Dear God, Seth Rogen, Rape is Rape

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?

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20 thoughts on “Dear God, Seth Rogen, Rape is Rape

  1. I guess there are a lot of other disturbing scenes n the movies as well including very very disturbing Violence and that Seth Rogen’s character is not really likable in any way.

    However, since i haven’t seen the movie I admit i’m going on speculation, based on all the reviews the rape scene is the only one that comes with a qualifier. I line to try and make it okay, to make the victim complicit. That’s what’s fucked up the most to me. They have no problem making him a murderer and violent asshole but no way will they show him as a “rapist”

  2. That scene is rape and I find it disgusting that they play it off as some kind of comedy routine. To say that she consented for the activity to continue when she clearly was not able to make a conscious decision is terrible. All it does is give men an excuse to take advantage of women. Every time I see a commercial for this movie I become more and more incensed. Yes we live in a rape culture and it is time that fact get acknowledged.

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  4. If a women does not give clear message that she fully consents to any kind of sex act, then that IS rape as far as I am concerned (although I know some couples do get off on that kind of roleplay but even that still involves an element of consent).

    Which moron thought this was even remotely acceptable, never mind a supposed source of humour? It disturbes me that women still seem to be fair game for this kind of vile ‘humour’ the 21st century.

  5. Most couples who practice that sort of thing have prearranged rules and safewords, so yeah – consent is still present.

    I just with that Rogen et al had the balls to come out and say that it’s rape.

    I’m betting there is studio pressure to say otherwise – and that’s the part that bothers me even more. It’s OK to shoot a rape scene and play it for laughs, but it’s not OK to call it what it is…?

    I guess admitting that it IS rape is giving a little too much dignity to the women who have had it happen to them.

    Ugh.

  6. Exactly. I have no problem with there being a date rape scene, it is supposed to be a dark comedy about an irreparably damaged man. This biggest issue with me is that they had Anna Faris’ character act like it was appropriate and that both actor and actress are defending it.

    If instead of the character condoning the behavior they could have had her say something unintelligble with Rogen’s response being “sounds like a yes enough to me” Where it is obvious he is choosing to continue without clear consent.

    Or they could have the actors and actresses making sure that everyone knows it IS rape to head off he defenders of the scene

  7. while I’ll probably agree with you after seeing the movie, you should really warn people that you are going to post spoilers.

  8. oh, calm down. i’ve done plenty of things i probably shouldn’t have said yes to while drunk. but w/e. it’s part of the journey of drinking yourself into a stupor. if you can manage a “hey motherfucker, why are you stopping” when you’re shitfaced, it’s consent. for people who deal in absolutes, that’s consent, and no amount of shame(self-induced or peer-induced) should change that.

  9. Oh, do not tell me to calm down. In case you haven’t noticed (did you read the post at all?) this isn’t about shame or whether or not the character gives consent, it’s about WTF the guy was doing when he was fucking her while she’s unconscious to begin with.

  10. “it’s about WTF the guy was doing when he was fucking her while she’s unconscious to begin with.”

    it’s a fictional character in a movie who is a loser with poor judgment. just because something happens in a comedy doesn’t mean it’s inherently funny.

  11. I’m not talking about whether or not it’s funny – I’m talking about whether or not it’s OK for Seth Rogen to BS about how it’s not really rape. It isn’t OK for Seth Rogen to BS about it. There are enough stupid rape myths as is.

  12. I’ve followed the blogs/reviews that deal with the ‘date rape’ aspect of this movie and it’s not the scene itself that I find most offensive, it’s the actors justification of the scene and the claim that it’s consensual sex rather than rape that is the biggest problem.

    Everyone who defends it claims that the film is ‘dark & edgy’ and that Rogen’s character is a reprehensible guy and therefore the viewer knows that his actions aren’t those to aspire to, which would be a plausible defence, again, only if the actors themselves said ‘this is rape and it’s a bad thing, he’s a bad/sick* man’.

    (*Apparently he’s off his meds, I’m curious about that)

  13. I agree, Jaime. Imagine if we have the cast of “Reservoir Dogs” saying that the violence in the film isn’t really violence, it’s just good fun.

    There are lots of movies out there that I find disturbing, and avoid. Or else I find disturbing, but enjoy.

    What I can’t understand is describing what happens as something it’s not.

  14. http://www.popsyndicate.com/site/story/observe_and_report

    I was going to link to this yesterday and point out how I was now more interested in mainstream media responses but decided against it as he didn’t seem too offensive, however someone called him out on calling it ”disinterested sex” and he goes to great lengths to justify it as just that.

    This is more worrying to me, I’m repeating myself but whether or not you agree with the scene, atleast acknowledge it for what it is.

  15. Exactly. Look, people are acting like it’s CENSORSHIP – personally, I am not into this kind of censorship, and I have said so. Furthermore, I like Seth Rogen and, you know, as a FAN of his would simply like him to take a little personal responsibility and call it what it is.

    *shrug*

  16. Furthermore, I like Seth Rogen and, you know, as a FAN of his would simply like him to take a little personal responsibility and call it what it is.

    Yah, you about perfectly sum up my feelings. I was SO disappointed when I heard about this scene and it’s justification, because I LIKE Rogen.

  17. Here is Mark Kermode on why the movie is crap in so many other ways- he touches on the flashing, and gender stereotypes which are supposed to elicit a laugh.

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