Assault Played for Laughs

Table Of Contents

Main Description

Assaulting someone is never acceptable ... unless you're a character in a comedy show or movie. Some of the most memorable scenes in movies are when a character slaps, punches, or kicks someone who "deserves it." While these iconic scenes and others are obviously played for laughs, they have the effect of downplaying the seriousness of physical assault in real life and make it appear that resorting to violence is an acceptable way to solve problems.

Conservative Trope Examples

  • All About Steve (2009)
    Steve (Bradley Cooper) punches Hartman (Thomas Haden Church) in the face because he's goading Mary (Sandra Bullock) to continue pursuing a relationship with Steve even though he made it abundantly clear he wasn't interested in her.
  • I Love You Man (2009)
    Peter (Paul Rudd) gets up from his desk, stares down Tevin, and slaps him in the face without saying a word after Tevin tries to poach one of his real estate clients.
  • Tropic Thunder (2008)
    A fuming studio boss Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), upset with the progress of the movie, directs the key grip, who is likely the strongest person in the room, to "hit that director in the face, really fu*king hard!" The key grip walks over to the director, says "sorry, man," and punches him in the face.
    Staff Aside
    Tom Cruise is hilariously over the top intense in this cameo. The scene is laugh out loud funny. Which makes the point. If you thought someone would get in trouble for this, you wouldn't laugh. But in the movies, punching someone in the face is almost always acceptable without consequences.
  • Fool's Gold (2008)
    Tess tells Finn of her plan to go back to college, get a PhD and teach. Finn says, "when are you going to stop selling this crap about going back to school" and further denigrates academia. Finn tells her their boat sunk which she was relying on to pay for her tuition after they divorced, and so she hits him with a golf club. Finn also gets punched later on by his rival treasure hunting former associate Moe.
    Staff Aside
    The movie is great fun. But nobody wants to watch academics do their thing on screen even though it is valuable, necessary and rewarding work. So of course, there will always be an inherent conservative bias against it as it's an easy foil for screenwriters. And when assault is played for laughs, even with a woman against a man, it perpetuates a conservative mindset. It's never ok for a man to just hit a woman on screen. Men hit men all the time and women hit women all the time on screen. But conservative men like to play the victim card against women and so when women are depicted as assaulting men, they use that as ammo.
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
    Cal (Seth Rogan) flicks and then punches David (Paul Rudd) "in the fleshy patch where [his] nuts used to be" because David is too shy to go talk to a woman Cal wants him to hit on.
  • Bridget Joness Diary (2001)
    Mark (Colin Firth) angrily tells Daniel (Hugh) to step outside of Bridget's (Renée Zellweger) apartment and when they both are outside Mark says "I should have done this year ago" and proceeds to punch him square in the face. Daniel asks him "what the f*ck do you think you're doing" and Mark responds "this" before punching him in the face again. Instead of trying to break up the fight, Bridget's friend runs into a restaurant and excitedly yells "fight! Well, quick! It's a real fight!" and four waiters and the manager run outside to watch and egg on two grown men fight in a scene that lasted an absurdly long two minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
  • Happy Gilmore (1996)
    Happy throws off his hockey gloves and repeatedly punches his coach while screaming "you think you're better than me?!" after he doesn't make the amateur hockey team he tries out for.
  • Happy Gilmore (1996)
    The IRS is seizing Happy Gilmore's grandmother's house because she owes $270k in back taxes. The IRS agent on site is not very sympathetic and eventually gets thrown out a glass door and down the stairs by Happy.
  • Happy Gilmore (1996)
    A spectator heckles Happy Gilmore after he misses multiple easy putts and he responds by ripping off his shirt and punching him in the face. Happy has a background in hockey where fights are allowed and so it's funny because the spectator deserves it.
  • Dazed and Confused (1993)
    Hazing is normalized in multiple scenes throughout the movie, with soon-to-be seniors literally chasing down soon-to-be freshmen to paddle them.
    Staff Aside
    The movie, which was filmed in the early 90's but takes place in the 70's, is glorifying the "good ole' days" when boys could be boys and hazing was a rite of passage.
  • Airplane! (1980)
    A hysterical woman starts screaming as the plane suddenly rapidly descends and a large group of people — including a nun and monk — line up and take turns violently shaking and slapping her to try to get her to stop.
    Staff Aside
    The scene is obviously played for laughs lampooning the idea that if a woman panics, you can shake or slap her to get her to stop screaming. But making light of a woman panicking and being physically assaulted actually normalizes the behavior and perpetuates stereotypes. And can you imagine a group of people lining up to slap a screaming man?