Sep 27, 2010

30 Rock and That Joke

People are throwing the all too familiar moral shit fit today over a joke on 30 Rock. Pete Hornberger explains that with his extra free time he made love to his wife, but that she was asleep, so he didn't have to be gentle. We then see a mid-shot of Pete's snoring wife as she starts to jiggle up and down.
The online community have erupted with cries of 'rape joke,' and there's vocalisation that the writers crossed a line.

Now, my girlfriend and I exploded with sustained laughter after this gag and had to watch it again to maximise the hilarity. At the time I didn't even think of rape. I was laughing because being a fan of the show, I know that Pete and his wife have a history of bizarre sex practices, and this was just the next step in their escalating kinkiness. I also laughed at the grotesque nature of his wife's mass of snoring flesh wobbling back and forth as a bald, most likely naked Pete began rutting her. I thought my reaction to that horror show was reflected in Liz Lemon's curdled face when we cut back.

Pete intimates he knows it's gross and we cut back to his wife really shaking. Here I figured the writers knew they'd come up with a great joke and wanted to milk it a little extra.

Maybe this says something about me, that my mind didn't go straight to rape, but if so, it equally says something about those whose minds did race to sexual assault in the framework of an off the wall comedy like 30 Rock.

Now that I read the outcry, I realise this scene could indeed be seen as rape, but I really don't believe that was the point or intention of the comedy, and it's certainly not why I laughed. Maybe the writers were a little dangerous with their humour on this one, but in the context of the show, Pete having sleep-sex with his wife seems completely appropriate. This is the same couple who were happy to have sex in Lemon's bed and whose children beat up their father. I believe that Pete's wife, upon waking, would be fine with Pete having made love to her while asleep, because they've set her character up that way. She's a kinky woman. So maybe Mrs Hornberger is happy to be sleep-sexed. Does that mean she condones the same or worse to other people? Does that mean the writers of the show do? Of course not!

The joke is risky, but I think edgy comedy needs to be observed within its sphere of reality. To leap to the conclusion that the scene, the characters and the writers condone rape is absolutely ludicrous.
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