Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Hello! Welcome to Dour Amish Lady Who Hates Movies and All Other Forms of Entertainment Movie Time!

No, not really. You are not welcome to that at all. I have just been writing a lot recently about things that I think are really damaging and subtle and stupid and bad. I do plan to remedy this. As a personal acquaintance of mine made clear, "at a certain point, you're going to have to tell people what you actually like," and I shall - oh, I shall! Perhaps even later today! HOWEVER, I was diverted from this true and holy purpose by a visit to the AV Club this morning, in which I read an interview with Anna Faris, in which she described her character in forthcoming Seth Rogen comedy Observe and Report, and in which she said:
I’ve played a few bad characters in my day, but I think she’s the worst. She works at the makeup counter, and she’s very proud of that fact. She’s really vain, she’s really bitchy, and I always imagined she was incredibly stupid, too... She loves to have a good time. A bit of a party girl. What helped me get into the role were these long fake green press-on nails I’d put on every morning. They sort of render you helpless, so there’s something about that quality that was like, “Oh. This is a person who can’t really do anything.”
Oh, and:
I’m so grateful I was cast, but when I read the script, I thought, “Well, this is Warner Brothers. This is a studio movie, so this is all gonna be softened up. It’s a comedy, right?” So when we were shooting it, even the date-rape scene—or as I refer to it, “The Tender Love-Making Scene”—I just thought, “We’ll shoot it, but it’s not gonna be in the movie. I don’t have to worry about that one.” And yet there it is.
Ah, long have I awaited the comedy in which I could watch some dumb slutty stuck-up bitch get date raped by Seth Rogen. Let's check the early reviews, shall we?
Hill hits what seems like a bad-taste peak early on (Ronnie grinding away on top of an ostensibly unconscious alcohol-and-drug-addled, vomit-flecked Brandi) and just keeps climbing.'
Ha ha, "ostensibly!" I love the little qualifiers that get thrown into sentences like these. For example, I am tempted at this moment to say that Seth Rogen can ostensibly eat my asshole! But not really, for my invitation is only OSTENSIBLE. Ostensible: "plausible rather than demonstrably true or real," and/or "being in such an appearance," a word never used when a writer wishes to present something as unambiguously true; puzzling here, since the writer's use of character names rather than actor names OSTENSIBLY indicates he is talking about the fictional truth of the movie, which in turn OSTENSIBLY indicates that he thinks the female character might somehow be faking unconsciousness in order to get date raped, because women, they do that sometimes.* OSTENSIBLY. THE MORE YOU KNOW.

Anyway, I could spend a little while talking about how even though this comedy is going to be intentionally dark and edgy and scary and weird, and even though I know representation is not the same as perpetuation, and even though as a lady I am somehow always supposed to be a "good sport" and "understanding," because it's not as if women could look back on the history of the world and note that it has been pretty much exclusively male-dominated, and the history of art and note that it too has been pretty much exclusively male-dominated, and note when looking at art produced by men within a male-dominated culture that a whole lot of it reflects and perpetuates male domination, because that would mean they are just terrible people who cannot hear the Music of the Spheres nor hear the Eternal Human Verities within this canon that kind of perpetually excludes or insults or misrepresents them, this is fucked up. I could talk about how I am a person who routinely makes jokes about her own experience of sexual assault, and has maybe the least mature or gentle sense of humor in the world, and I still feel that the whole "dumb bitch gets raped by comic hero" thing is indescribably foul, and yeah, maybe I could "give it a chance," maybe I could try to be "fair" about this, but maybe I just have better things to do than watch a movie that might be about a woman who gets a deserved raping, maybe I've reached the precise point at which I cannot be a "good sport" any longer and that is the point at which I am asked to pay ten fucking dollars plus however much a soda is these days for a movie that may very well insult me and every woman who's ever had an unwanted dick shoved into her body. I could talk about how, even though I got warned in advance, even though I won't be seeing the movie, the incredible frequency of rape and sexual assault in our society means that many, many victims of rape will see it, and the PTSD that often accompanies rape will mean that, for a joke, for some dipshit filmmaker's attempt at being edgy, they are going to experience all of the pain and psychological trauma associated with that experience, they are going to feel that rape all over again, there, in their seats, in the theater, and they are going to pay for the experience, and if they try to talk about what that filmmaker did to them it's probably going to get sidetracked into some conversation about the Sanctity of Art which is invariably given more consideration than their actual lives.

