Is there a Date Rape Joke in ‘Observe and Report?’

Posted on April 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Observe and Report is a bleak, harsh, disturbing, violent, and transgressive movie about a mall security guard who is often delusional. Billed as a comedy, it has some funny moments, though most of the laughs come from outrageousness rather than wit. While on this site the comments have mostly focused on the nudity in the film (extended and very explicit footage of a male flasher), elsewhere there has been a lot of focus on another issue.
In the midst of a frankly and unabashedly offensive film, one moment has attracted a lot of attention. Ronnie, the movie’s leading character has gone on what he thinks of as a date with Brandi, a woman who works at a department store cosmetic counter at the mall. She thinks of it less as a date than as a free meal, and she quickly gets high on alcohol and his prescription medication. By the time he takes her home, she is close to unconscious. At her doorway, she throws up and he declares passionately, “I accept you” and kisses her. Cut to the two of them having sex. She has apparently passed out. He hesitates, and without moving, she (with strong profanity) urges him to continue. Does this, as some people say, make the sex consensual? Or, given how impaired the character is, can there be such a thing as consent? Is this scene so much more offensive than the rest of the film, which includes extreme, graphic, gratuitous and consequenceless violence and a substance-abusing mother whose biggest laugh line may be when she casually confides that she used to sleep with all her son’s friends in high school?
The members of the Association of Women Film Journalists have an online discussion about whether this scene is a date rape joke. Katey Rich of Cinemablend says:
Is date rape funny? Of course not. But Observe and Report is a movie that gets laughs when its main character hits children, does heavy drugs, makes racist jabs and shoots a harmless man in the chest at point blank range. The date rape scene is just one of many, many awful things that Ronnie does, and the scene is so powerful and, yes, funny, because it’s such a huge moment of crossing the line.
I do worry that people will see the movie and think “Oh, she’s giving consent, it’s fine!” But I don’t think that’s the point- Jody Hill and Seth Rogen are making a satire about American masculinity and specifically about this deranged character, and they don’t support half of what he does.


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