I wrote a letter to Seth Macfarlane today (creator of Family Guy/American Dad/Ted) arguing that rape jokes shouldn’t be thrown in to his TV shows because of how it contributes to “rape culture”. Feel free to write comments I’m trying to edit it before I send it off to him. (Seriously, I found his address and I’m sending him this letter).
Dear Mr. Macfarlane,
My name is Kaitlyn Humphrey and I am a huge fan of your work. Stewie, Brian, and Rodger are my favorite characters on TV right now, and 5.6 million other people seem to agree. Your work is brilliant. Ted is also one of my top movies and my youtube is always pulling up new interviews or (singing) performances you’ve done. I’m a huge fan, but lately I just have this one honest question that wont leave my mind and I just had to ask. What’s with all the random rape jokes?
Before you toss this letter out, please know I’ve put a lot of thought into this and I’m not just writing to you in the heat of the moment. I’m calm, so please hear me out.
After seeing so many random splices of rape scenes in your TV shows I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I literally just can’t figure out why they get tossed in there. None of them ever have any real significance in the story line or character development, and none of them are funny on their own. They have to be sandwiched between an extremely funny joke and a “Oh, Quagmire” line. So basically while the audience is still laughing from the first clip, they then get this rape scene exposed to them, and then to pull them out of the shock a “haha Quagmire will be Quagmire/ boys will be boys” joke wraps it up.
From my perspective the latter joke is only laughed at because people are uncomfortable from the rape joke, and a familiar scene of someone lecturing a child (Quagmire) allows the audience to laugh it off.
So if the audience isn’t actually even laughing at the rape scene, why are they put in? Ultimately what this process is doing is significantly contributing to “rape culture”: the idea that rape is OK, that women are objects for men to do what they want with, and that raping a woman isn’t mean or scary but funny and normal. By getting the audience on a laughing high and then throwing in a rape scene, the audience starts to associate rape with something of entertainment value, not a serious issue of human beings being violated and dehumanized.
Now I know a lot of comedians use material that they know will make their audience uncomfortable, piss some people off, and get a rise out of them. They want to see what they can get away with. The problem with this in terms of rape jokes is that while you (and your entire crew) get away with it, people like me don’t. A little over two years ago I was (sober, fully dressed) walking home and got choked from behind from a guy I had refused to dance with at a bar. I passed out and woke up in his hotel room. I was raped, beat up, choked out over and over, slammed into walls (mainly my head), and called a “slut” and “whore” for four hours. I know you don’t know me, but I am far from a whore and did not know this man besides declining to dance with him at a bar. Rapists use those words (slut/whore) because it reinforces what TV shows, movies, news, politics, and so much more teach them: raping someone is normal, she probably deserved it anyways, she probably has premarital sex and is therefore a slut so do what you want with her.
I managed to escape when he went to the bathroom. I dragged myself to my apartment and didn’t leave for two or three days. I didn’t tell anyone, but when someone noticed the bruising they told a professor and I had to be hospitalized. I should have died from all the internal damage. I went to the police but because I had taken a shower the night it happened, there was no “evidence”. Hopefully this sounds just a bit messed up to you.
One in five women in the United States were reportedly raped in 2011. Those are just the ones who were reported. This stuff isn’t funny, and it kills me that boys in this country grow up seeing images of rape as a form of entertainment (like my 15 year old brother).
I’m not asking you to “not make jokes about women”. Play off stereotypes of us as bad drivers and having “daddy issues”. Keep Francine a ditzy mother who can’t deliver a joke properly and keep Louis threatened by Stewie. Your shows make fun of everyone, not just women, so I’m not saying to take that stuff out. But the rape jokes in the shows are actually showing something that REALLY happens but it makes the audience think it is something that doesn’t actually happen, is funny, or that it is OK to do. So what I am asking is for a reason they are included, and if you can’t answer that then to please stop having Quagmire raping crying, terrified women, to stop making Francine complain that she wasn’t raped, and all the other times it randomly gets thrown in.
Thank you for your time, good luck at the Oscars,