Bushfire disappointed by 30 Rock

I have been catching up on 30 Rock lately and just reached season five.  I have always loved the show, but I was shocked to discover a rape scene portrayed as sex in the first episode of season five.  The context of the joke is that Pete has a lot of free time now that Jenna is doing some of his work.  While expressing to Liz how much free time he has now, he says, “Yesterday, I went to the gym!  And this morning, I made love to my wife!  And she was still asleep, so I didn’t have to be gentle!” Then we see a shot of Pete’s wife, Paula, who is both sleeping and rocking up and down as if having sex.  It’s a shot of her from Pete’s perspective.  Liz’s answer to this is “That’s one of the most upsetting things I have ever imagined.”  That would be my response too, because rape is certainly very upsetting, but Liz’s response is not the same as mine.  She is responding to Pete’s perspective, not Paula’s.  She is expressing that it’s upsetting to think of Pete “making love” to someone who is sleeping as if this is a bad experience for him.  The fact that penetrating a sleeping person is rape is completely non-existent.  Also non-existent is the realization that if Pete has to be “gentle” when Paula is awake, then presumably that’s because she wishes for him to be gentle, and in this case he is not. So not only is he “having sex” with a sleeping person, but he is directly going against what he knows she wants.  It is so obvious that this is rape that I cannot believe no one on the show wanted to edit this.  It means either no one knows that this is rape, or that they don’t care.  Either of these possibilities is terrible.

When you present rape as sex, you contribute to rape culture.  You enable men who do this to believe that what they’re doing is normal.  It’s not.  Sex without consent is rape.  Shame on you, 30 Rock.

4 thoughts on “Bushfire disappointed by 30 Rock

  1. Hey Bushfire! For some reason I either never knew, or just forgot (I blame my chemo-brain, which seems to have chemo-ier lately) that you have a blog. I’ve been reading it this morning with great interest. I love your piece on public schools; you and I are two hearts that beat as one on that issue.

    On the subject of “30 Rock,” I am familiar with the episode to which you allude, and although it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, I think I remember reading that scene differently. I think Liz Lemon does respond to Pete with disgust, the way I would. The Pete character is pretty consistently portrayed as a debased bumbler driven to episodic sociopathy by the crushing weight of his own inadequacy; the audience is meant to respond to his degraded lapses with disgust. “30 Rock” isn’t what I would call a preachy-message-show, but I think if there is a sort-of message here, the sort-of message is not “rape is sex,” but “sleep-raping people is gross and subhuman.”

    Although I can totally see how you would see it the other way, that Liz Lemon is identifying pathos, rather than criminal assault, in Pete’s situation. “30 Rock” walks a fine line, and rape jokes aren’t funny. Fortunately, they often get it right. Never go with a hippie to a second location, indeed.

  2. I interpreted the scene the same way Twisty did, and I still found it triggering as hell.

    P.S. Bushfire! I can’t believe I forgot about your blog. Sadface.

  3. Totally agree with you Bushfire. I did not think it came across as very anti-rape.

    Wait till you get to the joke about ancient stripper bones from Jack Donaghy. I sort of liked 30 rock but the gratuitous lashings of misogyny were way too much sometimes.

    Have you got to the one where they do the ‘who’s more oppressed, white women or a black man’ thing? Also found it a bit hard to stomach.

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