2 min read

Incest-phobia for Lunch

Super fucked up punch-down, Edward Norton.

Like I guess millions of other people, or whatever audience size makes “Top 10” appear in the corner of offerings on Netflix, I pressed play on Red Dragon this week and watched Edward Norton and the whole FBI organize around finding a guy who raped and killed two women, along with their families. Multiple times, they summon helicopters. Looking at how hard they were all working, entire offices and conference rooms of agents, to stop this man before he attacked the next victim, racing to figure out how he picked her, I thought: The serial rapists who are most abundant in number and committing by far the most serial rapes are parents. And there’s zero organized effort to find them.

“We do also speculate that he’s the product of an incestuous home,” Edward Norton then says about the killer, planting a fake interview with newspaper writer Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s trying to lure him out. Insulting someone by calling them an incest survivor or the result of incest is such a weird move for an adult, immature at best—“Your parents are probably related” is not a particularly sophisticated taunt if he means the latter, though I heard it as the former, and I don't know if even the worst schoolyard jerks are out there saying, “I bet one of your family members fucks you”—but it’s especially rich coming from an agent of law enforcement, which is theoretically responsible for stopping such things and is therefore a comment on its own failure.

Whatever. It’s both gross and stupid, but the next sentence out of Norton’s mouth is: “No wonder the creep’s such a loser, right?”

“Oof,” I said something like, out loud. The noise doesn’t transliterate perfectly. It’s the noise of getting casually socked in the gut without warning. It happens all the time—allllll the damn time. All. The. Damn. Time.—with slurs against trans people so rife in all forms of our media and entertainment, and I’d even googled whether Red Dragon was transphobic before watching given that the villain of the first Silence of the Lambs is supposed to be a cross-dresser or a trans woman making outfits out of murdered, skinned ladies. But it’s not often that someone says something awful about incest survivors.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character laughs in response, sort of a knowing chuckle—Ha, yes, people who get raped as kids are such losers! It was one of those times that I couldn’t help but think about the process of making this media product, as I often do when I hear absurdly fucked up results. In this case, I thought mostly about Norton, who was definitely famous enough to raise an objection if he had one; I reimagine this scene where he’s standing behind the desk about to deliver the line, and maybe he had reservations before but now that it’s being committed to film forever, he starts to say it, but stops. Instead, he says, “Hey, guys? It’s fucked up to pile on to people who’ve endured incest. Like, why would we even do that? I’m not going to do that.”