But then we'll see regular scare headlines about "date rape drugs," because the idea of slipping someone a substance to inhibit their ability to resist sex is terrifying. Meanwhile, police statistics indicate that this happens so rarely in date rape cases that it could almost be considered an urban legend. In most cases, the "date rape drug" in question was plain old alcohol. Which, by the way, is probably involved in half, if not more, of all sexual assault cases (experts often refer to it as the "number one date rape drug").
Now think about how differently we'd react if the entire plot of Superbad had been a pair of wacky teens trying to acquire roofies, and their slapstick attempts to slip them to some girls.
And as I said, Superbad was just one randomly chosen example. That was from the olden days of 2007. In 2012's American Reunion, Kara, a character whom protagonist Jim used to babysit, celebrates her 18th birthday by getting drunk and trying to seduce him. Jim manages to carry her into bed after she passes out (but doesn't make much of an attempt to hide her topless body from his friends while doing so), only for Stifler to hop in bed with her and ask for a look at the "goodies."
All you'd have had to do to make audiences uncomfortable with that joke is change the substance that put her in that condition. The unspoken difference is that a pill slipped into her drink would be consumed unwillingly, while the alcohol was consumed intentionally. Which by sex comedy rules means she chose to be incapacitated and thus chose to be assaulted.
That was the underlying assumption beneath thousands of prime-time jokes met with uproarious laugh tracks. How I Met Your Mother is a charming sitcom about four good friends and Barney Stinson, a sociopath who repeatedly targets drunk women when looking for new sexual conquests throughout the series. The show only ended in 2014, after nine seasons, and nowhere in those nine seasons did anyone in the series stop to say, "And meet our friend Barney. He's thiiiis close to being, like, an actual rapist."
In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Romany Malco tries to help Steve Carell have sex by telling him to focus on drunk women at the club. He even claims there's an evolutionary "code" in every man that programs him to "tackle drunk bitches," the way a lion's instincts tell it to tackle a gazelle. You know, guy talk.
And sure, a moral of both How I Met Your Mother and 40-Year-Old Virgin is that sex comes best when there's a wonderful (and consensual) connection between two people. But the fact that they treat these awful side characters as funny scamps instead of abandoning them in the middle of a lake somewhere is the problem. The easy take is that these jokes are just no longer kosher in the #MeToo era, but as with the racist old cartoons, it's weird that it was ever considered OK.