Comedian Cameron Esposito thought about rape jokes long before the Me Too movement.
Can they be told? How should they be built? Who has the right to tell them?
So it's only fitting that she released a stand-up special titled "Rape Jokes" this summer. However, this is not a collection of bound pushing quips. Instead, it was about a night in which she played a drinking game with a man who sexually assaulted her after she was drunk. And it goes beyond the gauzy line between exciting comedy and deeply serious drama.
Esposito is one of many creatives using comedy to investigate sexual assault and harassment issues. Rape was often used as a punch line that makes an audience laugh uncomfortably. With the advent of the "Me Too" movement, several comedians and television programs are turning the script, focusing on the survivors of sexual assault. Their humor tries to expose rape for the crime instead of forbidding a cheap laugh. And some of the comedians like Esposito are themselves survivors.
The stand-up comic and author of "Conan," Laurie Kilmartin, have seen this game in the comedy world over the past year.
"I think there is more culturally room to talk about going through the other side of this experience than to a rape joke where rape is a kind of punch line," she said. "Now, unfortunately, it is a premise."
That was not always the case.
The Screwball Romcom of 1934 "We's Not Dressing" follows a man and a woman who have a mutual attraction but can not confess: he is not. The film's comedic climax comes when Bing Crosby's character struggles with Carole Lombard, ties her hands to a belt and chains, and says, "Tomorrow, you'll be back in your own world, pampered and bound and protected and out of my reach. , , But tonight you are mine. "
The fact that this was considered a comedy may seem outdated, but think of the 2007 "Superbad" following the adolescent boy in search of alcohol in the hope that their classmates will become so drunk that they have sex with them.
Among other things, "Porky's", a movie in which teenage boys watch their showering classmates sprayed, and standing next to Daniel Tosh "comedic," says it would be fun to have five men take her and the comedian Jimmy Carr would joke. What do nine out of ten people enjoy? Gang rape. "
Funny stuff, right?
Sujata Moorti, director of Middlebury College's Gender, Sexuality and Feminine Studies Program, said rape would become more pervasive with the rise of feminism, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. Suddenly, gags were like a "Revenge of the Nerds" character, wearing a jock halloween mask and having sex with the jock's unsuspecting girlfriend, and jokes like Rodney Dangerfields. "My girlfriend is so ugly when two guys in her apartment broke, she. " shouted: "Rape!" They shouted, "No!"
As the public became more open to discuss sexual assault, jokes were "defused to the nature of the cultural crisis that was triggered by behaviors being an attack rather than" boys becoming boys, "Moorti said. "If you make a joke about it, you can trivialize it."
Actress Molly Ringwald pointed out that one of the reasons for this trope is that jokes are often about loss of power.
"It's a little weird if someone slips on a banana peel or if someone who's completely disguised falls into mud or someone with toilet paper looks at his foot," said Ringwood. "[Rape] The most extreme example: to completely take away the power of a woman. "
Many women use the comedy to regain this power by telling their own stories.
Comedian Brittany Brave, for example, may open sets with: "My name is Brittany and I know you either want to take me to a mall or hit me in the face. If you are my ex-boyfriend, you can do both. Meanwhile, Hannah Gadsby has released a revolutionary Netflix special called "Nanette," in which the comedy itself is deconstructed. The story of her own sexual assault explains that rape is not the case, a topic that should be easily addressed.
