Observing and Reporting Rape Culture at Work

by Cara on March 23, 2009

in assholes, marketing, media, misogyny, objectification, paternalism, patriarchy, pop culture, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

Watching random music videos on TV last night, this commercial for the new Seth Rogen film Observe and Report kept playing over and over again.  The basis of the film seems to be that Seth Rogen plays a quirky (according to IMDB, bi-polar — so yay, we can likely expect lots of “jokes” mocking disability and mental illness, too!) mall cop, who has to solve the case of a man who keeps flashing women at the mall.

Well I think we can all agree that this is a totally awesome and highly amusing premise for a movie.  So we should probably be unsurprised to see that just a few seconds in, there is a rape joke:

I imagine that the “joke” within the context of the film might possibly be that the line “everyone thinks they’re fine until someone puts in ‘em something they don’t want in ‘em” is referring to something other than a penis. If that’s not the “joke,” then the joke is clearly just “Ha! A penis in a woman that she doesn’t want in her! Whew, rape is hilarious!”

But even if it is the case, the “joke” is still “Oh, hey, that sounds like he’s talking about a penis! In her, when she doesn’t want it in her! Oh man, saying things to women that makes it sound like you’re talking about someone raping them is hilarious!”

And regardless of the context within the movie? The joke in the trailer is clearly the first interpretation anyway.

Actually, this isn’t the exact same trailer that I kept seeing on TV last night.  In the preview I saw, we also get a scene were Seth Rogen’s character grabs the female lead and starts making out with her right after she demonstrates how completely drunk she is by throwing up all over the sidewalk.  Get it!  It’s a joke!  Drunk chicks are awesome because you get to take advantage of them!

You can also rest assured knowing that when I was searching for this particular trailer on YouTube, I came across another clip from the movie that portrays women who are the victims of sexual harassment or assault as hysterical, helpless, over-reacting, obnoxious — and yet funny! — bimbos.

Aren’t we so happy that the Apatow clan is constantly purported by the mainstream media to be taking over and reimaging the entire comedy world?  God knows that we weren’t going to find a whole movie based on rape jokes before they came along!

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{ 19 comments }

1 frau sally benz March 23, 2009 at 10:37 am

Ugh, this is depressing. I can’t believe that rape jokes in movies are becoming that much more popular than they were before. I wonder why people seem to joke around about it so much. Is it just because they don’t think anything is off-limits, so they make fun of women, sex, rape, race, whatever. I always get so uncomfortable when I hear jokes like these in movies and people always tell me to lighten up. It’s so damn frustrating – when are people in entertainment going to start speaking out about it?

2 KC March 23, 2009 at 1:09 pm

“Drunk chicks are awesome because you get to take advantage of them!”

I thought it was a joke showing how repulsive his character was, nothing about women. There is such a thing as pushing the panic button.

3 Cara March 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Actually KC, I’m almost positive that the joke was how gross the character was for making out with her right after she puked, even though she hadn’t so much as had a mint (which is why he says “I accept you as you are”) — not that he was gross because he was grabbing and attempting to make out with a woman so drunk that she just puked.

4 Cara March 23, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Further, even if you were right — is using the fact that a guy is repulsive in that manner as a joke supposed to be funny? Or much better? At absolute best it’s still saying “wow, that’s really repulsive of him — but at least it’s funny!”

5 Eghead March 23, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Oh my god thank you for talking about this. I’ve only seen it a few times, but it’s so disturbing I… fuck, I can hardly believe it. I don’t know what the actual movie is about, but it looks AWFUL

6 J March 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

The additional clip you linked to is what bothers me most – I assume she’s reacting to having just seen the flasher? It makes light of the very REAL emotional trauma that someone can go through after being violated which can’t be good at all for ACTUAL victims of sexual assault who often do feel like they are overreacting. I’m training to be a Rape Crisis Advocate and one of our biggest responsibilities is to validate the feelings of trauma, shock, sadness, etc. that survivors of sexual assault go through… to display those feelings in this manner, and make fun of a woman for having them can only hurt real survivors.

