On Rape and Comedy
This past weekend the Golden Globes Awards annual television event was broadcast. Long-time favorite pair Tina Fey and Amy Poehler again held the honors of hosting the event, which among many other duties involves a long monologue (dualogue?) to open the ceremony. During the opening segment, after all the oohing and aahing to congratulate (sometimes sarcastically) the attendees, Amy let drop the semi-awkward joke “In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby,” after which she and Tina traded impressions of Bill Cosby’s famous Jell-O Pudding Pop commercials, but with pills. It was brutal, and ugly, and not entirely well pulled off, as you can see below.
If you watched the above clip, you can see the waves of shock and discomfort roll through the crowd. You can also see how Tina and Amy acknowledge the subject matter while refusing to hold back, as has been their motif the entire time I’ve seen them together. They joke about the difficult and the uncomfortable not because they it’s easy but because these things need to be acknowledged and shoved deep into the grey matter of pop culture.
Let’s not forget, this entire resurgence of rape allegations against Bill Cosby started with one comedian working the “Bill Cosby is a rapist” angle into his routine for 6 months before somebody caught it on tape and put it online. At the time the count of women who had laid claims against Bill Cosby was 13. The count now is nearly, if not over, double that amount. Even so, many of Cosby’s supporters are quick to bring forth the age-old mantra “innocent until proven guilty” that is the stalwart foundation upon which the U.S. Criminal Judicial System is based. What comedy allows, however, is for a pattern to be recognized outside the court of law that hits a person of public standing where it hurts worst; the bank.
Since the allegations began anew against Cosby, he’s had 2 television series and a large number of live shows cancelled. Cosby and his representations have denied any wrong doing and instead insist that the man who once portrayed Clif Huxtable as the epitome of wholesome values is, indeed, wholesome. As the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is always difficult to maintain in cases involving sexual assault, particularly assault registered years or decades prior, the legal system itself may never be able to do anything to seek justice for the women bringing forth these accusations. Thus, comedy.
Let me be clear. Rape is not funny. The mere mention of it is a trigger for many victims to suffer flashbacks of their own assaults. If you’ve ever known a rape victim who has been open about being attacked you know that the recovery process nearly never ends; something somewhere can always serve as a reminder and open the wound anew. For the many purported victims of Bill Cosby, the act that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler performed at the Godel Globes very likely was upsetting, if not worse. Amy and Tina did’t do that for Cosby’s specific victims, however. They did if for the rest of us.
For those of us who acknowledge that rape happens, just “not around me.”
For those of us who say we’d never do anything like that, then pressure our partner as s/he drifts off to sleep for a quickie before dreaming.
For those of us who are quicker to question the integrity of the reported victim than the assailant.
For those of who have friends who make rape jokes and don’t call them out on it.
For those of us who make lewd comments toward women without seeing the harm.
For those of us who condone lyrics like Pitbull’s “She say she won’t but I bet she will” from the song “Timber”.
For those of us who have ever uttered the line “Bro’s before Ho’s.”
For those of us who think a woman has every right to choose her attire and partners, but still calls her a slut.
For those of us who still think that women are somehow inferior to men.
For those of us who think going on a date entitles us to sexual favors.
For those of us who never think beyond “I’d so fuck you” every time we meet somebody new.
We need comedy like what Tina Fey and Amy Poehler brought us not to make things better for the victims but to make things better for us all, to eliminate the kind of possessive, demanding behaviour that results in somebody being drugged just so somebody else can have an orgasm. We need to be show, however uncomfortably, that even our heroes can be villains. We need to be shown that we can be too, and then use that to be better.
Stay SINful, friends.