Joking about rape

I was reading a review for the Family Guy and Simpsons crossover. There were PLENTY of jokes against women in this episode. The reviewer at EW noted that the Family Guy writers don’t know how to write women. In the comments, someone had a problem with Stewie attempting to make a prank phone call.

While Bart called Moe asking for a Keybum, first name, Lee. Stewie didn’t quite understand the concept and said: “Hello, Moe? Your sister’s being raped.”

Someone very, very close to me got molested by a priest as a child, however I don’t even think it would prevent her from giggling if there was a funny "priests molest children’ joke on TV. But that’s just one person, and this person’s had a long time to get over her abuse.

As far as jokes go; They aren’t offensive to me if they make me laugh. If they are going to be offensive, they better damn well be funny, (which I know is subjective).

Stewie’s prank wasn’t really that funny, but it had little to do with rape IMHO, and more to do with how twisted he, (and Family Guy), can be.

We know that men can be victims of rape too.

George Carlin:

“I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.”

If “rape” is off limits, what else should be off limits?

Most jokes are about something unpleasant happening to someone, or are ridiculing some person or some group. If we were to avoid all jokes that might hurt someone somewhere, we could as well ban humor.
(And for the record, there are some categories of jokes I find unpleasant myself).

That joke specifically, as well as a few others, were there, IMO to show what you said, on the surface, but on another level they were there to show the different types of humor in the two shows.

Just like Stewie being excited at the idea of another kid with a weapons closet only find nothing but a sling shot or Meg and Lisa discussing their problems hoping to find some common ground and realizing that Lisa is just an introvert while Meg is probably clinically depressed, abused (both self abused and psychologically by her family) and suicidal. Other then Homer strangling Bart, Simpsons doesn’t get this dark, but Family Guy makes it funny.

Simpsons saves its gruesome humor for its “Itchy & Scratchy” segments.

Family Guy’s whole premise is pushing irreverence to absurdity. Nothing should be off-limits.

Bart demonstrates to Stewie how to make a prank call. Stewie misunderstands, and ends up saying something inappropriate and horrible. It also could have worked with “your sister has AIDS” or something else, as long as Bart thinks, “Not cool, Stewie.” The joke is about how the two shows don’t mesh well, not about rape. It just uses rape as a go-to “It’s not cool to joke about this.” topic.

Family Guy has a pedophile in it.

Stewie tries to kill his mother.

Pretty sick

Stewie is a infant and legally unable to commit any crime and totally unaccountable for his actions, including violating the temporal prime directive on multiple occasions.

It is the perfect time to do those things, don’t be jealous that you never took that once in a lifetime opportunity to try such things.

Well forget about Family Guy and that specific joke… what about other rape jokes?

The joke in the show was about Stewie not knowing that rape isn’t an appropriate subject for jokes. It was a joke about a character not being able to tell a joke.

This topic is so subjective it’s probably difficult for many individuals to pinpoint even their own standard for offense much less defining a standard for everyone. I would say the most obvious example of a rape joke that may cross the line would be one that singles out a specific rape victim, as long as the victim is sympathetic. A joke about Jeffrey Dahmer’s prison rape is fair game to me. Even jokes that take on different aspects of the same incident can be viewed differently. For example, a joke about Mike Tyson as a rapist is fine, but a joke about Robin Givens as a rape victim maybe not so much. Obviously, a joke that attempts to make a statement about rape and it’s toll on the human condition is more defensible than one that’s just a mean-spirited insult aimed at a victim.

For me their are no subjects that are automatically off limits. In the end, the most offensive joke is one that’s not funny. It may be as simple as “if it’s funny it’s not offensive.”

Wait, what? Okay, first of all, I disagree with the premise that rape isn’t an appropriate subject for jokes; second of all, I’m 99% sure that Seth McFarlane really disagrees with that premise. It would be like South Park telling a joke where the punchline is arguably “this character doesn’t understand that someone dying is not something you joke about”. Unless it’s really really really clear that that was explicitly the point, then it probably wasn’t - after all, Kenny’s death is not just a joke, but an 18-year-long running gag. Also, on a slight aside: where’s the outrage over that? Joking about a child dying is fine, but joking about someone getting raped is not? I think it is pretty much as others have pointed out; it’s about how incongruous Simpsons and Family Guy are. I mean, to listen to Classicalite:

That’s the point. The Simpsons has some messed-up shit, but in the end it’s a mostly pseudo-normal family in suburban America. Family Guy is fucked up to the core. The main cast includes a homicidal maniac who was trying to murder his own mother for several seasons, a clearly retarded teenager, a dog who wants to fuck his owner, an alcoholic sociopath with retarded tendencies, and a family member who is basically constantly abused and depressed. The peripheral cast includes a serial rapist (…really? You think Seth McFarlane would joke about how rape jokes aren’t okay after the various jokes about Quagmire raping women, including one where he very explicitly rapes Marge Simpson until she likes it then murders the whole family for good measure?) and a pedophile, just to name two. The shows are ostensibly similar, but once you take a look past the basic premise, the differences shine through. Simpsons is surreal, but Family Guy is surreal and obscene in a way Simpsons simply is not.

(That said, having watched the joke, it’s not particularly funny. I kinda wish Stewie had dragged it out a little further. Just shouting “Your sister’s being raped” then hanging up… I expected more out of that scene, not gonna lie. Christ, if you’re going to joke about rape, it had better be really fucking funny.)

I’m trying to think of the rapeyist Simpsons bit ever and all I can come up with is the panda episode.

Personally, I don’t get the hatred that episode generates.

On an old Simpsons episode, Marge is on the verge of losing her shit, then she hears on the radio one of those obnoxious morning programs, which is playing a practical joke on someone - they called a guy and said something like “Mr. Smith? This is Sargeant Jackson at the Springfield Police Department. I’m sorry to say that your wife has been killed. She walked right through a plate glass window. There’s blood all over…”

It was pretty funny, but is it no worse than a rape joke?

Rape as a general subject can be used humorously. If its directed towards anyone specific then its more problematic. Making a joke about raping an untouchable superstar actress can almost be acceptable; making the same joke about a person not in such a position of authority is a big no-no.

I can’t imagine any joke about raping a real-life person that would be even almost acceptable.

tragedy + time = humor?

But making a joke about being raped by a real-life person?

Sarah Silverman about Joe Franklin in THE ARISTOCRATS…

Now that's comedy gold right there.

Maybe it depends on your theory of how humor works?

If you have a hostility theory, rape (etc.) jokes are problematic because they betray or rely on an underlying hostility against women (or whomever is the victim of the rape).

If you have a shock theory, rape (etc.) jokes work because of the shock value—“I can’t believe they went there”—and they rely on how truly unacceptable and wrong we believe rape to be.

If you have an absurdity theory, rape (etc.) jokes work because of the absurd and unexpected juxtaposition of something as dark and disturbing as rape with something as cute and traditionally kid-friendly as babies or cartoon characters.

I never thought this bon mot from Carlin was funny.