This post is a part of my summer blockbuster series. I'll be tagging the whole thing as 2013 blockbusters.
[Content note: rape culture, rape "jokes"]
Oi. I have been putting this one off because it poses some complications for me...and invokes the whole, "yes, I'm a feminist, but I like some really problematic shit" issue.
In case you aren't aware, the film centers on a group of celebrities, playing "themselves" at a big Hollywood party when the apocalypse starts. Good people are pulled into heaven leaving behind the bad people...our ragtag crew of celebrities included. The main crew is James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, and Danny McBride. Other celebrities who make appearances (although brief) include Emma Watson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, and many, many more.
So the main crew is trying to survive the apocalypse inside James Franco's house and increasingly more messed up stuff is both happening to them and by them.
OK, so aside from it just being totally focused on 6 men, as has been widely reported and shared, the story and many of its jokes are really...really rapey. In fact, I would assert that it is one of the biggest media demonstrations of rape culture in recent years. AND YET, I found myself, a super feminist, raucously laughing at and thoroughly enjoying the other 50% of it. It's no secret that I love me some raunchy comedies, and the parts that weren't making a joke of rape cracked me up. I mean, such that, I actually liked it overall.
I did! OK! There, I admit it. I'm a little bit afraid of saying it but I need to be honest.
I think this is exactly what I find so insidious about comedies like this...that it endeared me to it, but then delivered so much rape culture once I was endeared. I mean there were hilarious things--inappropriate and low brow surely, but not as problematic as all of the rape stuff. All that laughter made me gleeful but then it came back-to-back-to-back with depictions of rape and out right mockery of it.
It was a weird experience of laugh/cringe combos.
Another disappointing aspect of the film is that it almost...ALMOST gets it. They make one joke which I would argue starts out as an example of how you can do rape jokes right. This is a thing…check out Lindy West’s writing for more detail (beware that's a link to Jez) but basically, rape jokes that don't make me want to blow stuff up are where the fucked-up-ness of rape culture is the punch line, not actual rape or rape survivors. In this scene, Emma Watson comes back into the house after having been presumed dead like everyone else and she goes upstairs to rest. Jay Baruchel begins to tell the group that they should be appropriate around her and not intimidate her since she's one woman among 6 dudes. The guys all act horrified that he would suggest this, and at that point, I think it was all handled well.
From that point, it unfortunately spins into them accusing each other of being the one who would most likely rape her. SIGH. It's just so frustrating that the guys are incredibly horrified by Jay suggesting they try to deal with Emma with sensitivity but then seem blind to the actual rape and rape culture that occurs around them. And make no mistake, they get rape jokes all wrong later when it's HAHAHilarious that Jonah Hill is raped by a demon.
Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
As I've said before, I think it's much more important to air and acknowledge the flaws in something you like than to try to justify or ignore them. And we must expect better, especially from the celebrities we like. They need to hear that feminists and those who speak out against rape culture aren't just random people; we are their fans and we can remain their fans if they take a second to listen.
So here I am.
To the writers/directors of This Is The End, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg:
Y'all are hilarious and in general, I can't help but love your work. You get the same pop culture references as me. You crack me up. But it would be super awesome if you would stop for a second and think about the implication of rape "jokes." And even if you don't think rape culture is a thing, you should at least be able to see how trivializing rape in this manner has a hurtful, negative impact on the survivors in your audience.
Seriously. Get it together.
I'm even willing to overlook the fact that women had no significant roles in this film. Baby steps, and all that. All I ask is that you take a good, long look at the impact that trivializing rape has on your audience and on the wider world.
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