A Challenge to the Farrelly Brothers

[Trigger warning for jokes about sexual violence.]

[Video Paraphrase: Trailer for the upcoming Farrelly Brothers film Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Alyssa Milano, Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove, and Larry Joe Campbell. Fischer and Wilson play a married couple, and Applegate and Sudeikis play a married couple. The dudes are obsessed with sex; their wives catch them checking out other women. Joy Behar (?!) tells the women that "Married men believe, if not for you, they could actually be with these other women." So the wives give their husbands, a "hall pass," which is defined in onscreen text as, "A week off from marriage to do whatever you want without consequences." The guys and their three buddies (Merchant, Smoove, and Campbell) are inept at scoring babes. One of the examples of their ineptitude is Sudeikis walking up to a woman in a bar holding cocktail napkins; he sniffs them then holds them out in her face. "Excuse me," he says, "do you think these bar napkins smell like chloroform? I'm kidding! Fred Searing, can I buy you a drink?" Scenes of the dudes spinning out of control—police chase, mug shots. But they guys are determined to score because "If we can't show that something positive can come from having a hall pass, the whole concept is dead for all mankind."]

That the Farrelly Brothers think sexual harassment and assault is hilarious is not news. The entire premise of There's Something About Mary was a woman being stalked by multiple men who were deceiving her to try to sleep with her. (Ironically, Brett Favre played the one guy who wasn't stalking her. Whoooooops!) Kingpin featured a predatory landlady who coerced Woody Harrelson's character into exchanging sex for rent. Me, Myself & Irene had a scene in which Jim Carrey's character grabbed a baby off hir nursing mother's breast and started suckling, to the woman's horror. One of the many problematic aspects of the premise of Shallow Hal is that the main character, who believes his fat girlfriend to be thin, has sex with her while effectively unable to consent to the actual person with whom he's having sex. Et cetera.

There are things I've liked about the Farrelly Brothers' films. They cast real people with disabilities who are allowed to be funny, not just objects of ridicule. Their main female characters are often imbued with more dimension and agency than most female characters in comedy films. Though the premise of Dumb & Dumber was about a guy stalking a woman, and he and his friend eventually competing for that woman's affections, neither of them come even close to winning her over (a refreshing result which is unfortunately undermined by the guys nonetheless being afforded the consolation prize of an entire bus full of bikini models).

They sorta strike me, maybe wrongly, as the kind of guys who would be willing to reconsider the value of rape jokes, which is why I'm even bothering to write this post. I don't imagine them, guys who have repeatedly expressed an interest in being sensitive toward disability, to want to be the sort of people who don't give a fuck about survivors with PTSD, who don't give a fuck about triggering people, who don't give a fuck about being the guys who made a movie with a rape joke, and then put that rape joke right in the trailer, so a survivor of rape can be blind-sided by a joke trivializing what happened to hir while she's just trying to relax in front of the telly for the evening.

I think more of them than that. And, even if I'm wrong, I expect more.

And I challenge the Farrelly Brothers to make films that don't rely on humor which diminishes the gravity of sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual violence. I challenge them to become my ally.

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