We need to talk about Pitch Perfect’s rape joke problem

UPDATE: It’s still not funny, but the movie fleshed out an under-the-table relationship between the Amy and Allen that explains the interaction and turns it into something that doesn’t dump all over the idea of consent.

Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

Rape jokes can be funny sometimes. It takes a very talented comedic mind and general care that the joke doesn’t become a part of rape culture by making sexual assault seem like a normal, acceptable thing.

Good example — George Carlin. Dead for seven years and still the master of modern comedy, Carlin’s bit about rape highlights and ridicules victim-blaming and the general conception of how rapes happen as part of a larger piece about how words shape thoughts.

Bad example — Daniel Tosh. Tosh has always been pond scum but not quite as funny, and this joke revolves around how little he cares that his own sister is raped.

Pitch Perfect 2’s trailer is a bad example. The problem scene starts at 2:10, in which Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) disgustedly rejects Bumper Allen’s (Adam DeVine) advance verbally, but then winks at him, deliberately confusing him as to whether or not she wants to have sex with him. The joke — it’s not even a joke, really, just Amy being a jerk — trivializes the entire concept of consent and partner communication, and it’s not the first off-putting rape “…joke?” this series has put in a trailer.

The first movie’s trailer opens with a peppy college tour guide handing Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) her official BU rape whistle, then stressing to her the importance of only blowing it if she’s actually being attacked. Think about that for a second. This campus — this country — has such an on-campus rape problem they’ve invested in university whistles, and a representative of the college is warning new students about false alarms. She hasn’t even set foot on this campus, and she’s already facing pressure — from a representative of the college! — to not report rapes. Thank God colleges don’t pressure students to not report assaults in real life.

Wait, that’s rightthey totally do!

Colleges benefit from their students not reporting assaults because it makes the campus seem safer, and some have chosen to add to the mountain of social and legal pressures that make rape such an under reported and under prosecuted crime. This is what people mean when they talk about rape culture — the fact that making the world a safer place for women is obviously not a priority to many authoritative institutions, despite the insanely high risk of violence they face.

Despite its predominantly female cast and the sequel’s woman director, which many people think is a panacea for sexism in Hollywood, the Pitch Perfect movies are clear perpetrators of rape culture, even if only the trailers are ever watched. Both of these jokes make assault seem like a normal, acceptable thing, and that may be normal, but it’s not acceptable.

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1 Response to We need to talk about Pitch Perfect’s rape joke problem

  1. Pingback: A cappella is the worst | reelentropy

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