Cult of Outrage: Simpsons/Family Guy Crossover Under Fire For “Rape Joke”
The crossover episode between The Simpsons and Family Guy is gimmicky, but also something that the folks at Fox surely salivated over until it was agreed to. However, the episode is under fire for a “rape joke” in the trailer (joke happens around 1:10).
“The joke highlights the fundamental comedic style differences between [the two shows],” according to Mediaite.com. In this case they rightly point out that Bart Simpson is more keen to thrown out sophomoric puns and the Stewie often goes for dark, offensive humor. However, I also think the joke exemplifies something about the larger culture.
When I was a kid, The Jerky Boys were gods and we all tried to emulate them. Prank calls went from silly jokes about running refrigerators and princes in cans to wild scenarios often involving characters. However the fun would inevitably end when someone would go too far, threatening one of our anonymous callers or their (hypothetical, since we didn’t know them) families.
Clearly, though, what this joke isn’t about is rape. In fact, the joke only works (in as much as anything as subjective as humor does) because Stewie’s call to Moe is so disturbing. It would be more accurate to say it’s a “crossing-the-line” joke rather than a rape joke.
In fact, Katherine Hull Fliflet of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network agrees with me. “I think the show is making it clear that rape is not funny by how they are positioning the joke,” she told the Associated Press.
Most of the complaints have come from “family” groups, such as the Parents Television Council purporting the nonsense idea that somehow this joke makes the crime of sexual assault “less outrageous in real life.”
As per usual in these types of stories, it is only comedy that seems subject to these kind of “zero tolerance” complaints. Actors, such as Lawrence Fishburne and Kiefer Sutherland, convincingly played rapists (and murderers, in some cases) and are lauded for it. However, when comedians try to address these issues in their art, it becomes unacceptable.