Recently I saw the Eddie Murphy movie “Norbit”, I know I’m about nine years behind (with the movie being released in 2007) but there was nothing else on TV and as I watched, I found myself wondering whether it was Eddie Murphy’s intention to poke fun at domestic violence.
Now before you click close on your browser, I’m not about to get all preachy and say that everyone should boycott all Eddie Murphy movies because of this particular one. I enjoy an Eddie Murphy movie as much as the next person, however this movie did make me wonder about a few things.
If you’re not familiar with this movie, I’ll give you a brief summary. Norbit (Eddie Murphy) is abandoned as a baby at an orphanage run by a Chinese man (also Eddie Murphy). As a boy Norbit is very close to his fellow orphan (a girl named Kate, not played by Eddie Murphy). Norbit and Kate would have spent the rest of their childhood and lives together, but Kate is adopted and moves away.
Now comes in Rasputia (again played by Eddie Murphy) a girl very large for her age who protects Norbit from the bullies. Rasputia is very domineering and as adults they get married.
Now this is where the “interesting” part starts…
Rasputia is an extremely overweight, domineering and violent adult. As a wife to Norbit she is constantly belittling him, verbally abusing him and even forcing herself onto the timid Norbit in the bedroom. Later in the film, we also see Rasputia physically abusing Norbit, breaking him down both physically and emotionally, even confining him to the basement.
The movie isn’t abuse scene after abuse scene, there are plenty of the fat jokes and racist remarks you’d expect in an Eddie Murphy movie, but the abuse against Norbit is definitely there.
Now I’m one of those people who thinks political correctness is a bunch of bull$h!t and people are often just looking for something to be offended by. I mean, you can’t even describe a person’s appearance without being labelled a racist. The last thing I would expect from Eddie Murphy is for him or his movies to abide by the over-the-top political correctness rampant in society and I’m not saying I’m exactly offended by this movie. I’m just wondering what the point of depicting obvious spousal abuse in comedic light was.
If we take a step back from the “nanny state” for a minute, we can take a moment to consider the possible impact of this movie. When people think of domestic violence and spousal abuse, the immediate image that comes to mind is some low-life scum of a man beating on his wife. Whilst this unfortunately can be the case, with women being at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner (find more stats here), men also are the victims of domestic violence and abuse. Out of every three reports of domestic abuse, one of those is male. In Australia, the One in Three campaign aims to shed light on this often surprising statistic. (Find out more about the campaign by clicking here)
Now back to the movie. In the case of Norbit, his abuse is shown in a comedic light, it makes people laugh (which I’m not exactly encouraging), but could it also make people more aware that domestic violence against men is a thing?
If this is the case, then maybe that’s a good thing. However by showing Norbit’s plight in such a comedic manner, it is also taking away the importance and severity of the issue. Domestic violence against men IS a thing and the statistics only provide a glimpse of the severity of the issue. Men may also be less likely to report cases of domestic abuse, from fear of being labelled as wimps or as less of a man. The stigma is already there and the movie Norbit has the ability to further reinforce that idea.
If a woman says she has been raped, there’s outrage from all sides. If a man says the same, people doubt him (not the professionals, but people in general) some even go as far to say he should consider himself to be lucky.
Domestic and sexual abuse in any form, whether it be against men, women, children, the elderly, whatever, is NEVER okay.
So this is what I’m saying, the movie Norbit, whilst funny in some ways, does have the ability to reinforce the stigma surrounding domestic violence against men. Domestic violence against men IS a serious issue that needs to be spoken about, but not in a comedic way. I don’t think Eddie Murphy purposely went out to poke fun at a very serious issue, I honestly don’t think he even considered it as one and despite the issue of the movie depicting domestic violence against men in a comedic light, if it even makes one person wonder and become more aware that domestic violence against men is a real issue, then I say go ahead, watch the movie (even if it’s not that great). It’s just a movie, after all.
But never forget, in the real world domestic violence in any form is never okay.
© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.