Rape is a Crime Not a Punch Line

Monday’s media storm after this weekend’s 2009 MTV Video Music Awards centered pretty exclusively on what many perceived as the night’s biggest faux pas – Kanye West’s outburst during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for “Best Female Video” award.

“As inexcusable as it gets” reported the NY Daily News. “Kanye West should be banned from future award shows.”

“MTV Awards Marred by Performer’s Comments,” read the New York Times.

President Obama calls West a “jackass” for his outburst at the VMAs during an interview with CNBC.

The buzz surrounding West’s outburst exploded following the show, but the most deplorable, offensive comments of the evening came and went with little to no attention from the media at all.

What could be more controversial than West’s outburst? How about a joke about rape?

No I’m not kidding. And no I’m not laughing. 

The award’s host, comic Russell Brand, poked numerous inappropriate jabs throughout the show, but the joke directed at Megan Fox goes beyond the pale.

“She has admitted she is a little bit cuckoo upstairs and I have trained in psychiatry. So Megan, if you do have a little dizzy spell love, I could probably drop you a little pill. You can go and have a lie down in my dressing room. You might get some crazy dreams about being visited by a scarecrow, a perfumed weirdo leaning over you. But let me tell you, that’s a common side-effect. Megan, take your medicine.”

Reading between the lines of Brand’s joke you get the idea that the punch line is intended to poke fun at date rape. He tells Fox that he’d like to drop her a “little pill” that will impair her senses so she can lie down in his dressing room. It is clear that he is joking about drugging and taking advantage of her.

Isn’t joking about date rape more controversial than interrupting someone’s speech? Why wasn’t Brand kicked out of the show for his inexcusable comments? How is it possible that President Obama heard about West’s outburst but is in the dark regarding the date rape “joke”?

Perhaps, it is because I only found one article on MSN, “Russell Brand Makes Saucy Jokes About Leading Ladies at VMAs,” that covered Brand’s offensive “joke(s).”  Had it not been for a good friend of mine who called me during the awards completely and utterly horrified I may still be in the dark too (Thanks Viki!).

Still though, I’m amazed that Brand’s date rape “joke” didn’t receive more criticism, especially considering this isn’t the first time he has made a “joke” at the expense of women.

Last summer during a gig in the UK, the comic used an audience member’s cell phone to prank call an emergency rape line set up by police as part of his stand-up routine, pretending he had information about a man suspected of sexual assaulting women in underpasses.

Interfering with an investigation for a suspected rapist is not funny – it’s a crime! Using rape as a vehicle to garner laughs whether it be on stage or in conversation is unbelievable – not to mention offensive, disrespectful, and downright disgusting. 

Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. That means that during the duration of the VMA’s roughly another 60 women were sexually assaulted in this country.

Making light of this horrific crime is a slap in the face to survivors of rape and women everywhere. Brand should be ashamed for using rape as part of his comedy and embarrassed that he is not more creative in his attempts to make people laugh. We, as a country, should be ashamed that jokes such as these fly under the radar and embarrassed that people let them go so easily.

Rape is a crime – not a punch line. It’s about time people started acting that way.

Pyui Mok/PA; Photo originally published on the Guardian (UK) - http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2008/jul/16/russellbrand 


Claire W.
Claire W4 years ago

I want to take back what I said because whilst I don't believe he had malicious intent in it, I cannot justify him saying it either.
Having learnt more about how rape is treated in society since posting this, I think the culture where is it acceptable to joke about rape should be challenged in every instance because it contributes to a culture where misogyny and rape is acceptable.

faith v.
faith v4 years ago

To all the people claiming the "joke" was not understood by the ratbag who made it - thanks for suggesting he's an idiot but you are doing him an insult here.

NO WAY he wouldn't have known he was talking about rape!

Daisy and Claire - both ladies, right?
From a State which prevents you learning basic biological anatomy?

No man thinking about a drugged and helpless woman lying on the couch in his (un)dressing room with him bending over her could possibly not understand that rape insinuation.
I'm not saying all men are rapists.
I am saying every man with an intact body knows what that picture conjures up!

Daisy E.
Daisy E.4 years ago

Just to further explain: the pill = about psychiatrist's drugs (Scarecrow give people freaky drugs he's made in his own experiments), the lying down thing = lying down on a shrink's couch (again movie ref), and the leering over thing is actually a scene right in the movie again when the Scarecrow captures Batman. Although I think this can be read as a rape joke I think it is far more plausible as a Batman joke... the idea of him joking about being a psychopath taking the woman as a victim is what you should be up in arms about instead - those again as a ref to a recent movie its a funny area.

Daisy E.
Daisy E.4 years ago

Hey, just on the Russell Band thing, I think he was actually making reference to the Scarecrow - a bad guy from Batman. In the film the Scarecrow uses poisoned gas (presumably the perfume ref) to cause his victims to hallucinate, at which point he puts on a scarecrow mask and kind of lurches at them and is generally creepy. He does this in order to have them committed and incarcerated in his asylum so he can further mentally torture them (Batman of course eventually realises and saves the day)... however the Scarecrow does not rape his victims and to be honest I don't think Brand was talking about rape there either. Creepy hallucinogenic psychological torture maybe, but not rape. A bit more research as to references to movies may be order next time... Otherwise I completely agree: rape jokes = not cool.

Fatime Hoxha
Fatime Hoxha7 years ago

Any way , the rape is crime, and every one should consider rape as a crime.

Claire W.
Claire W7 years ago

I think it is important to consider context; the main focus of the joke is on Brand's appearance as a 'scarecrow' rather than date rape.
Joking about rape, especially from a bigoted perspective is horrible, but if we don't allow it to be mentioned at all within jokes at all then this makes it more difficult to discuss society's reaction to it, which would stifle freedom of speech and slow down progression.
Regarding the UK gig, most of the comments Brand made were mocking the attacker. By making light of the attacker this undermines the control and fear these people have over us. This fear is ultimately useless because we cannot control what will happen to a large extend, so fear isn't a helpful response.

Danielle P.
Danielle P8 years ago

It is disgusting the way people so often make light of something horrific as rape. And, it seems to be happening more and more lately.

Amanda M.
A. M8 years ago

He obviously has never been raped and cant imagine what it does to someone psychologically. You may be able to get over physical damage, but the mental - emotional damage is probably worse. This man is an idiot.

Roy Barrows8 years ago

Gee, poor taste on an award show that rewards more poor taste on a network that deals almost exclusively in poor taste? How shocking is that?

Rachel Goodman
Rachel Goodman8 years ago

he looks like such a fucking idiot in that picture up there. Excuse my french. What is our society coming to?