Esposito goes a similar way in her special. As she tells the story of her attack, she begins with humor, for example, when describing the drinking game they played, when it came to darts: "If you hit the dartboard, you would drink a full beer. And if you missed the dartboard, you'd shoot a full beer. Hazy rules. "
Her tone then changes dramatically. "I can not remember exactly what happened that night. I have many moments of what happened. I know that I did not say "yes". I also know that I could not do it, "she says in a serious tone." And I told this story at parties as a funny thing that happened to me, I think so many people are separated from our own agency. "
Then she slowly returns to jokes, adding that she is trying to shed light on this type of attack. Instead of thinking of men who use drunken women, she jokes, we think of rapists as characters at SVU: "He has a bloody cleaver, he's in the mud from head to toe! It says here, Dick Wolf & # 39 ;! "Meanwhile she jokes that survivors are often portrayed as gaining from experience:" She gets attacked, and then she gets very good at handling swords. "
Esposito told the Washington Post she wrote the special because she feels the media generally focused on perpetrators during the Me Too movement. "Never in this cycle did I see a moment when people were tracking the story of the survivors," she said, adding that she would ask, "How do you trust people? How is it at work that you are not there? "
It was not easy to tell their story on stage or in interviews, especially when the President of the United States had sneered at an alleged survivor, Christine Blasey Ford.
"The feeling that the cultural change is very long and very difficult sometimes overwhelms me," she said. "It's a crushing feeling. You can feel like I'm doing everything I can to get in the way. "
But the opening opens. Esposito said she did not believe she had published "Rape Jokes". "If I had not seen all the others who really had formed themselves, they would have really put themselves on the line."
This trend continued with such widespread shows as "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" (in which Kimmy unintentionally harasses a male employee) and "BoJack Horseman" (in which the main character publicly criticizes violence against women before he strangles his teammate) comedy to explore the Me Too era this year.
Reboots like "Will & Grace" and "Murphy Brown" are rebuilding the characters to face sexual assault. Grace tells her father that a friend of her family violently attacked her at the age of 15. After that, she took money from the man's desk and fled. Her father asks why she did not tell him, and she replies that she tried – but all he heard was that she had stolen money from his friend.
And Murphy attends a sexual harassment seminar that evokes memories of a professor trying to exploit her in college when she came home after a prestigious award. The scene in which she confronts him and closes carefully balances the drama (she says, "I'm out of the house, shaking.") And the comedy (she adds, "I forgot my prize and me dear honors! ").
"We really wrote the comedy about the topic and not about it," said showrunner Diane English. "We've always had our antenna with us to make sure we do not cross the boundaries between comedy and drama."
The show was always about tricky topics – English said it was her way of "trying to make a difference and doing something good" – and she felt that Me Too was too big not to be around.
While many artists break new ground, some look back on art that could be problematic but still lingers in public consciousness. For example, Ringwald has recently re-examined sexual politics in the John Hughes comedies that made her a teenage star: "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Pretty In Pink."
In "The Breakfast Club," "as I see it now, Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the movie. If he does not sexualize her, he resents her anger with malicious contempt, "she wrote in the New Yorker." He never apologizes for any of this, but still he gets the girl in the end. "
"The Breakfast Club", however, is their "favorite" of the trio, partly because it showed "everyone is different and everyone has a voice." When she wrote, "How should we feel about art that we both love and dislike? ? What if we are in an unusual position to participate in the development? "
"It was really hard to look at them critically," Ringwald told The Post. "It was very difficult, but in the end I feel it's not black and white – and life is not like that."
The question is whether Comedy's new approach to sexual misconduct will continue.
"There may still be" Superbads "coming out, but I think it's being countered by those other voices," Moorti said. "With more Espositos and more gadsbys talking about the effects of rape, it can be really difficult to joke about the whole thing."
In Sarah Jones's "Sell / Buy / Date" solo show, it is even talked about in the theater, which presents a radically feminist future. The characters she plays laugh at the primitive rape culture of the past – a professor, for example, asks her class, "What was the name of male sluts? Very well, they were called men. "
"I think this myth was about a closing window, like the anniversary of the Me Too movement," Jones said in an interview. "But it's not a weather. , , The reason why this is a sustainable conversation does not end because women do not just go away. "
Ringwald agreed. "I find that rape that is used in a comedic way is something that becomes like a minstrel show," she said, meaning that it's so obviously taboo that nobody will try to use it again as a punchline ,