Why we should drop the “dropping the soap” bit
On Friday, America waited with bated breath to see what would happen to Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator accused of molesting dozens of young boys. We were all just about certain he was guilty, but since we’ve seen the legal system fuck up royally so many times before, nobody was quite sure what was going to happen.
Then, the verdict came in, and a burst of applause erupted outside the courtroom. Right then, we knew. That fucker was guilty. 45 out of 48 charges, never seeing the light of day again. For once, a rich old white dude wasn’t going to slip through the cracks. This was a glorious day indeed.
If only we didn’t go and fuck it up by making a bunch of ultra-hacky prison rape jokes.
Yes, Deadspin collected the various references to “dropping the soap” that appeared on Twitter after the Sandusky verdict came in. Needless to say, it’s a bunch of unfunny, uninspiring shit you’ve all seen a million times before.
When people say that rape jokes are never funny, I’m inclined to agree. Jokes that make fun of the act of rape, or the victims of rape are, with very little exception, merely cruel and not humorous. But while the point that rape jokes aren’t funny because they hurt people, and you shouldn’t laugh at that them is true, it’s only part of the reason they aren’t funny.
The other reason? They’re fucking weak and boring as hell. Seriously, the rape joke is hardly a new phenomenon. They’ve existed since the dawn of man, and, regrettably, they will continue to exist no matter how much any reasonable person would wish they didn’t. You aren’t breaking new ground by making a joke about someone being raped in prison. You’re Larry The Fucking Cable Guy. It seems like every dumb schmuck who tells an offensive joke and takes shit for it thinks he’s Lenny Bruce defending his right to say “cocksucker.” No, you’re just a playground bully doing the same cruel shit no matter how many times the kid you’re picking on starts crying and begging you to stop.
When Bruce, Carlin, Pryor, and Hicks fought for the right to say whatever they wanted, they were doing it with a purpose. They were telling jokes that criticized the establishment, and not just wallowing in misogynist bullshit. Being politically incorrect is a very noble thing, but only if you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Just to point how clichéd the “don’t drop the soap” routine is, “Family Guy” made fun of it back in 1999. I know it seems odd to praise that show in an article criticizing rape humor, but this is when the show was still good, before being lobotomized beyond repair by Seth MacFarlane’s ruthless desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Anyway, Peter gets sent to jail, and upon returning home tells his family that the rumor about dropping the soap is true. At this point, we expect a cheap rape joke, but instead, Peter simply says “you can’t hold on to that thing to save your life!” We cut to a brief cutaway gag of the prisoners pointing and laughing at Peter for his inability to hold on to the soap. I like this bit because it points out how played out the joke is, and takes it in a different direction. It’s a classic “screw the audience” gag. Two years later there would be a cutaway gag in which Peter saves his friends who are being held prisoner, to which he would remark “yeah, too bad I didn’t get there until after the sodomy,” a joke that played on the same cliché the show used to mock. That was when things were clearly going downhill. Yeah, it’s too bad “Family Guy” would go on to wallow in the same rape humor it originally mocked, but that bit from the pilot episode was a fine way of pointing how obvious and tired that attempt at humor is.
Making jokes that make light of rape, and mock rape victims is a lose-lose situation. They offend people, and they’re hopelessly dated and unoriginal. I’m glad that Jerry Sandusky is going to rot in prison for the rest of his life, but I don’t want him raped, because, you know, rape is bad. If you do, then you care about revenge more than you care about justice, and you aren’t really anti-rape. And if you don’t, but you do want to make a cheap joke about it, then you just aren’t funny.