Feature Excerpt

Donut County and the Boisterous History of White Guilt

This is an excerpt of a feature from Unwinnable Monthly #113. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

Plenty has been written on Donut County as an analog for Los Angeles gentrification. Its world is one consumed by a sudden wave of tech fetishism, passive consumerism and corporate profiteering at the hands of an invading raccoon horde.

The plot of Donut County centers BK, a raccoon complicit in physically burying the residents of the Los Angeles region. The residents of the town and their belongings are collateral damage in the raccoons’ species-wide trash-collecting campaign, swallowed by an app-controlled hole in the ground, itself controlled by BK. One by one, the residents watch their homes disappear. One by one, they plead with BK to recognize the consequence of his actions.

It’s not subtle, but the story works as an allegory for capitalism, gentrification, maybe even colonialism (raccoons are later seen analyzing the ways Donut County’s residents lived with and produced the pilfered trash). Those themes also highlight another aspect of BK’s character: the duplicity of his guilt as a corollary for white America’s weaponization of racial guilt.

Near the climax of the game, BK’s human friend, Mira, remarks about the extent of the takeover: “It’s like we got replaced . . . by raccoons.” Apparently nonplussed, BK defends himself against unspoken criticism: “I already said I’m sorry . . . I feel bad but I can’t undo what I did.”

BK reframes the interaction, weaponizing his guilt toward Mira to defend himself against criticism. “You think this is all my fault,” he whines, looking at the groaning vista that used to be Mira’s home. She doesn’t hold him personally responsible for the actions of all raccoons, but she does offer him advice about what to do to make it right: “Don’t make your guilt my problem.” BK’s attempts to deflect personal responsibility mirror white America’s relationship to its own racial guilt.


Jason Dafnis is a writer in Minneapolis. On Twitter, he’s @nintendufus.

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