Is the Mario mushroom a drug reference?

This story showed up in my local news today. Is the mushroom from Mario Brothers a drug reference? Well, yes, technically – but not the type of “shrooms” they’re thinking of, and I bet many people have no idea what the Amanita muscaria is, especially the school officials, and probably this kid as well. (When he says he doesn’t think a little mushroom with eyes has anything to do with drugs, he’s either bluffing badly, or he’s really never tripped – which I hope is the case, since he’s only 13.)

MILWAUKIE, Ore. – In the nearly 30 years since the “Mario Brothers” video game first came out, countless numbers of kids have gotten in trouble for playing games when they weren’t supposed to be.

Now, one Milwaukie student says he got in trouble for simply wearing a t-shirt from the classic game.

13-year-old Hunter Hall is among the latest generation to play the Mario games and idolize the mustached plumber in blue and red. He has all the games and even has some of the toys.

“I’m a big fan of him, I just love him,” Hunter said about Mario.

Recently he wore a t-shirt featuring Mario and one of the ubiquitous mushrooms from the game. The shirt says “will play for mushrooms.”

In the Mario games, players hit the mushrooms to restore their health.

When he went to school at Rowe Middle School, a counselor told him the shirt violated school policy by referencing illegal drugs.

According to Joe Krumm, a spokesman for the North Clackamas School District, the counselor asked Hunter if he knew any other possible meanings for the shirt. Another counselor then told Hunter it is against school guidelines to wear clothing that promotes or endorses illegal activity, in this case hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“I don’t think a little mushroom with eyes has anything to do with drugs, to be honest,” Hunter told KATU.

Hunter’s father Joe said the school district is taking its clothing policy too far.

“Where do you draw the line on something like this?” he asked. “It’s not like he’s walking around the school with a marijuana leaf on his shirt and beer can.”

After being stopped, Hunter zipped up his sweatshirt to over the mushroom image.

Hunter claims he was threatened with detention if he continued to wear the shirt, although Krumm said the boy was not formally disciplined. Krumm said the only action was asking the Hunter to cover the shirt, which he did.

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One Response to Is the Mario mushroom a drug reference?

  1. Faoladh says:

    That’s the inevitable consequence of a misguided policy of prohibition: children are told that their references to video games are “really” drug references. What are we trying to teach these kids? That video games and drugs are the same thing, and so if you’re into one you should be into the other? That doesn’t benefit either the teetotalers or the entheogenerators.

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