In Case You Haven’t Heard Yet, Martin Freeman Made a Rape Joke
by Rebecca Pahle | 2:00 pm, December 20th, 2013
Martin Freeman has a history of saying some pretty offensive stuff. The latest in the long line: Asked by an interviewer as part of a The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug press junket whether he’d prefer to date an elf, a hobbit, or a dwarf, he said elf. OK, OK. I’d go with hobbit, but seven meals a day isn’t for everyone. Different stokes for different folks.
And then came the rape joke.
Interviewer: And the height difference doesn’t matter?
Freeman: Not at all. I’ve got a ladder. It’s fine. And I’ve got drugs. I could just make them [here he makes a hand motion that looks to me like the elf would be falling over] —y’know. Slip them something in their goblet. Some will get offended by that now. Cause they’ll call it *insert actual air quotes, eye roll* ‘rape’ or whatever. But, um, you know. For me, it’s a helping hand. Maybe I should stop talking.
Or maybe you should’ve stopped talking after “I’ve got a ladder. It’s fine.” Y’know, before you started talking about drugging people. There’s been a metric ton of backlash against this quote on Tumblr, where The Hobbit, Sherlock, and Freeman himself have huge fanbases. In response to (justified) critiques of Freeman’s statement, I actually saw someone say “No, he’s just talking about giving the Elf a potion to make them shorter! We’re looking at Alice in Wonderland, not a date rape drug!”
But make no mistake. Freeman is joking about “slipping something” into someone’s drink, which implies they’re not aware of it, so he can sleep with them. That would be a rape joke. And not a rape joke like this one by Wanda Sykes, where rape culture is the butt of the joke. Nope. Freeman’s is at the expense of the presumed victim. He says a lot of crazy things in interviews, which can be fun and refreshing. But “Isn’t drugging someone so you can have sex with them funny, LOLOL?” takes it too far.
The subject of rape jokes is one where there’s a lot of disagreement. Is it ever OK to make them? What if the subject of the joke, as in the Wanda Sykes example above, isn’t the actual rape or the victim of rape but rapists and rape culture? And, of particular relevance in this case (people with more knowledge than I have written thousands upon thousands of words on the intersection of comedy and offensiveness, but of all the reactions I’ve seen to Freeman’s joke none of them have been that they thought it was legitimately funny): If someone whose work you enjoy makes a joke such as the one above, how does, or should, that affect how you approach them and the rest of their work in the future?
The comment section, as always, is open.