Rape humor on prime time television
_Tags: discourse/language, gender, media, violence, comedy, media literacy, rape culture, symbolic violence, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Before watching this remix of the 2012 television season's many rape jokes, take a minute to view an excerpt from the documentary Vietnam: American Holocaust, where American soldiers testify that they raped civilian women during the Vietnam War. "We found one hiding in a bomb shelter," one soldier explains, "She was taken out [and] raped by 6 or 7 people." You might also watch this recent speech from Tony Porter, where he recounts a moment from early adolescence when he came upon a group of older boys raping a mentally disabled girl from his neighborhood. Rape most easily stirs anger and depression, so a joke about it would seem to be a risky proposition for any comedian; yet that is exactly what happens with relative frequency in a number of new sitcoms this television season. The remix above features scenes from 2 Broke Girls, Wilfred, Up All Night, Workaholics, Whitney, Two and a Half Men, Modern Family, Glee, Work It, and a few others. More than just insensitive content in an era when 1 in 5 American women experience rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives, the use of rape as humor can potentially minimize the brutality of this crime. While humor can sometimes be an effective means of leveling social criticism (as argued elsewhere on The Sociological Cinema), that does not appear to be what is happening in the scenes that compose this remix. This short clip provides an excellent foray into discussions about how rape humor is part and parcel of rape culture (defined here). The humor stands to reinforce deeply problematic values, norms, and ideas of that culture, especially when they are blended with other more innocuous punchlines and canned laughter from a studio audience.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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