Happy Easter to everyone on the Gregorian Calendar! Sorry the subject matter of this post is not more…er… fluffy bunny-esque.
When I saw the ads for “Observe & Report,” I already knew it probably wasn’t going to be my type of movie. I like Seth Rogen and Anna Faris, and I find Jody Hill likable as well, but the bleak humour of the premise didn’t strike me as particularly awesome, just bleak.
I’ve worked in a mall before, I’m even one of those strange little people who enjoys malls (cue a self-righteous know-it-all with a lecture on my post-Soviet consumerist nihilism) – probably because there’s something about the impersonal atmosphere that feels cozy and safe. Malls contain their own weird, scary, even pretty stories, but this movie seemed like the type that was shocking for the sake of being shocking, and I’m not usually into that.
Then, of course, I realized that Seth Rogen’s character rapes an unconscious woman for the sake of… what? Nervous laughter? A certain “edginess” I’m just not hip or daring enough to appreciate?
Murder gets played for laughs all the time, you might say, so what makes the scene in “Observe & Report” any different? Well, there is the fact that murder has a very clear definition: bang, boom, someone’s dead. On the other hand, Seth Rogen (and, presumably, director Jody Hill) has actually claimed that what happens in this film isn’t rape:
When we’re having sex and she’s unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?” – source: The Huffington Post
You know, I’m pretty sure that if your character is fucking a woman who’s passed out, you don’t get to say that “we’re having sex and she’s unconscious.” It’s more like, “she’s being raped and she’s unconscious.”
When you stick your dick into someone who is not awake, you have no idea if that person wants you or not, and you don’t give a damn either (because if you DID give a damn, you wouldn’t stick your dick into this person in the first place). The woman’s conscience flickering back on, her acknowledging the situation as much as she is able to and asking you why you’re stopping doesn’t make it “all okay.”
Sex can be confusing and weird. Despite the greeting-card veneer of the American dating scene, anyone who’s ever been there knows the truth. I’m not saying that movies ought to gloss over the often disturbing nature of human sexuality, that they should make us feel safe when we are far from safe, or pretend that scenes like the one described above, complete with late-breaking “consent” do not happen. I’m also not saying that every woman who has ever been violated in this manner is going to acknowledge the violation, especially if she was horny or if she likes the guy.
Having said that – Seth? Your career is on the rise, and you probably party pretty regularly, am I right? So what if you have a few too many one night, and wake up with some guy’s dick in your ass? And what if you’re embarrassed, or maybe *dum dum dum* you even like it, a little or a lot, and so, drunk off your head and tripping balls, you say – “why are you stopping, motherfucker?” Would it make it all magically OK somehow? Oh, I get it – raping a dude is wrong (unless it happens in prison, in which case it’s also hilarious, right, fellas?), but a passed-out slut is fair game, because she’s a passed-out slut and that’s what passed-out sluts are for!
I’m not as disturbed by the fact that a movie like “Observe & Report” was made – and I don’t think it should have been censored either – as I am disturbed by the cognitive gymnastics being performed to make us all understand that what happens in the film is NOT RAPE. Why is this happening? Is it because flat-out stating that Rogen’s clearly odious character is also a rapist, like, totally kills the vibe? Dramatic praire dog, help me out here:
We are dramatic prairie dogs when it comes to rape; the reality of it is too much to deal with. We would much rather pretend that it’s not really happening, so we say, “sure, they had sex, but it wasn’t rape because she was too drunk to say no” or “sure, they had sex, but it wasn’t rape because she invited him over” or “yeah, they did it, but she’s a total slut anyway, so how come she’s claiming he forced her? No one HAS to force her!”
We consciously refuse to assign a standard definition to sexual assault, which is why talented, and, I hope, well-meaning guys like Seth Rogen have to talk about making it all “okay.” This is also why women sometimes find themselves wondering if they had been raped, as opposed to knowing it. If we believe that rape is only something that can happen to a good girl (unless she’s wearing a tight top, haw haw), or that rape in prisons should only ever be boiled down to a joke about “surprise buttsecks,” then it’s always going to be someone else’s problem, and that’s comforting. Messed-up, yes, but comforting as well. The ubiquitous nature of sexual assault doesn’t have to make a dent in our conscience, because we will hunker down and refuse to let it.
I wonder how Seth Rogen (or, for that matter, Jody Hill) might view what actually happens in that scene if he ever has a daughter. Not saying it will change his mind, but wondering, nonetheless. It’s easier to pretend it’s “all okay” from a safe distance. A forest fire is beautiful if you’re standing far enough away – right?