Pitch Perfect 2’s Rape Culture Scene Hits a Wrong Note

Even when we get women behind the camera and a cast full of female protagonists, usually touted as a cure to Hollywood’s ills and missteps, we can still have media go terribly wrong. In the just-released trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 there is a scene that is very troubling because it strikes a chord to a much bigger issue. Perhaps there is more to this scene than first meets the eye. Hopefully it ends with a affirmative PSA promoting consent and taking a stand against college men raping college women, delivered in the hysterical way that only Rebel Wilson can. That would be grand. If not it only serves to mislead the film’s fans, many of whom are teens and young adults, about what consent means and looks like, as well as what girls really mean when they say ‘no’.

Because you know, she didn’t mean it. She wanted it. And she liked it.

In this scene (at 2:11) we see a guy hitting on “Fat Amy”, Rebel Wilson’s very funny character. At a party scene full of alcohol and underage drinking – known contributors to campus and high school rape – we watch a rival singer hit on Amy and ask if she wants to have sex later. She acts appalled and voices a loud “NO!” immediately followed by a confusing wink at the boy. Not understanding, he tries to clarify and we watch the same schtick again. There’s a lot that could have been done with these few minutes in the film, but these minutes don’t pass by in a vacuum. They have meaning to the culture at large.

For a film written by, directed by and starring women this is irresponsible and insensitive. That most of these women have been previously heralded in the media as great feminist role models, this scene is really all the more troubling. If you’re going to be sex-positive, show your character going all in. Go Fat Amy, get some! With enthusiastic consent that better represents most college women’s sexual agency. Comedic sexual come on’s are something Rebel Wilson is phenomenal at. No need to be coy about her desire. She can still make a clandestine lover out of her rival, which actually could have led to some truly funny scenes. No need to make an ass out of a guy trying to understand if consent was there or not.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea - and neccessity - of consent.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea – and neccessity – of consent.

This trailer is filling my newsfeed and twitter stream and no doubt yours, as well as any tween/teen social media users you have at home. In fact, this party scene is the final frame of the trailer as it was meant to have lasting impact and influence by the people who want to earn money from this movie. So talk about it with your kids: the responsibilities media content creators have, unpack Rape Culture and how it is perpetuated, the roles young men and women play in Rape Culture, how kids learn to navigate sexual relationships, and how maybe women have a responsibility to each other not to make a joke out of rape.

It isn’t dark or salty humor. It isn’t satire. Much like the rape whistle joke Kay Cannon included in the original Pitch Perfect screenplay, it isn’t doing any of us any favors.

It is SO disappointing to see women in Hollywood be so insensitive to the campus rape crisis by including this scene that only further reinforces the “No means YES!” belief far too many college men (and apparently administrators) hold. Like when they chant outside their fraternities and parties “No means yes and yes means anal!” HILARIOUS!!!

Incredibly irresponsible for a film directed by Elizabeth Banks and a scene starring Rebel Wilson, who have been cheered for their feminism, and who are capable of better comedy. Because if there is anything that is not chuckle-fest inducing, it is the fact that one in five women will be raped while trying to get a higher education, usually by men they considered friends or lovers.

That’s not a statistic I’m in love with. Hopefully by the time the film is released, this scene will be cut or reworked.

 

Comments

  1. Considering the character hitting on her is the one with whom she had a love-hate relationship in the first “Pitch Perfect,” this scene strikes me as an attempt at “I’d really like to hook up with you but in public I have to pretend I don’t because our groups are mortal enemies.” But there definitely would have been better ways to make that point. I hope there’s more context that just isn’t in the trailer.

    • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

      Molly –
      Right, I have the same hope. I get why this relationship is portrayed this way based on plot lines from the first film – Amy’s(Rebel Wilson) team cannot date members from an opposing team, which Bumper (the guy, I think that’s his name?) is. As I said in my post, Amy & Bumper being clandestine lovers could have led to some VERY funny scenes. That didn’t blur the line of consent by literally blurring the line of consent.

      The two could have had a hand signal, or weird phrase, that was the cue to go get it on in the bathroom. And that could have led to more hilarity as the two almost get caught, have to stay quiet during steamy sex, Fat Amy having some bizarre phrase she uses while climaxing that is overheard by her teammate and…. whatever. And seriously who could pull that off better than Rebel Wilson?! She is hilarious! Just not here. At least, not from what we see and what we know it means for college women in the bigger picture.

      What we see, from a female-driven project, is a text-book case of a young woman sending mixed signals and green-lighting the Rape Culture belief of “She wanted it. She didn’t say no. She was acting like a yes.” And we have to do better than that because the stakes are just way, way too high.

      • Cassie Thompson says:

        Or we see a case of a woman sending mixed signals and a man taking care to clarify if he is reading them correctly… That’s a good thing, this is a good message.

        • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

          Cassie –
          That would be a good thing, if that is how the scene ended. But it isn’t. It ends with Rebel’s character sending more mixed signals. And fade to black.

          To put that scene in the trailer that way is irresponsible. It has greater ramifications for real women outside of these movie characters. We’ll have to see how it plays out in the film.

  2. I watched the Youtube clip and I agree with you. That scene needs to be changed or eradicated because it sends the wrong message.

  3. Cassie Thompson says:

    I am confused. I thought the loud “No” was aimed at the team mates (so they would think she wouldn’t engage with the rival team) and the “wink” was to let him know that she didn’t mean the “no”, that she was indeed interested. It wasn’t “no means yes because she was flirty or dressed seductively (or any other idiot excuse)”, it was “Actually, I mean yes but I don’t want my teammates to know” which is really okay.

    Kudos to the guy. Non verbal communication is a real and valid form of communciation (except in the court of law I believe), everywhere else we use it constantly. However, for good reason, non-verbal communication is discouraged in situations of sexual advancement. This guy is acknowledging that by taking extra care to adhere to the verbal communication over the non-verbal. He was so concerned about not mixing signals that he wouldn’t trust the non-verbal communication even if it was completely solid.

    Fat Amy wasn’t being subtle. I didn’t see it as a rape culture issue. If anything emphasized the rights of all to have clear verbal communication in place.

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