Observe and Rape
I should have posted this on Tuesday, when it was published in the treeware edition, but it kept falling to the bottom of the pile. Now I can just copy and paste the whole thing. The magic of recycling. Linky freshness added.
Oh and just before I do? The trailer is cleaned up. You should see the original. It contains the offending scene and more f-words than you'd think possible. But I can't link to it because this is a family newspaper blog.
Written and directed by Jody Hill, this pitch-black-comedy-with-aspirations-to-satire digs so deep under the beer belly of working class America that even Sarah Palin's family circus comes out looking classy by comparison.
Relentlessly violent, and so profane that half a dozen editors are standing by armed with blue pencils as I type this, it follows Seth Rogen's sociopathic mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt on his patrols through what have become the central structures of our society – the food courts, chain stores and parking lots that define everyday life.
So familiar are they that they rarely get the Hollywood studio flick treatment.
Hill's mall crawl is definitely creepy, and yet, so simultaneously banal, and Canada's Rogen is perfectly cast as the security guard with dreams of greater "You talking to me?'' glory.
Which is why, the movie, which I confess I liked, is so unsettling.
Like with Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, you keep waiting for it to go all Travis Bickle, all Columbine, or all Virginia Tech.
It's clear off the top that this is no ordinary gross-out comedy, despite Rogen's rep for playing a lovable loser shlub who inexplicably gets the gorgeous Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up). You know this because not a single store name, soft drink brand or fast food joint is recognizable.
And who could blame the usual product placement types for not wanting to get mixed up with a movie that not only sanctions rape, but plays it for laughs?
Especially now, when magazines such as Cosmopolitan warn young women that "date rape" falls into the "grey rape" zone if they party too hearty?
And so the critics fall into two camps.
The first, most of them men, who have no problem with the "sex scene,'' and the second, which includes the Star's Peter Howell, who understand that, as Ronnie unintentionally warns the object of his unwanted affection (Anna Faris) early in the film, "Everyone thinks they're fine until somebody puts something in them they don't want in them.''
Virtually shanghaied into a dinner date with Ronnie, Faris's underdressed and over-refreshed cosmetics saleswoman Brandi ends up taking advantage of the pathetic lug's eagerness to please. She helps herself to all the cocktails, shots and the brain-relaxing clonazepam he eagerly provides as he stares at her, all googly-eyed and adoring.
By the time he gets her home, she can't walk, can't talk, and even barfs on herself.
Cut to his pumping away on her comatose half-naked body, vomit dripping off her pillow.
Oh but wait.
The thing is Ronnie is so sad, so sick and so delusional that it makes sense he would take advantage of the situation. As a result, the audience should have no problem with it – from a character and plot development point of view, that is. It's the least of his many sins, really.
"I wanted to do something where like the main guy makes bad decisions and he's kind of an asshole," director Hill told critics last month when Observe and Report had its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival.
So why does Hill inexplicably need absolution for his character?
Why does he give him permission to rape Brandi?
Here's how: Just as Ronnie takes a breather from his jackhammer routine, the wasted Brandi stirs and slurs, "Did I tell you to stop, motherf----r?"
New York magazine's culture Vulture blog called that line "explosively funny.''
But retroactive consent is not consent.
And a rape scene is not a "sex scene'' – or even "a shocking sex scene'' – as some very major league critics described it.
The unspoken message here is that, Brandi deserves it because (1) she's a "bitch," (2) she has sex with (other) guys in cars and (3) she was too trashed to say no or, more to the point, to say yes before Ronnie assaulted her.
It's the one place where the script stumbles, and inexplicably so.
Needless to say, my sister feminist bloggers have unleashed a tsunami of online outrage.
As the ladies of Feministing.com, Jezebel.com, abyss2hope and others point out, this is the kind of movie that will tell men that it's okay to rape their dates if they're too drunk or unconscious to protest.
Observe and Report lets women know that they are asking for it.
Blame the victims.
As Rogen himself put it in an interview with a Washington paper, "When we're having sex and she's unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the f--k are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I'm not going to walk out of the movie theatre in the next 30 seconds?
"And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay ...''
Uh, no it doesn't.
There's no okay in rape.
Faris herself has been public – retroactively – with her own discomfort.
"I'm so grateful I was cast, but when I read the script, I thought, `Well, this is Warner Brothers. This is a studio movie, so this is all gonna be softened up. It's a comedy, right?'" she told the online AVClub. "So when we were shooting it, even the date-rape scene – or as I refer to it, "The Tender Love-Making Scene" – I just thought, `We'll shoot it, but it's not gonna be in the movie. I don't have to worry about that one.'
"And yet there it is."
It's not because the scene made it to the final cut that's the problem.
Ronnie is just the kind of jerk to do that kind of thing.
It's because Hill tried to take the "rape" out of "date-rape."
There's nothing funny about it.
One quote from Hill I have come up with since the column was publish turns out to be key. The boldface is mine:
AVC: In the Times piece, they describe the scene you’re talking about as Seth Rogen’s character forcing himself on Anna Faris. Is that how you perceived that scene?
JH: [Pause.] I dunno. I’ve always kind of liked scenes that you talk about how f----d-up they are. I would have been happy without any dialogue in that scene. I wanted to show them just having sex and her passed out, and I thought that would have been funnier. But I think I have a darker sense of humor than most people.
You know, I would have preferred that. Then there would have been no ''retroactive consent'' and it would have been unambiguously rape from start to finish, instead of from start to middle.
One more thing: I don't want to give too much away but I found that Brandi is totally ''slut-shamed'' in this script, especially at the end, simply because she rejects the psycho loser Ronnie.Makes me angry because the implication is that a healthy young woman shouldn't be having sex,.
But, you know, apart from the misogyny, haha, I thought the movie, while disturbing and provocative, was truly funny in most places. And it has stayed with me, unlike so many others, ever since I watched it.
Definitely not for everybody, and definitely not for impressionable teens.