Rape In Comedy and Entertainment

Louis CK

Can rape be funny? What about child rape specifically? Does rape serve a useful function in the visual medium that is television?

There are others with better “hot takes,” or insight on two recent issues that seem to be stirring the passions of people, but I felt compelled to offer my two cents: First, there’s Louis C.K.’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) monologue and then Game of Thrones’ rape scene.

Here’s the former’s routine, note the child molestation joke around 5:30, if you don’t want to watch the full clip:

I’m very familiar with CK’s work, as I’ve been following it since my high school days seven years ago. He’s by far my favorite living comedian because he does not give a fuck. If this is you’re first time listening to him, his style probably is jarring and seems raunchy, but this is very, very tame compared to his specials and other non-televised stand-up routines. Nevertheless, it’s always going to be ballsy when you do a child molestation joke on network television and a long-running show like SNL.

There are two thoughts I have about Louis C.K. and this monologue beyond remarking on him as a comedian, however. I don’t think there is any subject off-limits to a comedian able to convey it and broach the barriers to that subject while still introducing at least some elements of comedy (as that’s their job). And I think there’s a certain need in culture for disruption. Additionally, I think it’s worth not over-intellectualizing the issue on either side of this; that is, specifically, grand pronouncements about what CK’s small stand-up says about the culture at large or the decline in morality or whatever else would be over-intellectualizing the routine in my view.

I thought it was a funny routine. It made me laugh because of the way CK does the joke and the little nuances he adds to it.

Now, as for GoT, I can’t link to the clip of the rape scene in question and I don’t have a whole lot to say on the matter. But I do find people’s pronouncements that they are done with the show five seasons in because of this one rape season to be pretty comical. As if the previous rape scenes, sex scenes and violence wasn’t enough. Five seasons in, this scene is what did it. Ooookay. Most’ll be be back next Sunday.

The scene itself wasn’t gratuitous. It was bad because rape is bad, but it wasn’t in-your-face bad. The camera panned away from the act itself to focus on a third-party character, Theon, and most occurred beyond that view, mostly with audio. But it serves a function for that character and bigger picture, it’s befitting the time period in which Game of Thrones is set. Women were raped and treated like shit sometimes — most times, really. This is tame, to be honest, compared to what the historical record actually represents.

Nobody wants to make light of those that have experienced child sexual assault or other manner of sexual assault, but I also think we can go too far in having an outcry about everything. People can watch whatever the fuck they want, of course, and to my knowledge, nobody is calling for Louis CK to be fined by NBC or for HBO to take GoT off of the air, but it’s important to have these cultural discussions about where our boundaries are.


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