I could talk about all of that, but I won't. These conversations last so long and always seem to involve some guy calling me "oversensitive" or accusing me of making shit up or otherwise calling my perceptions invalid because they conflict with his own or just saying that I'm pissy and not funny and mean, and all of it makes me so tired, you guys, so unbelievably tired of stating basic facts that pretty much everyone with a shred of decency should comprehend but most people and/or movie studios and/or acclaimed Artists of Our Times just fucking don't. So, nope, not getting into it. I'm just going to enjoy the fact that I am, apparently, psychic. Because, of all the many things this is, it is not even remotely surprising.

Bonus AV Club interview quote:

When she went on the date with Ronnie, he starts talking about how she’s just too generous. She’s like, “You know what my problem is? I just give. I just give way too much. All I do is I give and I give and I give. And you know what? I’m done.” Oh, that’s such a delicious line.

AVC: Someone who actually gives would never say something like that.


*I have looked up further information on the movie! It appears, in fact, that mid-date-rape, she "semiconsciously" (in the words of a poster who described the scene) says the words, "why are you stopping, motherfucker." Several reviewers have nonetheless described this as "sex" in which she just happens to be drugged, unconscious, and covered in her own vomit. So, if you are listening, it is not just that Observe & Report contains, by all accounts, a scene of rape; it contains, by all accounts, a scene of rape in which the victim likes it and begs for more. Enjoy!

UPDATE 1: So, I have now gotten over my revulsion and seen the red band trailer, which does, in fact, contain the rape scene. Yeah, it's evil. If you want to see it - which, it's totally fair if you don't, because TRIGGER WARNING, DUH - you can find it in this Jezebel post.

UPDATE 2: Because it's always fun to see how people squirm and/or say horrific apologistical things in situations like this - it is relevant, because it exposes how we think and talk about rape! Which is, surprise, fucked up! - I direct your attention to the following quotes from Dan Kois of the Vulture Blog. I actually want to say that Dan is trying, and he at least identifies it as rape, and I believe he may even have edited his post recently to make the language more unambiguous and condemnatory, but seriously:

By any reasonable standard of behavior, Seth Rogen's character, Ronnie Barnhardt, totally rapes Faris's Brandi. More surprising is that, in the dark world of Observe and Report, raping Brandi is one of the least unsympathetic things Ronnie Barnhardt does. The movie doesn't mitigate that sex scene at all... she certainly can't give any kind of informed consent. She's way too wasted for her yelling at Ronnie to mean anything... as horribly misdirected as it becomes, his "courtship" of Brandi is the only thing in Ronnie's life that comes partly from a place of sweetness rather than entirely from a place of darkness. (Sure, plenty of it comes from his sociopath-level desire to wield power over the world, but not all of it.) He may have no idea how to interact properly (or even legally) with a woman, but he's desperate for connection and helpless before her limited charms.

Earlier, I wrote a piece that bitched out Dan Kois without giving him credit for what he tries to do here. I don't want to repeat that mistake. He identifies it as a rape, and actually uses the key phrase "informed consent," and doesn't use the "grey area" argument. All good things. However, I do count (1) a "rape isn't the worst thing in the world" argument (um, "worst" isn't a good or useful criterion: no matter where you place it in your personal hierarchy of Violent Crimes It Would Not Be Fun To Be The Victim Of, rape is one of the more common, and a very dangerous thing to trivialize, specifically if you're playing a scene where a woman quasi-"consents" to the raping and the filmmaker arguably seeks to justify it on those grounds), (2) a "he does it because he likes her" argument, and (3) a statement that the rapist, and not the victim, is "helpless." Because, you know, it's hard not to rape women when they turn you on so much. Whoops.

