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Sundance film opens with jokes about rape

Published January 22, 2013 12:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Is it ever OK to make jokes about rape? Is it acceptable if the rape jokes are made by a woman?Apparently. At least in "Afternoon Delight," which premiered Monday night at the Sundance film festival.Writer/director Jill Soloway's film opens with an affluent Los Angeles housewife, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) telling her therapist (Jane Lynch) that she knows that, compared to the woman of Darfur, her life is easy. That the women of Darfur have to walk 14 miles for water, and they're raped along the way. They get raped again when the get the water. Then they're raped again on the way back home, causing them to spill the water.It's played for laughs. And there was laughter in the theater at the premiere. People were indeed laughing at the jokes about rape.If "Afternoon Delight" had been written and directed by a man, would the reaction have been the same? Had a male character spoken those lines, would the audience have been laughing?Or can women go where men cannot in terms of rape humor?Can women make jokes about abortion? Because that happens later in the film. Lines written by a woman, spoken by a woman, directed by a woman.Although there was less laughter among audience members at that point.Maybe this is what's expected at Sundance. Films that push the limits. Films that challenge what's acceptable. Films that take chances ... like making jokes about rape and abortion.But the question remains. Is it OK to make jokes about rape if you're a woman? Because it sure isn't acceptable to make jokes about rape if you're a man.Just ask comedian Daniel Tosh, who took all sorts of heat when he made jokes about rape during his standup act and a woman called out from the audience, "Actually, rape jokes are never funny!"Tosh's response - according to the heckler - was, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?"Was that funny? A lot of people got all worked up about it, and Tosh was raked over the coals on the Internet.But was it any worse than making jokes about women being raped in Darfur? Than opening a movie with those jokes?Or is the degree of acceptability based on who is making the jokes and where she is making them?