Heather Marlowe and Emma Sulkowicz know rape is no joke, why don’t the Simpsons?


I’m a big believer in art when justice fails. I’m doing an excerpt of my solo performance show, “Emil Amok,” at the San Francisco Public Library on Oct. 9 at 6 pm. It’s part of “Compositions,” the Alvarado photo exhibit that is the anchor of the library’s Filipino American History Month activities.

Part of my show deals with my experience with the SF Police and the District Attorney in regards to my cousin’s murder in the South of Market.

That drew me to Heather Marlowe’s show.

She’s smiling. But her show’s no joke.


Her solo performance has a few more runs through the weekend in the 49-seat Costume Shop at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

The self-proclaimed daughter of a Filipino Tiger Mom and an abusive father tells her story as a rape survivor. In this tale, the alleged perp is a man she met in the infamous semi-nude foot race known as “Bay to Breakers.” But the story is about being raped twice, first by the perp, then by the system.

Marlowe wound up drugged in a Richmond district flat after a night she can’t totally remember.

But when she reported her experience, she found almost an official sense of indifference, as if rape really weren’t taken seriously. Her case was caught in a bureaucratic slow roll, where it took nearly two years for the key evidence in her rape kit to even be evaluated.

Marlowe also discovered she wasn’t alone. Along with Marlowe’s case, San Francisco had more than 750 untested kits. Wait…there’s more. Over 2,000 kits remained untested in cases in which the 10-year statute of limitations had expired.

That’s how seriously they take rape in San Francisco.

Marlowe tells her story effectively, with a sense of wit and humor.

But you’re so stunned by the ordeal, especially when she describes her rape exam, that the idea of having all her clothes taken by the police as evidence and then released to the streets in nothing but her emergency room gown loses its comic punch.

If Kafka had been raped, he would tell this story.

But even Marlowe’s line about how enforcement and sensitivity would improve if more men were raped, a satirical modest proposal, fell flat for me and the audience I was in.

Once again, we are just stunned by Marlowe’s testimony; the laughs are muted.

But it’s all true. SF Police Chief Greg Suhr has admitted to the backlog and is trying to change the law on the expired kits.

And that’s been the power of Marlowe’s small show. She has no day in court. Just nights on the stage.

And despite the wit in her words, it’s clear from her story: Rape is no joke.

She certainly doesn’t have the platform “The Simpsons” will have on its premiere on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, “The Simpsons/Family Guy” season opener will have a joke about rape.


In this preview (around :47 in), Bart Simpson is with Stewie Griffin and asks the little tyke if he wants to make a prank call.

Stewie says yes and Bart obliges by calling a bar and asking for “Lee Keybum.”

It’s not really a common name. But neither are urologists named I.P. Freely.

I suppose the Keybums of Virginia, or wherever, may have a sense of pride about being mentioned in “The Simpsons”/ “Family Guy” hybrid extravaganza.

But I heard it as Lee Kee Bum, not of Virginia, but of somewhere in Asia.

It reminded me of when KTVU, the Fox station in Oakland, reported during the Asiana Airlines crash last year. After receiving a prankster’s call with bad information, the station went on the air with the unconfirmed source naming the Asiana crew members, which included the now infamous “Ho Lee Fuk.”

Well, Lee Kee Bum could be his cousin.

That would be bad enough.

But as comics do, Stewie has to top Bart–with a rape joke.

It’s strange, because we know instinctively that rape is no joking matter.

But some people still don’t get it.


When I was in college, a big story was how New York City TV weatherman Tex Antoine made a “quip” about rape.

On Nov. 24, 1976, Antoine infamously said on WABC-TV: “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.‘”

I think it’s safe to say Confucius was misquoted.

That the rape in the news at the time involved an 8-year-old girl didn’t help matters. Antoine said he didn’t know that, but still, his comment drew the ire of many viewers, mostly female.

Antoine was replaced soon after.

The damning phrase was uttered again years later in 1988 by Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight who said it on an interview with newswoman Connie Chung.

Once again, the remark was greeted with the appropriate derision.

So here we are nearly 38 years after Antoine’s remark, 26 years after Knight’s.

I thought when it came to rape, we had finally come to our senses as a society by expressing our unequivocal and universal scorn for rape.

We haven’t.

There’s a new generation of jokesters who still think rape is fair game. They would gladly steal the Confucius joke.

Look at how institutions deal with rape and sexual assault. From San Francisco to Florida State and the local cops who failed to investigate the sexual assault charges against Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. And that’s just the most publicized of the more than 50 schools with open cases on what could be called the Department of Education’s “Dis-honor Roll.”

That’s the real joke. And it’s not funny.

We’re in a time when survivors are forced to find solace not in the justice system but in art.

That’s why Emma Sulkowicz, the part-Asian student at Columbia University, vows to carry a mattress around campus as a form of performance art until the university takes action against the student she says raped her.

That’s why Heather Marlowe shares her story on stage, and maybe soon to college campuses.

They are just the latest voices of strong women, easily negated in our culture by one dumb Stewie joke.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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