UPDATE 3: On the subject of the "gray area," commenter Emylie Bo Bemylie points out a passage from the New York Times article, which says:

"In another scene he forces himself on a makeup-counter saleswoman (Anna Faris) after a date of heavy drinking and drug use. (Before the scene is over she indicates that she had given her consent.)"

Yeah, no, semi-conscious sleep-talking does not count as consent when you are putting your penis in a drugged, unconscious person who can't actually tell what is going on and therefore cannot consent to it, sorry.

UPDATE 4: I'm not even going to post the quotes from Seth Rogen's self-congratulatory interviews in which he says that he looooves how shocked and disgusted the audience is and it's greeeeeeeeeeeeeat how Anna Faris's character blurts out something that "makes it OK." Why? Because Seth Rogen has too much damn space devoted to him already, that's why.

UPDATE 5: Worst reviews so far: Peter Travers at Rolling Stone ("Props to Hill and Rogen for believing you can play anything for a hoot, including R-rated sex and violence... Hill is fearless at pushing hot buttons: date rape, shooting up and worse") and Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune ("The best, riskiest bit in 'Observe and Report' involves Faris, with wee vomitous spillage drying on the pillow by her slack jaw, underneath Rogen, who cannot believe the dolt of his fondest desires is trashed enough to give him a toss"). Best review... well, I'm assuming you loved Manohla Dargis at the New York Times already, right? Because if not, you're about to:

By far the most outrageous instance of Mr. Hill’s disarming his own bombs occurs when Ronnie beds Brandi (Anna Faris, rising above the muck), a cosmetics clerk who’s impervious to his attentions until the flasher brings them together. During an ensuing date, Brandi gobbles pills, guzzles tequila and even sputters puke, prompting Ronnie to kiss her square on the messy mouth. What follows next should have been the shock of the movie: a cut to Ronnie having vigorous sex with Brandi who, from her closed eyes, slack body and the vomit trailing from her mouth to her pillow, appears to have passed out. But before the words “date rape” can form in your head, she rouses herself long enough to command Ronnie to keep going.

Comedy is often cruel, of course, but before 1968, the year the movie rating system was instituted, directors couldn’t squeeze laughs from the suggestion of date rape, as Mr. Hill tries to do here... This lack of critique might make the movie seem daring. But it’s hard to see what is so bold about a film that, much like the world outside the theater, turns the pain and humiliation of other people into a consumable spectacle.

God bless you, Manohla. God bless us, every one.


  1. Because if she's unconscious, then it's a "gray area." Because there's 'ostensibly' some possibility that a person can consent to something when she's unconscious.
    Also, aren't actors supposed to have some respect for their characters, even if the characters are "bad" or ambiguous, in order to do a half-decent job of portraying them?

  2. Yeah. It's "gray." Because she's drugged to the point of not being able to give full and informed consent! And subsequently passes out! And subsequently gains semi-consciousness in order to say that what he is doing is OK and he should keep doing it! Because women will totally always be OK with you drugging them and sticking your penis in them, because they're sluts who like to get raped, unless they're joy-killing prudes.

    Ugh, I had totally intended to post something positive today, you know? Just this weekend, I was joking about a man-child comedy featuring a graphic rape scene between Seth Rogen and an impossibly beautiful blonde chick (who would become his girlfriend post-raping, obvs) as some sort of Perfect Storm of sexist film. It was funny, you see, because such an atrocity would never occur in reality, because people just AREN'T THAT TERRIBLE.

    I repeat: ugh.

  3. I am glad, so glad, that you are writing. Seriously. You'd be on my list of Official Personal Heros if I had a list like that.

    Also, this movie sounds beyond horrid and I'm about to vomit just reading the description of the rape scene. Do people actually laugh at this? Really?

