Film producer Harvey Weinstein has recently been accused of multiple accounts of rape and sexual abuse. The scandal has revealed to the world what several Hollywood insiders have described as an “open secret”. Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex.
British comedian James Corden has also waded into this issue. But the jokes he made have been poorly received.
Corden was speaking at the amfAR Gala in Los Angeles. Describing the evening in LA, Corden said it was:
so beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage.
I don’t know whether that groan was that you like that joke or you don’t like that joke. If you don’t like that joke, you should probably leave now.
It has been weird this week though, hasn’t it, watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water? Ask any of the women who watched him take a bath. It’s weird watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water.
Harvey Weinstein wanted to come tonight, but he’ll settle for whatever potted plant is closest.
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— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 14, 2017
This led to responses such as:
Things that aren't funny:
– Rape culture
– Victim blaming
– Violence against women
– The abuse of power
– James Corden
— Miriam Brett (@MiriamBrett) October 15, 2017
so not only is James Corden making jokes about the sexual assault allegations against Weinstein, but it seems they're also pals – pic.twitter.com/yO4xE6uByU
— Rossalyn Warren (@RossalynWarren) October 15, 2017
Holding the powerful to account?
Some people have argued that the jokes come at Weinstein’s expense, and therefore they work:
Some confusion here. James Corden was making jokes at Harvey Weinstein's expense. As is everyone else on US TV. Correctly. pic.twitter.com/om0bZGI8cG
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) October 15, 2017
Others disagreed with the idea that Corden was managing to do this:
I really like James, and he is a lovely man, but his jokes didn't excoriate Weinstein or amplify his faults; they made them sound trivial.
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) October 15, 2017
HW wasn’t the butt of a single joke – the women he abused were. It’s demeaning.
— Jemima Codrington (@jemima_c) October 15, 2017
Corden has since apologised via Twitter. He said:
To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter. I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior, but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims. I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention.
People once more reacted to what Corden said:
"sexual assault is no laughing matter"
makes 3 jokes about sexual assault, admonishes audience for not laughing
— somegreybloke (@somegreybloke) October 15, 2017
What matters isn't the intention, it's what you did. That sort of error of judgement is part of the problem and deserves no platform
— Ben Fletcher (@BenSFletcher) October 15, 2017
Has he? A Brit wouldn't spell behavior without the u so I'd say this is a statement crafted by his management.
— Alan Granger (@ZeGrange) October 15, 2017
A problem with Corden’s jokes is that all of the punchlines were instances of abuse. He joked about Weinstein using his power to request massages and have people see him naked. He also joked about the alleged incidents of Weinstein masturbating in front of his victims.
The issue, then, is that these weren’t just jokes about Weinstein; they were jokes about the abuse he perpetrated. And if you were one of the many people who’ve reportedly been abused, would you want to hear instances of abuse being used as punchlines? Especially when one of the major problems we currently face is that abuse is still not taken seriously enough.
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