And, for the most part, it was another home run with plenty of highly quotable zingers: “I spent three hours today prepping for my role as a human woman”; “Boyhood proves that there are still great roles for women over 40 as long as you get hired when you’re under 40.”
But there was one joke that fell incredibly flat, and it was the Cosby Is a Rapist joke. Sadly, the joke that needed to be the strongest of the night was easily the weakest.
If you missed it, Poehler set it up by saying, “In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.” Then they did some mocking Cosby impressions. “I don’t know if you saw this on the news today, but Bill Cosby has finally spoken out about the allegations against him. Cosby admitted to a reporter: ‘I put the pills in the people that the people did not want put into them,’” Fey quipped.
The joke was met with wide-ranging reactions in the room, from shocked gasps (Jessica Chastain) to cheers (Lena Dunham). By this morning, many headlines were lauding Fey and Poehler for “skewering” and “burning” and “taking down” Cosby. “The room gasped, feminists around the world cheered,” wrote the Guardian‘s Hadley Freeman.
Well, THIS feminist isn’t cheering.
Let’s be clear: Cosby is absolutely a fair target. He deserves to be skewered at a high-profile, televised award show. But that’s not exactly how it went down. In Poehler and Fey’s bit, as told, Bill Cosby isn’t the punchline. As RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes tweeted this morning “Sleeping Beauty’s failure to protect herself from a rapist is.”
In fact, at a show in London, Ont., last week, Cosby himself made a similar joke — about himself. He asked a woman in the audience where she was going when she got up and walked by the stage. When she told him that she was going to the lobby to get a drink, Cosby responded, “You have to be careful about drinking around me.”
The joke, according to CBC, was met with loud applause because everything is the worst always. (So far, you’re looking an awful lot like 2014, 2015. DO BETTER.)
From where I am sitting, both jokes are hinged on the same premise, which is “Ha ha, beware that kooky old grandpa Bill Cosby — he drugs women’s drinks and assaults them!”
That is not only unfunny, it’s unacceptable. It trivializes his behaviour, as though drugging people and assaulting them is but a mere personality quirk.
As Dan Soloman tweeted, “It makes ‘Bill Cosby is a rapist’ as comfy as ‘Wes Anderson is twee’ and ‘Emma Stone has big eyes.'” Back to Grimes: “Describing the means by which Cosby preyed on/raped people in a ‘Cosby voice’ turns Cosby into, at best, a clown rather than criminal.”
Also, and I can’t believe I have to write this, but here it is: a rape joke doesn’t suddenly become feminist because it is told by a woman (if this is what equality looks like, Jesus take the wheel). Women make shitty rape jokes, too.
Fey and Poehler are smart, talented, funny ladies. I am a fan of both. And I’m glad they ‘went there.’ I’m just disappointed by the route they took.
Watch the entire opening monologue below.