Thursday, July 19, 2012

Observations In A Pop Nation Pt. 3

My third installment is in the realm of Pop Culture as opposed to Pop Music specifically.  Many of you have probably heard the controversy regarding Daniel Tosh's rape jokes a couple weeks ago; to summarize, Tosh said that rape jokes were funny, and a female audience member disagreed. She stood up and said "actually, rape jokes are never funny."  His reply?

"Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her..."

"Am I a douchebag? Yay or Nay?"

Actually, no, that wouldn't be funny, that would be pretty traumatizing for everyone (except for, perhaps, the rapists themselves, and the people who feel it's okay to rape someone, for laughs or otherwise).  Now, I know that there are a lot of opinions about the whole thing-- a lot of people are saying Tosh is in the wrong for making rape jokes (he later attempted to apologize, his tweet lacked sincerity); others are defending him, saying the woman heckled him and should have been prepared to be heckled back.  And still others don't blame the woman, but think Tosh shouldn't be getting so much flack because-- HELLO-- he's a comedian.  Comedians are supposed to be controversial-- they give audience members license to laugh about things things they wouldn't be able to in more PC situations.  When you're at a comedy show, you're free to pee your pants over chinese accents, black men who love chicken and watermelon, slutty women who obviously are too stupid to understand men just want sex and nothing else; you can lose your shit over how funny gay men talk and walk and how unbelievably GAY they are, how lesbians are always ugly women who just can't find a man who's willing to have sex with them, or how terrible marriage is ALL THE TIME FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

And you laugh and laugh and laugh... and then you realize, when it's back to real life, that something's hit home for you.  Someone at work makes fun of your accent. You're the gay guy everyone's laughing at. You're the black guy that no one takes seriously.  You're the girl everyone calls a slut.  Suddenly, YOU are that joke.  Only there's no stage, and there are no laughs, and it's not fun anymore. Now, I'm not really trying to say anything about what Tosh said to that woman, or even about comedians in general.  I'm not even trying to really place an opinion about the institution of comedy and the interesting way we compartmentalize real life from comedy, as if nothing from comedy leaks into real life (like someone actually being raped, and someone thinking  that it was unbelievably funny). Because in the end, it's not the comedians who are at fault. Yes, their words are incendiary and controversial. But isn't the problem bigger than that?

Why is it that we live in a world where anyone would even consider using rape as a way to make people laugh?  And why is it funny in the first place?  Because Tosh wasn't yapping at a silent audience-- I've heard some of the audio from that night, people were laughing hard at his rape joke and his response to the woman in the audience.  Why is it that in our society, it's okay to laugh when you see a woman, in the flesh, and imagine her being raped?  Why is it that in our society, we teach people to not get raped, but we don't teach people not to rape?  Seems a little backwards to me.

I'm not looking for censorship against comedians.  In the world we live in, I have plenty of options for my own entertainment, and if I don't like what someone does with their comedy, I'm not gonna watch it.  I think that the way Tosh handled the whole situation was too over-the-top, and humiliating a person by getting others to laugh about them being raped, imaginary or not, is just disgusting and wrong. I will not be watching his show in the future, just like I don't watch Eddie Murphy movies or anything Sarah Silverman.  Am I gonna tell you to boycott them? Send them letters telling them how terrible they are? No, and no.  But I would hope after you've had your laughs, once you're back to the reality of life outside the comedy club, you'll think about what you laughed about.

How much of it is the laughs, and how much of it is reality for millions of people all over the country?  How much of it is the laughs, and how much of it detrimentally affects the quality of life for the people in your life?  How can we change society to teach people not to rape, and not how to not get raped?

On another note, what do rape jokes say about how society views rape victims in general, and women in particular?  What does it say about the autonomy of women's bodies?  Do we truly have over how our body is treated?  What does this say about the objectification of women and the dissociation between woman as a human being and woman as a body?



  1. Some jokes are exaggerations. Some jokes reinforced stereotypes. I've heard black and latino comedians make jokes about black and latino. I've heard gay comedians make jokes about gays. Some are funny and some are stupid to me. But I understand everyone has different taste. But jokes about violence are not funny at all. And that is what rape is all about - violence. I don't find murder funny. I don't find lynching funny and I don't find rape funny.

    1. I just wonder why people would think rape was funny, from a sociological standpoint. What makes jokes about rape and violence funny to people? In what ways does our society work to make these kinds of jokes not only acceptable to say, but acceptable to laugh at?