Here are my thoughts. I can say wholeheartedly that I don’t mean to offend anyone with this post because I know it is a SUPER touchy subject, which is exactly why I think we should be talking about it. With that said, I personally (me, Emerald Pellot, the individual person) believe rape jokes CAN be funny. Mostly because I believe in comedy as an art form and I believe it can do really positive things. (Remember, Patch Adams, guys? Laughter is the best medicine!)
Books, movies, and film don’t ignore sensitive and heavy subjects, so why should comedy? Just because comedy is supposed to be funny doesn’t mean that bringing up certain subjects is making light of them or undermining how important they are. There’s a reason why comedy and tragedy were some of the first and most basic forms of high art.
I believe that “making fun” of things can help point out social hypocrisy, contradictions, and negative attitudes in a way that is humorous, but can also force you to really think critically. Teen suicide, bullying, murder and alienation aren’t funny, but in the movie Heathers they’re completely funny. The movie is a satire on these topics and it would help anyone think harder about the superficial ways we deal with teens who feel like outsiders.
I am a person of color and I’ve laughed at plenty of “racial” jokes, made by people who aren’t of my own race about my own race, because they were articulated in a way that was intelligent and funny. There is a difference between being mean and being funny. Although, you can think of being funny as a more constructive way of being “mean” because remember, you’re always laughing AT something. It’s a form of mockery and if you’re mocking bad, atrocious behavior then you’re actually being critical of that behavior and pointing out the ways that it is bad. Being mean is essentially just an attack with words. It’s just hating on something and some comedians (who aren’t funny or smart) will use rape, race, class or gender as a punchline. Maybe you’ve heard heard this joke: “What do you tell a women with two black eyes? Nothing, you already told her twice.”
That? Well, that’s not good comedy. It’s mean, sexist, and just not clever because the punchline is essentially just that women are idiots who need to be put in their place with violence. But the thing is that good comedy–smart, thought-provoking comedy–can transcend taking cheap shots by dealing with heavy topics in a way that makes us think and laugh at the same time. Good comedians can talk about their own personal prejudices in a way that points out why they’re wrong and make you question your own personal prejudices, all while making you giggle.
Some people hear the word “rape” and get really upset. Well, duh, rape is really upsetting. It’s one of those trigger words that stirs fury because it is one of the most awful things anyone can go through, and it happens everyday. However, I do think it’s important to hear the whole joke, to hear the whole story, before deciding that someone was making a hurtful or hateful statement. Telling a joke where rape is a part of the story doesn’t mean the person is condoning rape as a positive behavior. Just like singers, painters, writers, there are some good comedians and some bad comedians and some of them will say offensive things just to piss you off because it gets them a response. Others though, are trying to make us think and working on helping heal wounds and stop stereotypes.
But–BUT–big but, as a public figure (and that means whether you are Tweeting, on stage or on TV) it isn’t up to you to decide what is offensive. When you make the choice to speak about a heavy topic, intelligently or not, you’re inviting the possibility that some people will get offended. You don’t get to decide how what you say affects someone emotionally or politically. If you do offend someone, you don’t get to make them feel bad about being offended either. I know that I’ve offended some of the readers on Gurl by taking a pro-choice stance. That’s not going to stop me from discussing abortions, but it’s not going to make me berate them into agreeing with me either.
We talk about heavy subjects to get people riled up and talking. If you’re offended by what I say I want to hear ALL about it!
So ARE you offended? Do rape jokes rub you the wrong way? Let us know in the comments!