On the heels of celebrating its 25th anniversary with a string of live shows at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the start of The Simpsons’ 26th season happens in just four days! That means the long-awaited Simpsons and Family Guy crossover is also nearly upon us. But not everyone is celebrating the union of the Simpson and Griffin families.
The Parents Television Council, lead by president Tim Winter, is none too pleased with a rape joke (or is it just a joke with the word ‘rape?’) in the crossover episode. Seen by millions already since the first four minutes of the premiere was shown at Comic-Con in July and then posted online, the scene in question is centered on Bart Simpson teaching Stewie Griffin how to properly make prank phone calls.
Bart calls Moe’s Tavern and asks Moe if there’s anyone there with the last name of “Keybum” with the first name “Lee.” Get it? Right, “Leaky Bum.” Adorable. Ok, so Stewie totally has it now. He can do that! He calls Moe’s next and says, “Hello, Moe? Your sister’s being raped.” Cue outrage– and also this press release from the PTC telling Fox to remove the joke from the broadcast. The network has made a statement saying they would not be making a statement about the council’s demands.
So, about this joke. Isn’t it really a joke that makes fun of people who don’t understand jokes? Isn’t it also a joke that supports the Parents Television Council’s belief that rape isn’t funny and should never be joked about? Can’t you argue that by showing Stewie completely bombing with the joke you’re telling viewers that, “No, never, ever is it ok to joke about rape?” That’s why the Simpsons/Family Guy joke is funny. Stewie, like the PTC, isn’t smart enough to understand nuance or tact or what comedy is.
“I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it. It really troubled me,” Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council says, adding, “We don’t mock certain groups because we realize that it is highly insensitive and morally wrong. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing about sexual assault?”
But Stewie is the butt of this joke, not the victims of rape.
It’s also worth noting that Winter and his colleagues get blown out of their shoes constantly— whether it’s because Howard Stern became a judge on America’s Got Talent or that Adult Swim expanded its programming or that NBC aired a Miley Cyrus concert. The point is it gets increasingly difficult to take an organization seriously when they seem to be bothered by everything that isn’t The Sound of Music.
Katherine Hull Fliflet, spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, doesn’t seem to have a problem with the Simpsons/Family Guy joke. “I think the show is making it clear that rape is not funny by how they are positioning the joke,” Fliflet says. “It’s my hope that would be the viewers’ take-away.”
Keeping Fliflet ‘s opinion in mind, is it wrong to even invoke the concept of rape or sexual assault in the context of comedy regardless of intent? Is it ok to adopt a knee-jerk reaction of outrage simply because the word “rape” is used on a comedy show? Let us know what you think. You can watch the joke in question below; it occurs a bit past the one-minute mark.