We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Ever notice how explaining why a joke is funny never fails to make the joke not funny? Sorry, guys. But hey, what’s bad for America’s leading fake news humorist is good for getting to the bottom of this whole “rape joke” thing. In The Onion‘s Best and Worst Rape Jokes, I argued that the difference between funny-rape-joke and not-funny-rape-joke often comes down to the motive behind the joke: A gratuitous rape reference or a laugh at the expense of rape victims isn’t funny; a laugh at the expense of people who downplay or discount rape can be. But as these commenters suggest, the real target of a rape joke can be extremely difficult to parse:

Alan says:

Amanda, you completely forgot about “US Troops Pull Out of Viatnamese Peasant Girl.” It’s in Our Dumb Century.

Anna says:

I appreciate your analysis on this, and I thought it was extremely well-done; however, I have a slightly different opinion on the last one.

I don’t think it’s a cheerleader joke with rape thrown in. I think the last sentence about the football-playing rapist is what cinches the actual point: even when we as a society can provide support to rape victims instead of shame, the fact remains that punishments for rapists, especially young or first-time offenders, tend to be extremely lax. It plays into the idea that “boys will be boys,” especially athletically gifted young men who are seen as competitive “alpha males” with a bright future. It is often seen as a one-off mistake that someone so charming and popular would commit rape, but a less well-liked young man would receive a much harsher penalty for the same crime; the same goes for a less wholesome woman, who might receive a less enthusiastic outpouring of sympathy. Sorry this is kind of long-winded, but I just wanted to share my opinion.

Kati says:

I side with Anna as well. I read it as being a small dig at the constant pep of cheerleaders but being more about how athletics simply look over poor behaviours simply because someone is a part of the team. Everything is swept under the rug and teammates and cheerleaders alike are expected to put on their game faces for appearance’s sake.

Davey says:

On a pure humor level, there’s a significant drop-off from Onion print stories to their forays into video news. With the former, you can just skim the headline (which is 90% of the humor right there), but in the latter, the joke just goes on and on, with actors of variable quality. The Harry Potter story suffers not because the Scholastic publicist is creepy, but because he’s creepy and mugging and not a recognizable caricature of any publicist, just a grinning pedophile.

I also think the “Candidate Turns to Focus Group for Position on Rape” isn’t funny because it’s a dull cliche about spineless politicians. If you’re going to tread on a subject as inflammatory as rape, you shouldn’t use it for something that could come out of the Joke-a-matic 3000.