  4. Please don't feel compelled to post "positive" stuff, unless of course, it's for your own mental health. I love your crabbin' on the patriarchal crap! It makes me laugh, and makes me feel sane and makes my day! AND: I hate Tarantino too! YAY! I know, I know: previous post, but I'm still "yay!" about it--I'm not alone anymore.


  5. Thank you so much for your writing and posts. I really have been enjoying them. Thanks again.

  6. I have to admit, I want to see it now, I like 'dark' humour but I'm just not buying this.

    Also, completely off the more important topic but this quote ''She works at the makeup counter, and she’s very proud of that fact'' really annoyed me, are women who work on make up counters lesser beings now? Or is it a pathetic attempt to win over the feminists because we don't like make up right? So we'll ignore the whole rape thing becasue she's a total feminist like us! (definite sarcasm)

  7. I hope Rogen loses a lot of money on this.

  8. Wow. And to think I was hoping to catch a matinee of that this weekend. That sounds positively disgusting, and the way people are acting toward people who are upset by it is horrifying.

  9. Rape isn't funny. But someone who alikens the physical victimization of such a heinous act to a full-throttle in-theatre Viet Nam flashback because of a senseless scene in a dumb movie IS funny. Because you have invariably let the constitution of an otherwise blunt, bland film work you into a regrettable lather--or rather, just the notion of the film itself, seeing as you decided to post 1000 words based on a trailer. I won't pretend to give a shit about Observe and Report, because I am certainly not here to defend it or its questionable content. But letting something as unimportant and worthless as a non-joke in a movie that NO ONE THINKS IS FUNNY/WORTHWHILE, ANYWAY is akin to gassing up the car for an epic cross-country trip, only to sit and idle in the driveway for a few hours. Wasted energy from someone angry enough to probably power the metaphorical 'car' for that cross-country trip with her own vitriol. C'mon. Let's use our $120,000 college educations and Feminist Theory artillery to make some sort of difference. There's still genital torture going on in Africa, gay marriage is less legal than it was last year, and women still make less than 3/4 of what the average man makes in a comparable job. Observe and Report becoming 'that thing you spent last week criticizing the sexual/antisexual politics of' really makes it sound less like the film 'won' and YOU lost. Valuable time and thought, that is.

  10. Gee, Anononymous, I never thought of it that way before! I am assuming that you are, in fact, a rape trauma counselor, based on your radiant compassion and the fact that you clearly feel comfortable correcting someone about how rape scenes in movies "really" affect people with sexual-assault related PTSD when she IDENTIFIES HERSELF AS A SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR WITH FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE OF THIS PHENOMENON IN HER POST.

    Anyway, thank God I don't need to rely on my own perceptions or authority. I have yours! You're so totally right: since this is clearly the only blog post I have ever written, and since rape in movies is the only issue I have ever taken on, and since this post along with similar posts from other feminists and/or critics have IN NO WAY served to spark a massive backlash which stands to (a) affect the movie's profitability, thereby making the filmmakers an unsafe bet for a studio in the future and bringing about the only bad consequences which they might feasibly care about, and (b) address the misconceptions of what constitute "rape" vs. "consensual sex" inherent in the joke we are discussing and without which the joke could not function (for example: "it's not rape if she doesn't fight," "unless she says no you should assume that she means yes (especially if she's a drunk slut who probably just likes to have men fuck her while she's passed out)," "people who are unconscious and/or drugged to the point that they are incapable of really knowing what's happening to them are capable of giving sexual consent," and "if you just start fucking an unconscious girl and she gives 'consent' in a state of semi-consciousness you are not a rapist"). Nope, I and the others who stand with me have not made any difference at all! We're so totally useless! Thank God you're here, Anonymous, to condescendingly inform us of how we SHOULD be living our feminism.

