Seth Rogen’s date (rape) movie

What is it called when a guy sleeps with a passed-out drunk girl? Comedy, apparently!

Topics: Broadsheet,

Within the first 15 seconds of watching the preview for Seth Rogen’s “Observe and Report,” which premieres Friday, I had reached my capacity for offense. I was so distracted by the premise of this knee-slapper — a man terrorizes women at a mall by flashing them and aggressively jacking off, ha-ha! — that I failed to notice that the teaser finishes with a bang, of sorts: Rogen, as Ronnie, a mall security guard, screws his passed-out drunk date. You might ask: Isn’t that rape? Well, yeah, it kinda seems that way, doesn’t it? But then Ronnie stops pumping for a second and asks, “Brandi?” His date, a victim of the mall flasher, comes to and, eyes closed, vomit streaking the pillow, slurs: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?” The mechanical pumping continues.

In an interview, Rogen attempts to explain why the scene is funny: “You can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? … And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay.” The New York Times went along with this theory, describing the scene like so: “He forces himself on a makeup-counter saleswoman after a date of heavy drinking and drug use. (Before the scene is over she indicates that she had given her consent.)” But did she, really? Moments before, Brandi, played by Anna Faris, is shown vomiting all over herself and barely capable of walking. We’re supposed to believe she’s in the state of mind to give meaningful consent, and after he’s already started having sex with her, no less? 

Not too surprisingly, it’s stirred a bit of online controversy. In a headline, New York magazine’s Vulture Blog asks: “Does Seth Rogen Rape Anna Faris in Observe and Report?”  The answer, according to someone who has actually watched the movie:



“It turns out that yes, by any reasonable standard of behavior, Seth Rogen’s character, Ronnie Barnhardt, totally rapes Faris’s Brandi … The movie doesn’t mitigate that sex scene at all. In fact, it makes it even more clear than the trailer does that when Brandi and Ronnie get home from dinner, she’s unbelievably trashed on antidepressants and tequila. Not only does she throw up all over the place, she can barely walk — and she certainly can’t give any kind of informed consent. She’s way too wasted for her yelling at Ronnie to mean anything.”

Jezebel points out that Faris’ character is supposed to be a stupid slut and, of course, “women who have many sex partners obviously love penis, so they’d welcome a stranger jerking off in front of them on their way to work” — or grinding against their naked body while they’re off in la-la-land. After all, Ronnie is the good guy trying to save her from a sex offender. Much earlier in the movie, Brandi tells Ronnie that she’s OK after being flashed at the mall, and he responds: “Everyone thinks they’re fine ’till someone puts something in ‘em they don’t want in ‘em.” (Like I’ll do to you later — zing!)

Maybe the actual movie is far less offensive and far more witty than the preview and reviews make it seem, but I can’t say I’ll ever bother to find out firsthand. I’ll leave that to Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek. Keep an eye out for her review on Friday.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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