This is Rape Culture: “Rio 2” Ends on a Sexual Assault Joke

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Content Note: This article discusses sexual assault, specifically with a male victim and a female perpetrator.

Spoiler Alert: This article spoils the endings for Rio and Rio 2.

 

I was recently watching the sequel to Rio with one of my favorite little people, and something about it didn’t sit very well with me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but although I enjoyed the songs, the movie left me feeling uncomfortable and unhappy for some reason.

It wasn’t until I watched it a second time that I realized what was bothering me: this G-rated movie ends with a sexual assault joke. And no one really seems to care because the victim is male. Even some dude who rants for 25 minutes about the misandry in the movie on Youtube doesn’t bother mentioning this assault or how ignoring this assault is probably the single most sexist thing in the entire movie.

If you haven’t seen the films, I’m about to spoil them. Be warned.

In Rio, one of the primary bad guys is a cockatoo named Nigel who works for bird smugglers. He is sucked through the propeller of a small plane at the end of the movie after a fight with the protagonist and is injured severely, which we learn early in Rio 2 has left him unable to fly. Essentially disabled, Nigel is now working as a captive “psychic” bird in an open-air market, but after seeing the protagonist and his family fly by, he mounts an anteater and races after the parrots with a poisonous frog and murderous intentions.

Well, that poisonous frog is quite in love with Nigel, though because of her noxious nature, Gabi’s love is necessarily unrequited. She believes that if she touches Nigel he will die, so she follows him devotedly but from an arm’s length. That is, until she discovers she isn’t actually a poison dart frog at the end of the movie.

She is seen at that point physically dragging Nigel off screen, after attacking him with kisses. He screams and begs for help, trying to keep himself from being taken away by the much smaller, female frog but is unable to defend himself (possibly because of his injuries from the first film). A low-quality video of the scene can be watched here and should begin at the 1:19 mark.

At the end of the movie, shot as a news piece, we see the human scientist, Tulio, loading Nigel and Gabi in a cage into a vehicle to take back to Rio for observation, a trip that Gabi refers to as a honeymoon (while Nigel moans), thus implying that his non-consentual physical intimacy with this frog would likely continue while they were in captivity (and that his attitude about it had not changed after their first interlude).

IMDB does not recognize this sexual assault in their Parents Guide to the movie. How many parents have let their kids watch this movie, which is subtly training them to believe that sexual assault or rape can be a punishment, or that it isn’t a crime when the victim is male?

This isn’t funny. While what happened between the two may not have been full-blown rape (we have no way of knowing because it takes place off screen), there is no question that there was forced physical intimacy, ie, a sexual assault. Nigel does not want to be touched or kissed by Gabi. He cries out that it isn’t natural, trying not to be dragged off into the underbrush. And everyone, including the main protagonist and his family, witnesses it and just turns away.

Sexual assault is not funny just because the victim is portrayed as a bad guy. It isn’t funny because the victim is physically disabled and unable to fend off a smaller attacker. It isn’t funny because the victim is male and the perpetrator is female. These ideas reveal the heart of rape culture; they expose the hidden belief in our culture that removing someone’s ability to consent to sexual activity can be an appropriate punishment.

The fact that the heroes aren’t considered bad guys for letting this attack take place exposes another ugly truth; our culture believes it is okay for those witnessing a sexual assault to turn their backs if they feel the assault is warranted. If a real-world example of this attitude is really required, all that is needed is a brief jaunt through the comments section on any news story about a sexual predator. There are invariably comments rejoicing in the idea that the predator will now be subject to sexual assault at the hands of other inmates. That idea is very problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that many people are incarcerated for non-violent offenses (such as cannabis cultivation) and may be traumatized terribly by such assaults, which should not be considered normal or acceptable.

For those who think this is just another example of a feminist not being able to take a joke, let me ask you: would this be funny if the genders were reversed and they were human? Feel free to scroll back up and watch the clip. Really think about it.

If the movie ended with a male character dragging a female villain off screen while she was screaming for help with the obvious intention of forced physical intimacy, there is no way the film would qualify for a “G” rating. It shouldn’t be okay just because the victim is male and a villain. Sexual assault is never funny, and normalizing it in children’s movies is incredibly inappropriate. If adults do choose to watch this movie with children, there should probably be a discussion about the importance of consent afterward.

For previous Ladybud stories about rape culture, click here.