    It does occur to me, however: since you are so clearly the expert on what's an Important Feminist Issue and what is not, and are so obviously qualified to tell the rest of us what to think and/or write about, why don't you have a name? Or a link to your blog? Gladly - gladly! - would I learn at your knee! Tell you what: you post a link to what YOU'VE written, and I promise to hop right in my imaginary vitriol-powered car and go over there to give YOU some similarly helpful commentary about what YOU should identify as important! Unless that's not the point, and you just want to criticize and silence people without exposing yourself to criticism. Because, you know, you're a coward, and your pretense of identification with and/or concern about feminist issues is precisely that: a cowardly pretense.

    But no, that couldn't be the case. Could it?

  11. Keep going, Anonymous. I've almost got Bingo.

    As to the post--I wonder, what is it with the slew of woman-hating comedies these past couple of years? Have they gotten especially bad, or were they always this awful, and I didn't notice?

    As if hating women is so fucking edgy. (begin snark) Who knew that you could stick it to The Man by behaving exactly like The Man? Guess they showed me.(end snark)

    There is a silver lining, though. If I hear a man say that "Superbad" or "Observe and Report" are the best evar, I'll know right away that they're a misogynistic example of arrested development, and won't waste any of my time on him.

  12. all of it makes me so tired, you guys, so unbelievably tired of stating basic facts that pretty much everyone with a shred of decency should comprehend but most people and/or movie studios and/or acclaimed Artists of Our Times just fucking don't.

    It made me a little less tired to read this post.

    You're a fabulous writer.

    Also, your response to Anonymous was so effing brilliant it almost made me reconsider my policy of censoring trolls like a mean old constitution destroying free speech hater. In the end though, I think I just love denying people their civil liberties too much to give it up.

  13. Best thing I've read in 2009.

  14. @snobographer: Yeah, I'm really not sure how to feel about Faris's positioning on all this. I mean, I've read a lot of interviews with her where she said she welcomed the chance to play an "awful woman" because she was sick of having to be cute and sweet and winsome all the time. Which I get. She's also the person who initially made the comments about it being a rape scene, which got all this started. And I get that she wouldn't want to Heigl herself by just calling it fucked up and subsequently being subject to the Wrath of Dude, as in, "grrr, if she thinks it's sexist, why did she take the money? Why take imperfect jobs within an imperfect world which is what pretty much everyone has to do when you can just be unemployed? She is such a bitch/harpy/ungrateful asshole. Grrr." ESPECIALLY given that she's been stuck in Scary Movie Purgatory forever. So, like, some of the things that she is saying are fucked up but I'm not quite sure how to feel about them, and I'd rather just concentrate on Rogen and Jody Hill who have a history of this sort of thing.

    @Maatnofret: I was just talking about this with the guy who got me into "Eastbound and Down." (Also a Jody Hill joint!) He always thought we were supposed to hate Kenny, and got off on the "irony" (which I did too, until the treatment of April and the one black dude in the entire series alerted me that the racism and sexism weren't really "ironic" at all). Then he looked at some Facebook fan group for the series and there were all these meatheads talking about how Kenny was their hero and quoting the fucked-up things he'd said. So White Dude Irony is a weird thing, and (I think) really about having it both ways: progressive folks will pat themselves on the back for "getting" how fucked up it is, and everyone else will just go along with it and feel validated in their evilness. I'm not saying real irony about this stuff can't exist ("The Office" used to be really good at it, as the Jezebel commenters pointed out) but it's delicate and difficult and can't just be accomplished, really, by having someone say and do vile stuff with no consequences.

    @Ashley: Ha ha, yeah, it's fun to deny folks their Basic Liberties of Posting Stupid Shit In Your Space. A delight, in fact! It's weird, I'm getting more hate mail/trolling, and I'm still not sure how to deal with it. I want people to be able to criticize me, and I've had civil debate happen here in the past, so NOT publishing contentious stuff seems kind of like I'm being a fascist. My rule thus far: if you have an argument (or pretend to have one) then I will probably publish it, but also probably call you a stupid dick if your argument is invalid. If not, or if you're only posting to criticize me personally, or if the comment volume gets too high and I don't have time to deal with folks being dicks, no freedom of speech for you! WHEE!

