parry ernsberger
June 06, 2013 11:00 am

Are rape jokes funny?

Lindy West, a writer over at Jezebel, went on FX’s Totally Biased last week to address this hot-button issue with veteran comedian, Jim Norton. A proverbial sh*tstorm has since ensued. Norton argued that with comedy, “it’s all or nothing,” meaning that you can’t make one terrible thing off limits without making every terrible thing off limits: 9/11, child molestation, the Holocaust, murder, suicide — pick a poison.

At the risk of knowingly ensuing another proverbial sh*tstorm, I get what Norton is saying. In fact, I laugh the hardest at jokes that hit close to home and for a moment, relieve me of the burden of my traumas. I don’t expect everyone to empathize with this sentiment, but I also don’t think it’s as cut and dry as people would like it to be.

Lindy thoroughly disagreed with Norton. Her stance was that “the way we speak about things and the type of media we consume profoundly influences how we think about the world.” And see, I get this too. It’s a valid point. I just don’t think that we should start trying to draw that kind of line in comedy. Maybe I’m a little desensitized, but I have a hard time believing that jokes are really the problem here. Alas, that’s another rant for another day.

Sidenote: Is it possible that by accepting rape jokes for what they are –jokes — that we can take away some of the word’s power in that context? It’s been done before.

For the record, I absolutely admire Lindy for sticking strong to her position and engaging in a clear, direct, mature conversation about an issue that can’t be easy to address in made-for-TV dialogue segments. Watching someone maintain that level of composure in the face of such a sensitive subject is impressive and deserves mad respect.

In response to the debate (which you can view for yourself here), one blogger pointed out that,

Roseanne Barr, herself a comedian and self-proclaimed feminist, blasted West for “advocating censorship of comedy.” Many others have flocked to West’s side in her follow-up response on Jezebel and damned Norton for even suggesting that rape is something that can be laughed at. The whole thing is messy, to say the absolute least. But what I for SURE cannot get down with is the dudes who bombarded Lindy with insanely cruel and downright PSYCHO comments that make it abundantly clear how important it is that this conversation be had.

Lindy pasted a good number of them online and further read them out loud in a video, putting those a-holes on blast like they deserve. All too often do people make comments on the internet as if they exist in a void and can’t be held accountable. But guess what? Y’all just got served. No one should have to endure that kind of hate for simply voicing their opinion. This is Amurica, right?

Keep fightin’ the good fight and speaking your mind, Lindy. It’s good to stir sh*t up. Just don’t let the turkeys get you down!

Featured image via Shutterstock

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