Here at FLARE we recently, and seriously, debated whether the term “swimspo” veered too close to “thinspo” to be used in a headline on a round-up on Instagram-inspired bathing suits. I ever so slightly rolled my eyes at the notion. Surely we were worried too much about causing unintentional offense.
And then there’s Amy Schumer. We’re avowed fans of Schumer’s irreverent humour (see this, and this, and this). If a woman can be described as “balls out,” it’s her. She is also someone whom I assume would give zero effs as to the semantics of a made-up term as seemingly inconsequential as “swimspo.” So it’s no surprise that the second skit of Wednesday night’s season three premiere—following an opener on the sexualization of butts that involved the line “It’s my fudge machine”—was a Friday Night Lights spoof on rape culture (“Clear eyes. Full hearts. Don’t rape.”), inspired, no less, by the Steubenville case involving sexual assault perpetrated by high-school football players. The bit was swiftly lauded as “perfect” by Slate and “brilliant” by Jezebel and I’ve yet to read any significant commentary by an offended party. Could she have cracked the algorithm for a funny rape joke?
It did take some careful planning. In an excellent interview on Think Progress, Inside Amy Schumer writers Christine Nangle and Jessi Klein note that, among countless other considerations—including “a conscious choice” not to depict any of the high school girls presumably raped by this football team—they even worried about alienating the ardent FNL fanbase:
Nangle isn’t an FNL superfan. But head writer Jessi Klein is; she’s watched the entire series twice and owns a men’s XXL “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” t-shirt “that I sleep in every night,” she said by phone. “I’m actually thinking of wearing it while I deliver my baby.”
“Football Town Nights” is “a fun, light, funny way to go at this very intense, heavy subject,” said Klein. “I did not want, in any way, for people to walk away from the sketch feeling like we were besmirching the show.” Amy is a big fan, too, and “we were really careful to make sure there was no conflating anything about the show, which I think is incredibly progressive and liberal and amazing, with the point the sketch is making.”
The interview provides awesome insight into exactly why Schumer’s comedy is so smart. (Hell, even Connie Britton loved the sketch.) She and her team consider ALL angles of a joke before it lands. And judging from this and the other insanely clever skits in that same episode—please, please watch “Last F**ckable Day” with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette—comedy wins when playing by Schumer’s rules: “Clear eyes, balls out, can’t lose.”
This story is part of #Project97 — a year-long conversation about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Visit Project97.ca for more details on this collaborative project by Rogers-owned media outlets, and join us on Twitter with the hashtag #Project97.