  15. @anonymous, as a rape survivor who found common understanding with traumatized Vietnam vets in the months after my rape your statement about PTSD lacks credibility about rape survivors and about Vietnam vets.

    You wrote: "I won't pretend to give a shit about Observe and Report, because I am certainly not here to defend it or its questionable content."

    If this is true then you are using a movie you don't care about as an excuse to attack rape survivors and those who care about them. Your list of what issues are more important than thinking about the well being of rape survivors reveals much more about you than I believe you ever meant to communicate.

  16. A few thoughts.

    1. We need to bring back censorship. Or rather, we need to extend what censorship we already have (check how fast materials get yanked when a commercial interest is violated) to speech that incites hatred or violence towards women. Violence against women is a goddamn public health crisis (among other things) and it behooves us as a society to intervene. There, I said it.

    I don't want to hear about the goddamn first amendment either. Fuck it. People are silenced all the time by contractual obligations, privacy laws, and so on. If we can't take a collective stand that violence against women is not to be promoted by romanticizing, sexualizing (the ubiquitous 'sexy" rape victim), justifying and/or trivializing the act of rape, than why do we even bother pretending that government can be an agent of good?

    2. I saw a 10 - 15 minute promo thing on Comedy Central a few days ago promoting Observe and Report. It was ghastly. Let me count the ways. A smarmy interviewer asked Anna Farris (I paraphrase), "The character you play has a lot of vices. Can you describe that?" Her reply - first thing out of her mouth - (and I'm not paraphrasing), "Well, she's promiscuous." The writer - or maybe it was the director - of the film talking about how there are all these great serious actors in the film (Ray Liotta, etc. - all men), none of them known for comedy, and Seth Rogan is the only funny character in the whole film. (Sorry, Anna - you don't exist!). Seth Rogan describing his character thusly - "is he a good guy, or a bad guy? I don't know. He's a guy." (Sorry, guys, you're all braindead sociopaths!)

    - What struck me about the description of the rape scene, specifically Farris' character's "keep going" bit, was this - how incredibly tragic that is. Because were one to accept, within the logic of film (were one to accept that the film has logic), that her character does that, it could only be an expression of so much self-loathing that she actually sides with her attacker - makes herself complicit in the assault - because she sees herself as so deserving of abuse. Yeah, very funny, ha ha, she wants to be debased and abused, what a laugh.

    - The same movie industry that is so terrified of offending anyone by including an abortion in a film (sans tragedy and punishment) doesn't think twice about presenting rape as routine entertainment. What really strikes me is how most reviewers don't even bother to mention in their reviews that a film includes a graphic rape. ( I should say at this point that I've been an obsessive reader of movie reviews from a young age.) How many reviews of Watchmen advised people ahead of time about the (attempted) rape scene? Meanwhile, I can't think of a review that has failed to mention (warn) of full frontal male nudity. In fact, I think reviewers have discussed Apatow's use of male nudity far more than blatant misogyny.

    Keep going, Sady. You're terrific.

  17. The grim humor of the scene in O&R is that it's a microcosm of American attitudes towards rape. Reading comments on other sites is like turning over a rock and seeing the furious wriggling of rape apologists exposed to the light. People genuinely believe that rape is something a woman does to herself. It's what women deserve for drinking, wearing the wrong/right clothes, being in public, being a woman. The rapist is completely invisible - he's the mythological agent of punishment for everywoman, who is believed to deserve it. The very occurrence of the assault automatically makes it her fault for "letting it happen."

    The unspoken assumption that any man will rape you if you leave yourself open to it in any way is also a deeply disheartening view of the American male.

    I don't think Rogen intended the scene to expose these attitudes as problematic. I think it was an attempt to be ugly and shocking in a type of comedy that the makers consider successful when you cringe and laugh uncomfortably and hate yourself for laughing. Rogen's character is a horrible person who does violent, criminal things and that's supposed to be funny.

