Patton Oswalt Changes Mind on Rape-Joke Debate

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 05: Patton Oswalt attends the FX's
Patton Oswalt Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Beyond being one of the day’s great comedians, Patton Oswalt has shown himself able to speak thoughtfully about difficult subjects. Most recently, a lauded Facebook post of his about the Boston Marathon bombing went viral. It is because of this that some people were disappointed when Oswalt came to the defense of Daniel Tosh last summer after a blogger wrote about an exchange with Tosh in which she interrupted his set to disapprove of his rape joke, only to have him respond with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?” Oswalt eventually tweeted, “Wow, @danieltosh had to apologize to a self-aggrandizing, idiotic blogger. Hope I never have to do that (again).”

So, recently a new round of the debate on rape jokes has started up, with Oswalt among those called out in a Salon piece that questioned the double standard of male comedians vocally condemning violence, but not rape. And all of this got Oswalt thinking, and he completely changed his mind.

The result is a very good, very long blog post that he posted on his site this weekend. In it, Oswalt covers three topics: joke theft, heckling, and rape jokes. He makes good points about the first two, about why they are bad and such, but largely they are used to ramp up to his discussion of rape jokes.

He explains that his opinion, at the time, came down to how comedians shouldn’t be censored and that he didn’t really believe in the idea of a “rape culture” and comedians’ ability to foster it. Then he adds: “I had my viewpoint, and it was based on solid experience, and it … was … fucking … wrong.”

He argues that what critics of “rape jokes” are doing is not censorship, it’s “simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim.” And as a comedian who is “striving to write original material … and struggling find new viewpoints or untried approaches to any subject,” he should embrace this critique, adding, “Any edgy or taboo subject can become just as hackneyed as an acceptable or non-controversial one if the exact same approach is made every time.” He realizes that he was being just as willfully ignorant as the hecklers and joke stealers he had previously criticized:

“Just because I find rape disgusting, and have never had that impulse, doesn’t mean I can make a leap into the minds of women and dismiss how they feel day to day, moment to moment, in ways both blatant and subtle, from other men, and the way the media represents the world they live in, and from what they hear in songs, see in movies, and witness on stage in a comedy club.”

Oswalt says he doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of a debate “that only argues from its own limited experience.” He finishes by saying, “I’m a man. I get to be wrong. And I get to change.” Read the whole post here.

Patton Oswalt Changes Mind on Rape-Joke Debate