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- Death by Snu Snu – Did Futurama Cross a Line in Sexism?
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Okay, let me start this out by saying that Futurama is my all-time, hands-down, no-question, favorite show of all time. It is smart, witty, hilarious, occasionally sad, deeper than you’d expect, satirical, and mathematically correct. The characters are fantastic and the humor is never forced. It is my go-to background noise for when I can’t sleep.
BUT… There’s always a but, isn’t there? But there is one episode that, even though it’s just as well done as every other, toes right up to the line of offensive. In case you couldn’t tell by the title, the episode in question is S03E05 Amazon Women in the Mood.
And my whole complaint is summed up in one simple image:
Second disclaimer: I am NOT a prude. I’m not easily offended or on any kind of tirade about late night style comedy. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of humor. If you’ve been reading my blog or my books (especially Table Five), you’ll know that my biggest pet peeves are sexism and lack of consent.
Unfortunately, Amazon Women in the Mood pushed both of those buttons… repeatedly.
I’ve really been on the fence about this episode for years, because despite its problems, I still love it. I LOVE Futurama! All of it, even this episode. So the purpose of this post is to dissect this specific episode and how it flaunts sexism and lack of consent.
For anyone who hasn’t seen this episode, here’s a quick overview. The entire crew (plus Kif and Zapp) is stranded on a planet inhabited by very large women called the Amazonians. There, the men in the group are immediately taken prisoner by the Amazonians, and while being taken to their leader, the men make a series of sexist jokes against women in general.
The leader of Amazonia, the Femputer (played by Bea Arthur), sentences them to death by snu snu (sex) for the crime of being big jerks towards women. Fry and Zapp are repeatedly snu snu’d, but Kif escapes with Amy’s help. Bender “interfaces” with the Femputer (a big sex theme in this episode, lol), and convinces her to let Zapp and Fry go.
Lack of Consent
“Death! By snu snu!” was just hilarious, wasn’t it? When Bea Arthur’s voice announced the men’s fates, we all smirked.
Except that it’s basically just a pg way to say rape.
So yeah, RAPE. Repeatedly RAPING three men with the intention of killing them. Because they made a few asshole jokes about women. And because Bender couldn’t be raped (not having the proper equipment), he got off scot free.
Talk about the crime not fitting the punishment.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this. Basically, rape is bad, m’kay? And it’s kind of fucked up that my beloved Futurama would use it in any context other than “horrendous.”
First of all, I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t even a little bit bothered by the sexist jokes made by the male characters when they first arrived on Amazonia. Snarky remarks about women’s basketball or female leaders were honestly right on point. And they weren’t played off as if the writers were being serious.
By sexism, I mean the fact that the men were raped, not the women. If this episode were gender swapped, and it was Leela and Amy getting raped by a planet full of giant men, suddenly it wouldn’t be so funny, would it?
But because it’s men, the rape is viewed as a desirable thing. They’re so desperate for sex at all times, they’ll take it any which way, even if they don’t have any say in the matter.
Women, on the other hand, would never be portrayed as being happy about being repeatedly raped, especially not for comedic purposes.
What are you, gay?
This winner was spouted out by the ultimate alpha male, the man with no name, Zapp Brannigan. When Kif expresses distress at the prospect of being repeatedly raped, Zapp mocked him by asking, “What are you, gay?”
This line is particularly disgusting. It has been said to thousands and millions of boys and men who were assaulted. They were encouraged to be grateful for their sexual assaults. Because sex is sex, right? And sex is ALWAYS good. If you weren’t happy about being assaulted, it could only be because you’re gay.
This kind of thinking completely invalidates a man’s body autonomy, their natural emotional responses, and their sense of self.
And getting back to the sexism thing, if a woman called another woman gay for not enjoying rape… oof. That would go down like a dead Seymour.
Yeah, I’m sorry for bringing up this heartbreaking moment, but seriously. I shouldn’t have to bring up a dead dog to get a proper reaction to rape.
But did they actually cross a line?
As I always say, context is king. Doesn’t it matter who said what? And how the victims reacted to the abuse?
Yes. Absolutely it does.
Who said what?
In terms of the “What, are you gay?” comment, I think this one can be given a pass. Why? Because Zapp is the one who said it, and Kif was appropriately horrified. Zapp Brannigan has been set up as an ignorant asshole from the first moment he was introduced. “Kif! I have made it with a woman! Inform the men!”
And they did double and triple duty during this episode in particular by giving Zapp a notebook full of sexist pickup lines. He is straight up an asshole. It is entirely within the scope of his characterization to call someone gay for objecting to rape.
Because no one else supported this statement, and because Kif was horrified in response, it’s clear the writers aren’t actually offering this sentiment as a correct one.
But the one thing I had a hard time excusing was how willing Zapp and Fry were to be continually raped, despite increasing injury.
Was it really rape?
All three cry out in alarm at their sentence to death, but Fry follows it up with a thoughtful, “Although, the snu snu part’s gonna be pretty good.”
Later, after a few rounds of snu snu, Zapp begs for a break. “The spirit is willing! But the flesh is spongy and bruised!” But no, they’re not given that option, and they’re dragged right back in for more.
In the end, I have to give this one a pass as well. Why? Because of Zapp’s comment. “The spirit is willing.” He and Fry WANTED to have sex with all those giant ladies. So is it really rape?
They don’t want to die, but they do want to go to giant pound town.
And if you think about it, the one man who DIDN’T want to have sex… never actually did.
Kif hid from the Amazonians until Amy came in and rescued him.
So even though this whole scenario is fucked up, can I really call it destructive? Zapp and Fry wanted the sex. And even though Kif’s case would have been legit rape… he escaped.
So considering the contexts, I have to say this episode isn’t technically destructive. But even though the writers didn’t quite cross a line, they got really, uncomfortably close to it.
At the very least, this episode could use a couple of trigger warnings for sexism and consent.