    It is a good opportunity to insist that people answer some questions: Why are you defending the male character? Do you think what he does is good? Does the rest of the movie portray him as a good person? Is he a person you want to help or be friends with or be like? Would you rape a drunk woman if you had the chance? Would you not feel bad about it because you think she deserved it? I hope someone gets a chance to ask Seth Rogen those things.

  18. Word to Big Bird on all of this, Sady

  19. Thank you so much for posting this piece because it just so sums up how I have been feeling ever since I became aware of this film. I am so tired. I am just so tired. How can so many people not see this for what it is?
    So thank you for saying, so well, what I cannot bring myself to say again.

  20. @Marcella: Hi, lady. I've always really respected the work you do, so it's a huge honor to have you posting here.

    @Phio Gistic: BRILLIANT! So brilliant, in fact, that I wrote an entire other post based on what you said. If I can figure out how to link to a specific comment in a post (help, anyone?) I will do that immediately.

    @NM: I get where you're coming from, but on Point 1, I think that censorship is not the answer. Basically, I really like my freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is what makes dissent possible. Freedom of speech is what lets me say that, if anyone were to make an educational docu-drama about how noted filmmaker Jody Hill responds to being smacked across the face repeatedly - "The 400 (Smacks Because Your Movie) Blows," they might call it! - I would find it quite intriguing, purchase multiple tickets, and recommend it to all my friends. But any government-based control of media would inevitably be used against marginalized folks, Amazon-Fail-ishly, because censorship always serves the dominant social power, which (as I suspect you and I both know) is not precisely pro-lady. We need dissent - really loud, widespread, unapologetic dissent - and education, and outreach. We need the studios to lose a ton of money on Jody Hill, because that will make it clear that his shit doesn't fly. But censorship would just take away the obvious products of lady-hating and allow lady-hate itself to flourish.

    That said, I am ALSO a person who compulsively reads film reviews, and your other points are spot-on. A penis is a thing to which you need to devote several paragraphs of review space, but a rape is something you can just pass by in silence. Because, you know, naked dicks are just offensive!

  21. @Sady Thank you for this post and this blog. I keep up with most blogs through their RSS feeds so I often don't comment or see other people's comments.

  22. I know I'm late to this post, but I wanted to ask about Film Freak Central's take on the film: basically, it posits that Observe and Report is meant to be an ugly "comedy", showing the reality of all the shit movie-goers normally accept in low-brow comedy films. That would make Rogen the absolute villain of the piece and this rape to be nothing else but rape.

    Would that change things?

  23. @Patrick: O&R as a deconstruction of low-brow comedy... I don't know, I think it's an interesting concept, but I don't think it flies.

    The whole relationship of irony to privilege is something I've spent a lot of time debating recently. I do think one can be ironic or funny ABOUT racism or sexism, but this is not the same as arguing that sexism/racism/whatever IS FUNNY or ironic. One makes racists and sexists the butt of the joke, and the other validates them by, essentially, presenting what they do as no biggie, and making the people who object to it the butt of the joke. Both jokes are very thinly veiled forms of aggression (most humor is) but one's saying that prejudice is stupid, let's mock the prejudiced folks and make it clear that they should be ashamed of themselves, and the other is saying that people who oppose prejudice are SO EASY TO UPSET, LET'S UPSET THEM! Which, even if well-meaning, is taking shots at the wrong target and trying to cause pain to folks who are actually trying to make the world better. And, even if you don't recognize what you're doing, what you're doing is making life hostile and hard for people who want to make the world better, thereby essentially supporting the (racist, sexist, homophobic, in all ways gross and evil) status quo.