7 emylie_bo_bemylie March 23, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Thank you for posting on this. Every time I see this trailer I get angry. So many of these Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow co. movies they have these guys that they’re making fun of because they meet the creator’s (and various other people’s) definition of losers. And it’s supposed to be funny ha-ha these guys are losers, which is fine, whatever, I don’t really have a problem with that, but they always put in various bits where the guy’s a rape-apologist, a rapist, an attempted rapist, or something along those lines, and it’s supposed to be funny because it’s so pathetic of them or something. But they completely obfuscate the real issue that rape, threats of rape, attempts of rape, etc. are serious violations of other human beings. These character’s are not “lovable losers” but rather bad people who harm other people. Like in Pineapple Express, the character played by Seth Rogen is dating a high-school girl. And it’s supposed to be funny because it shows how much of a loser he is that the only girlfriend he can get is a high-schooler but really it’s not funny, it’s disturbing because they completely elide the fact that there’s a serious power-differential and however immature or whatever he is they’re still in completely different places developmentally and in there power in society. I don’t know if I explained that really well.

8 emylie_bo_bemylie March 23, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Oops, I’m sorry about the excessively long post.

9 Thealogian March 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

“Actually KC, I’m almost positive that the joke was how gross the character was for making out with her right after she puked, even though she hadn’t so much as had a mint (which is why he says “I accept you as you are”)”

Not to mention that it was riffing off of “Bridget Jones’ Diary”–”I like you just as you are.” Even though BJD has some of the most painful cliches of the 30-something, professional female ouvre, I think the whole: damn it, you’re loveable even though you aren’t perfect is fairly lovely. (In the books, its more clear–Darcy is balding, for example–so he’s more reality based as well). So, not only is this guy a creep for taking advantage of a drunk woman, he is mocking chick-lit and chick-films in a non-constructive manner. Whata fuckwit.

10 Sara B March 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

THANK YOU! I’m just so glad to know I’m not the only one who was totally pissed off by these trailers… although I didn’t know about the bipolar element of the story. I have bipolar disorder so now I’m even MORE pissed off!

11 AshKW March 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Bares teeth…has sworn off Rogen/Apatow movies for eternity.

This is NOT funny. Not at all. Not in any way.

12 karak March 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm

As soon as I saw the trailers on this one, I could feel the ickiness sinking in.

Did you miss the trailer of WHY she’s so sloppy drunk? He puts pills or something in her drink.

And every time I see the drunk-puke-kiss, I gag a little. Ugh, on so many levels.

13 Anna March 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

‘Did you miss the trailer of WHY she’s so sloppy drunk? He puts pills or something in her drink.’

…Christ.

14 Cara March 24, 2009 at 7:20 am

Did you miss the trailer of WHY she’s so sloppy drunk? He puts pills or something in her drink.

WHAT? No, the one I saw had her sitting at the restaurant with several empty shot glasses in front of her.

15 Genevieve March 24, 2009 at 11:23 am

I saw a trailer for this last weekend–yes, it’s misogynistic, but it’s also racist–the trailer included ‘jokes’ based on Asian and Mexican stereotypes. All of this added up made me say, “nope, don’t care how well this is reviewed, I am not ever watching this movie.”

16 Iyapo March 25, 2009 at 6:44 am

Ugh. I had to sit through that awful trailer at a movie, it was so gross. The rape jokes, and “ugly fat guy gets hot stupid chick” humor was disgusting. I’m glad I’m not alone in hating this movie.

17 DCN March 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm

While the joke is repugnant under any circumstances, I was absolutely stunned to hear it during a trailer shown on network television (and presumably approved for “all audiences” by the MPAA). It made me think of your blog immediately and I’m so glad to see you reporting on it.

18 Sara Brigham March 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

On a sort of related note I was wondering if anyone else saw the trailer for Crank: High Voltage in which Jason Statham (for some dumbass reason) has to keep feeding himself an electrical charge to stay alive, and someone tells him he can use static electricity in a pinch, so go “rub up against someone,” and he proceeds to assault some old woman? It made me think of this post because as with Observe and Report the trailer cut to a subsequent scene of some “hysterical woman” reporting the incident to a cop, saying, “He treated me like a piece of meat!” Hilarious, right? Because one: anything short of rape isn’t REALLY a sex crime, and therefore reporting it is blowing everything way out of proportion on a comical scale, and two: since we ALL know women are asexual after menopause, the fact that this was an unattractive old woman as opposed to an attractive young woman just PROVES there was nothing sexual about it therefore it’s harmless fun. It really creeped me out.

19 Cara March 30, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Nope, Sara, I haven’t seen that one yet. Sounds awful, though.

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