Where is Your Line on Comedy? Tucker Max & Rape Humor

The Tucker Max film I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell has drawn a lot of controversy , regarding everything from the subject matter of the film , to the ad campaign . Max and his supporters maintain the protesters are “kooky activists bullying the media into propagating a minority viewpoint” by manipulating his work because they can’t take a joke. All this controversy begs the question, where is your line on comedy? The following are a compilation of responses from various men and women, most of whom belong to Max’s intended target demographic.
Carmen Rios, a 19-year-old undergrad, part of Max’s intended target demographic, called the ads “disrespectful and callous.” Dan Wald, in his early 20s, said the ads frustrate him as a man, because “a few men are hurting the whole, hurting our gender and women fear us for it.” Wald called the ads “hate speech that promotes violence.” Ben Siegel, also in his 20s, said the ads “promote violence against women” and “promulgate a dangerous, misogynistic attitude.”
When asked about Max’s response that the activists can’t take a joke, John Foubert, author of The Men’s Program: A Peer Education Guide to Rape Prevention , stated, “His [Max’s] dismissal of his statements as being ‘just a joke’ suggest to me that either he is incapable of empathy – or that he has no conscience – both high risk factors for [committing] rape. Either way, women, and people who care about them, should be deeply concerned about this man and his statements.”

Max maintains that he does not promote rape, stating in reference to protesters “Fucking rape sucks…It’s, like, not a joke … But I feel like they’re fucking it up, man, because what they’re doing is really kind of devaluing the seriousness of an actual crime. . . . I mean, the discussion about where consent lies and doesn’t lie is an important one, and should be had, but…that’s never been an issue for me.”

In response, the interviewees pointed to his administered message board, which started a photo-caption contest in which Max’s fans inserted their own slogans in the place of actual protest signs. The photo-shopped signs ranged from “I’m mad cuz no one will rape me” to “Women deserve to call rape ‘surprise sex.’”

Nancy Schwartzman, a young filmmaker, was recently interviewed in Time Out New York ’s “Sex Issue 2009 ” for her work on the short documentary “The Line ,” which explores sexual boundaries and consent . She found the message boards ironic, since men who protest rape culture are seen as lame and either gay, or unable to ‘get laid.’ She pointed out, “If Tucker Max and his crew feel like they have to trick women into sex – either by sneaking up behind them or get them wasted – what does that say about his game? Why can’t he actually get a woman into bed when she’s sober or actually looking at him? Is he that bad when it comes to sex? Seems like it.” Lance, a 26-year-old lawyer, called the film “a sad reminder that insecure men perceive sex as fundamentally adversarial, using Max’s stories of casual sex and nonconsensual activity to remove the perceived ‘gatekeeper’ role from women.”

The ads and Max’s message board aside, the film itself has also drawn sharp criticism . Rios said, “It is clear that the film approaches rape with a humorous lens.” One of Max’s defenders protested on a blog post that dialogue like “Fat girls aren’t real people” is taken out of context. Siegel disagreed, saying “These comments cannot be removed from their context, that context being a mentality of sexism and a tolerance for violence against women.” Schwartzman said, “Most men don’t hate women, and most women don’t hate men, so this kind of film does everyone a disservice by pitting men and women against each other. It makes a minstrel show of masculinity and male behavior.”

Foubert finds Max to be “a pathetically insecure man.” He believes Max says “wildly outlandish” things to get attention and make money, adding “His statements about women make it clear that he hates them and sees them as nothing more than objects. This attitude is very dangerous, because those of us who study rape know that objectification is one of the major underpinnings of rape.” By “reinforcing the objectification of women,” the movie… “makes rape more likely among those” who see it. Foubert unknowingly predicted one of Max’s fans’ behaviors. As reported on True Crime Report , a 21-year-old UConn Student and Max fan was charged with rape and home invasion. Not to say that every Max fan is a rapist, but Siegel pointed out, “the type of person who would pay to see [this film] doesn’t consider sexual violence against women from the victim’s point of view, nor could they be bothered to take this issue seriously.” Rios agreed, “A lot of jokes can still leave resounding messages with their audiences… if he [Max] thinks a comedy that jokingly allows rape-prone behaviors will not influence his viewers, he is mistaken.” Siegel concluded, “He doesn’t seem to understand that…his jokes aren’t funny.”

But don’t take their word for it. The entire script can be found on the Tucker Max Lies blogspot here:
Try not to lose your lunch – if you so choose to read it.

Posted by:
Jerin Alam
Co-Chair, NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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