    For example: I make a lot of statements on this blog that are clear parodies of what a sexist would say, and this is actually ironic because I clearly identify as a woman and as a feminist. I try to steer clear of parodying racism in the same way, or to be extra-extra-careful when I do it, because as a white person it's not ironic at all for me to say racist shit: it is expected, and people could very easily take it at face value and use it to validate their own racism. One part of me being anti-racist is realizing that I will always have things to unlearn, so if I just assume that I am so perfectly anti-racist I can just say whatever I want with no chance of its being fucked up, I will almost certainly fuck up and act out of privilege rather than against it.

    When you're doing it in narrative form, it's trickier, but I always go back to "Women's Appreciation Day," maybe my favorite episode of the American "The Office." Phyllis gets flashed, and Michael subsequently engages in SO many kinds of sexist behavior (rape is a compliment, so why would some guy assault Phyllis when there are hotter women to assault? Women only care about boys and shopping, so let's express our appreciation by taking them to the mall and buying them underwear!) and it is ALWAYS played as unacceptable, with him as the butt of the joke, being called out (Karen uses the word "misogynistic!" ON TELEVISION) and receiving appalled and condemnatory reactions from the characters we like and root for, thereby making it clear that we should laugh AT his sexism instead of WITH it.

    Compare this to "Observe & Report," and specifically to the way Hill writes Brandi: she's a caricature, a drunk vain bitchy slut, and he rapes her, and (according to every review I've read) there are no consequences for this act in the narrative, and the woman he rapes doesn't react or make him face any consequences, but instead PIPES UP DURING THE RAPE to approve of it. Then he gets to condemn her for being a slut, and end up with some virgin, apparently. Oh, and by the end a large portion of the audience is cheering him on. You can argue that Jody Hill attempted irony there. If so, he totally failed - by reinforcing sexist and racist stereotypes (every person of color in the film is a criminal, apparently), by promulgating damaging ideas about rape, and by rewarding the character in a way that CAN'T BE ironic because racism and sexism ARE rewarded in real life, and that's the expected outcome. When you don't go to HUGE lengths to make it clear that the racist/sexist/whatever character is the butt of the joke (which is difficult when you have white/male/whatever privilege, particularly the unexamined variety) you end up just validating racists and sexists.

  24. I haven't seen the film (I'm German), but I posted a similar question (from the other perspective) on the FFC blog.

    There, the first response said that the "consent" didn't make it okay, it was just an out for Rogen's character to feel okay about it, so that he would appear that much more monstrous to the viewer who is definitely not okay with it.

    On the other hand, from their review, the final act is nothing to cheer Rogen on, but to come to the full realization of what kind of person you are normally cheering on in comedies of a similar vein.

    Anyway, since I haven't seen the film, I can't very much defend it; I just wondered about it.

  25. I wonder if the people who laugh at this laughed at the non-consent rape scene in Happiness - you know, with the drugged tunafish sandwich?

    Seth Rogen should be ashamed to be in this crap. I am disgusted with him.

  26. Ugg, this movie sounds absolutely horrid. I feel your anger, and it's well deserved. I now feel angry too. Who would think that that kind of scene is funny? It sounds absolutely horrific! I used to be a fan of Seth Rogen too, from his part in Freaks and Geeks mostly. I just lost all respect.

  27. I've been reading a bunch of your postings on this particular scene, and mentally screaming "YES!!" about every ten seconds... and then suddenly, tears.

    Unexpected after all this time, because I haven't been triggered in many years - I was raped my freshman year in college, way back in 1978. It didn't have a name then. I went out for drinks and dancing with another student, and at the end of the night I found myself bleeding in his bed. He was angry at me for the blood on his sheets - "Why are you bleeding? You weren't a virgin!" - and I blamed myself for what had happened.

    It is utterly incomprehensible to me that anyone could find any aspect of rape funny. There is nothing there to play for laughs.

    I survived. I had twenty years of happy marriage to a genuinely good man. Now I'm a widow closing in on menopause, and my feminist anger is burning hotter than it ever did... and God bless you - ALL of you, Sady and all the commenters - for fighting back. I love you all.