. It is a movie so hateful of Americana and so true to it's source material that the clickbait version of this article is called "The Postal Movie is the most accurate adaptation of a Video Game Story". The movie follows The Postal Dude, a down of his luck schlub who lives in a parody of a midwestern US town with his obese wife who cheats on him and an uncle who runs a death cult.
The genius of this adaptation is the choice to use Kentucky Fried Movie style humor to replace the gameplay. In Postal 2 the "punch line" is ofthen that you can easily turn any situation into a cathartic improv class. The game almost counts on it at some points having The Postal Dude say lines like "Fuck You" or "You gotta be fuckin' kidding me" when a weapon is drawn in certain situation. The movie replaces this with a humor that can charitably be described as : Everyone is a combination of Evil, Stupid and Gross. Since we, the audience cannot deliver the "karmic" blow we instead watch as the towns folk circle the drain of a nuclear event, their stupidity either being rewarded with a humorous death/consequences scene; The cop that abuse a handicapped man gets blown up while fucking the protagonists obese wife, Uve Boll himself gets shot in the balls before a firefight breaks out that kills almost exclusively children, a barley hidden cell of stereotypical terrorists suffer death at the hands of a mentally challenged member of Al-queda, or the ultimate prize, BEING BLOWN UP AS OSAMA BIN LADEN AND GEORGE BUSH PRANCE THROUGH A FIELD OF DAISIES!
If we want to dismiss the games as "Violence for Violence sake" we CANNOT do the same for the film. Nothing is made in a vacuum and even if you do not like a joke, you can learn something from it's anatomy. Years of humor do not need to be upheld as tradition but they do need to be acknowledged as part of our history. Postal as a series is not just some dumb jokes made by hateful men for the enjoyment and radicalization of one certain group, it is a series of games about the insanity of modern living in America and the dark catharsis of just letting go, it gained a lighter tone with the the second and fourth entry and there is another shift incoming for it's newest game: Postal: Brain Damaged.
See, the overall theme of ANYTHING I write should be that all art has a message and a purpose. Even the most base, crass shit you can imagine. Someone had to be compelled to "create" it, that is the deciding factor to if it is art. So as a thought experiment, you can tell me that there does exist art so offensive as to be not worth interpreting. You would probably be right. However the bar for that kind of dismissal is so high that I don't think even the most hateful of poorly crafted games have "nothing to say". Even if the message is "I hate certain things or people" you can use your perspective to learn about what kind of environment allowed that kind of art to be created. You don't even need to do that with Postal because: Even with all the Arab Jokes, bigotry, racism, hatred for authority and disregard for society Postal is Not Offensive, it is a reaction to the machine we are all a part of, a cry of "has everyone here gone insane" followed by the easy catharsis of not caring if they have, because you have too and we can all just be crazy together.
Reminds me of one of my favorite moments in all of American Animation. A Duck detective having an anxiety episode onset by an overdose of Americana is making his plea to the psychiatrists who just assure him the diploma is just a way to get the perk of a nice parking spot.
"And when you think about it, isn't that exactly the POINT?" he says to the confused doctors, "Parking?" he continues,
"And driving, and shopping, and eating, and working? Somewhere, somehow, they all got chewed up and spit back out. They don't taste like living anymore! Don't you see what it's like in this deranged whirring blender of a world? Every day is an agonizing ordeal, like balancing a pot of scalding water on your head while people whip your legs and butt! ...Aaaah, you never forget your senior prom...
You think I'm "sick"?! Well the only disease I've got is "Modern Life," a schnutbusting gauntlet of inefficiency and misery that's one long parade of let-downs, put-downs, trickle downs, shutouts, freeze outs, sell-outs, numnuts, nincompoops and nimrods, all making every day as much fun as waxing a flaming Pontiac with your tongue, where even if you do luck into the possibility of some fleeting pleasure, like, say, if some nymphomaniac telephone operator with the muscle control of Romanian mat-slappers agree to a little strip air hockey, it'll be over before it starts, 'cuz some vowel-lacking, feta-reeking cab-jockey slams his checker up your hatchback and the cab is owned by some pinata spanker from a Santeria cult in Xoacalpa who starts shaking chicken bones at ya and gives you a boil on your neck so big, all it needs is Michael Jordan's autograph to make it complete!
And even with all this, with ALL THIS, I still drag my sorry butt off the Sealy every morning and stick my face in the reaping machine for one more day, KNOWING when it's time to flash the cosmic card key at those pearly gates, I won't be in the coffin anyway 'cuz some underhanded undertaker sold my heart, pancreas and other assorted Good 'N' Plenty to that same Santeria cult! So does ANYBODY really wonder why ANYBODY is hanging onto sanity by the atoms on the tips of their fingernails while life dirty-dances on their digits, and is it really any wonder that I seem DERANGED??!!"
-Eric Duckman, played by Jason Alexander, 1996
Every part of this rant from the tired yet furious way in which it is delivered to the low punch at people who run the cabs captures so much of what the disillusionment of civilian living in the US can feel like. So again, Postal is Rude, it is an unfair depiction of a lot of people. It is angry, petty and violent. It's movie is gross when it isn't too busy being childishly crass, It's current games are carrying on the spirit while growing with the times, something we are all doing as long as we are alive. However, even if postal is all those things to you, it is not offensive.