all’s fair in film and comedy?

Recently, this happened.

And who can forget this

Now, there’s also this.

Questionable depictions of rape are nothing new.  Of particular interest to me are depictions of rape on film. One, because I love film, and two, because rape is rape and I’m a proud feminist.

 I shall never forget the time I watched High Plains Drifter  expecting only the usual ways in which women are depicted in Westerns  – dumb and hapless but beautiful OR industrious yet smelly and unattractive, and always under-represented.   But alas, in this one, Clint Eastwood rolls into town, grabs the first woman he sees, forces her into a barn where she struggles against his attack until part way through the rape when her exclamations of resistance turn to sexual moans and she ends up enjoying it.  OMG. And of course, all the people  of the shanty town who see this happen in broad daylight do nothing about it. 

This is just one example of so many possible examples of the ways in which the media reinforces all those nasty stereotypes about rape.  But the new flick starring Seth Rogen, Observe and Report, hits a fascinating note in the normalization of sexual assault.  And by fascinating, I mean disgusting.

Essentially, the scene in question involves a woman who has ingested so many drugs and so much alcohol that she has vomited on herself and she is passed out.  Rogen’s character is having sex with her anyway.  If you read the third link of this post (commentary and trailer which includes the scene) you will see that Rogen himself suggests that the rape is made OK and funny by the woman waking up part way through and asking why he has stopped.  Defenders are saying this is consent. 

In Canada, sexual assault law precludes consent under circumstances of extreme intoxication of either the victim or the perpetrator and whether the intoxication is self-induced or otherwise.  Therefore, at least Canadians will have to conclude that there is no consent given.  Also…WTF.  He just starts having sex with a passed out chick?!?! Not cool, man, not cool.

As many on the internet have noted, the really troubling part is that the target audience of this film are those same 18-26 -year-old mooks who are most likely to commit date rape.  So now they’ll think its funny.  And OK.  

To this point I’ve had conflicted feelings toward Rogen; while I find Superbad to be hilarious, I also feel  making-light of porn-addiction in young men is detestful.  And the pseudo-porn included in the extra features of the DVD is a bit much.  But I really don’t think I can respect a man who participates in making a joke about date rape. 

Sure, the film is billed as a black comedy.  And yes, date rape is pretty effing black.  But comedy?  I just feel as though some things are off limits.

Rape isn’t comedy and it isn’t art.  It is a sorrowful expression of men’s incessant need to empower themselves by stealing power from women in an horrific act of terrifying, degrading, and scarring violence.  

Shame, Seth Rogen and Jody Hill.  Shame.



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7 responses to “all’s fair in film and comedy?

  1. Tyler

    Seth Rogen is fascinating. And by fascinating, I mean vomit-inducing.
    I hate that guy.

  2. Wow, that is not cool at all.

    Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all depictions of rape in comedy are horrible. If done right, comedy can feed and be fed by strong morality. A comedic depiction of something despicable like rape can be funny because it is so horrible.

    For example, George Carlin’s classic bit about it. Or the episode of South Park using rape as an analogy for how much the latest Indiana Jones movie sucked. These are funny because they are shocking; just saying the word disgusts and horrifies us, making a sharp contrast with the frivolity of comedy, which makes us laugh. If the audience (and clever comedy writers) didn’t realize how dead serious a problem it is, it wouldn’t be funny. Unlike in Observe and Report, which apparently just depicts the hero engaging in date rape without the necessary wink and nod to acknowledge that it really shouldn’t be funny. (Although I hesitate to judge without actually having seen the movie)

    Anyway, good post. Now I can save money by avoiding that movie.

    • Ashley Bushfield

      I haven’t seen/heard/read either of the examples that you mention. But trusting the comic-genius of both authors I suspect I wouldn’t find the use brutal.

      Where I feel the line is drawn is in specific depictions of rape as opposed to mere mentioning. And I am a firm believer in the responsibility any artist/author has in recognizing their audience and accepting their impact on them. This is what is particularly maddening for me when it comes to the Spoof issue of The Gazette and Observe and Report; if an audience isn’t completely horrified by date rape, joking about it fundamentally fails given your definition of the possible comedy of rape and normalizes the behaviour.

      Similarly, I am adverse to those who have not experienced rape first-hand making comments about the experience of rape – comedic or otherwise, as was done in the film presented at the Fringe Film Festival in London. It’s kind of like the ‘n-word’.

  3. gk

    you didn’t sign this post with “peace”. just so you know… in case you missed it accidentally or something.

    why do you hate peace?

  4. Similarly, I am adverse to those who have not experienced rape first-hand making comments about the experience of rape – comedic or otherwise, as was done in the film presented at the Fringe Film Festival in London.

    Not sure I agree with this. It’s sort of like saying that anyone who hasn’t been in a gun fight should never create or criticize an action movie. Maybe the depiction or discussion will lack some detail or fail to understand the importance of it, but it can still have an impact (though sometimes a negative one). I say we judge comments and media by their content; not by the past experience of their authors.

    I’m not familiar with the Fringe Festival thing though, so I’m not commenting on that specifically.

    • Ashley Bushfield

      By “comments” I mean writing first-hand accounts as opposed to critical analysis. Obviously this as an extreme view, and I’m sure it will change one day soon. For instance I have seen depictions of rape that have done complete justice to the horror in my opinion – Monster, for one, Teeth, for another. I’m warming up to it. There are just some things I view as sacred emotional experience and my “adverse” stance simply means that the writer will be scrutinized far more severely by me.

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