Tuesday, March 23, 2010

30 Rock, Kiddie Porn, and Men Telling Me Other Women are Jealous

Alright, so I promised a post a few days ago and here it is. I've been following the show 30 Rock the past couple of years and I was enjoying it until recently. Not only has the dialogue become less funny but the jokes have become painful to witness. I am not going to use the word offended because that's not the right way to describe how I felt about the last episode (there is also a good post I found on how feminists and other groups use that word way too often when there are better and more meaningful ones to use...I will try to find it to post at the end of this post). For those who do not watch the show, here's information about it on tv.com. Comedian Tina Fey stars as the female lead, Liz Lemon, and is also credited as one of the writers.
30 Rock
Before I begin I need to bring up some of the questions and points I will also discuss at the end. I do recognize that, for the most part, 30 Rock's humour is satire. It pokes fun at current issues and people in the media. Therefore, when some of its jokes are disturbing and creepy, I am not sure whether to take issue with the writers of the show or whatever it is that it's making fun of. Turning popular Hollywood titles into porns is pretty common, so when the show turns the title of a book about the rape and murder of a child into a porn title, should I have a problem with the writers of 30 Rock or those who actually do this in the porn industry? When Jack suggests that porn for women consists of an attractive man nodding his head and pretending to listen, do I criticize the writers' ideas of what women find sexy, or the people who create the "Porn for Women" books with pictures of men doing housework? Does it matter that it is satire? Or is the show actually encouraging such beliefs to persist? What about the people who don't catch the references or realize that the writers are only mocking, rather than encouraging, sexist ideas?

Last week's episode, "Don Geiss, America and Hope," started off rather tame and then there was a reference to the book-turned-movie, The Lovely Bones. The context it was in, however, was when popular pay-per-view porn was being discussed. In this episode it was renamed "The Lovely Boner" (it might be some other sexual word play on "bone" and I remember it incorrectly - and if I do would someone please correct me - but it was along those lines). Other current popular films were also used as porn names and that would be fine... if The Lovely Bones was not based on a story about a young girl who is raped and then killed. Although this novel is a fictional story, it was written from a woman who was raped when she was a teenager. She, fortunately, was able to get away but it was later discovered that the man had raped another young girl around the same time and killed her. The novel is based off of this fact but the family the story revolves around is fictional. While I doubt Tina Fey and the writers of the show intended to make it sound like a kiddie rape porn - any title with "bone" in it can easily be turned into a porn title - I still was uncomfortable with this joke. However, it was a brief mention and the show continued.
The Lovely Bones
(Ok, I hate when book covers are reprinted with the actors on the front but I thought this would be a good way to demonstrate just how creepy and disturbing a porn with this on the video cover would be.)

NEXT. Tracey Jordan then reveals that he does not actually have affairs and is embarrassed to let the public knows he is in love with his wife and would never cheat on her. Someone has threatened to publish this information so Jordan begins trying to find a woman to have sex with so he can keep up his image. He even says his wife tells him he better find someone to have an affair with or she is leaving him... or something along those lines. There is then a scene where he tries to seduce Lemon and when she discovers what he is trying to do she stops him and says she will never sleep with him because, "For one thing, I am not unconscious." Cue laughs. I don't find rape jokes particularly funny (in case you couldn't tell to my reaction to the first issue). I don't know why this had to be included as an option. If a woman was unconscious I did not believe she would actually be capable of "sleeping with" someone... that implies some sort of action on her part. Is she suggesting that option to Jordan though? No, I do not think the writers of this show are encouraging or condoning rape - or at least I *hope* they aren't - but that's already two rape jokes in one episode.

FINALLY, at the end of the episode Jack comes up with the idea that will win him recognition: Porn for Women! The men he suggests this to immediately counter with "Women hate porn" to which Jack replies that he means for an attractive man to stare out of the screen and nod his head. After listening to Liz complain about her relationship with a guy she does not like, Jack "realizes" that all women want is for a guy to listen to them complain about *their* issues without interrupting except to say "Uh huh," "really?," and "Oh, she's just jealous of you." Hm... There is a whole other debate I could get into about porn and women and feminism but that is not my point here. Is that really what men believe women to find pornographic or sexy? If so, there must be quite a few disappointed women. According to this idea, women do not actually enjoy or desire sex. Essentially, in this view, women apparently orgasm to a man telling her she is better than another woman or a man doing the dishes. This is a woman's sex life?

Once again, I am not sure the best way to approach these issues. I fail to find the humour in rape, whether or not it is mocking current rape culture. I also feel it's a bit of a problem that not everyone laughs at the show because of its satire, and instead find the jokes funny on their own. I also find my thoughts confusing and conflicting about what difference the writer being female has on my opinion of the jokes. I almost feel that because there is such a strong woman writing the jokes that the jokes should be held to a higher standard. By this I mean, she has the potential to fight against misogynistic jokes that are found in other sitcoms but still relies on rape humour. I also believe this is somewhat hypocritical of me for several reasons. First of all, why should I not also hold men to this standard? Men are just as capable of fighting misogyny as women - in fact, they are the ones writing a lot of the other sitcoms, they have a larger opportunity themselves to put a halt to this. Second of all, just because you are a woman doesn't mean you need to speak for all women. It would be nice to see a female writer stepping above these jokes, but just because she has a vagina does not mean she is feminist. I am not sure how to word my thoughts on this matter but thought I should present these unfinished/edited ideas to whoever is reading this.