Changing the Conversation: The Rape of Betty Childs

You’ve likely noticed, Lerlines, that once in a great while we get all ticked off ’round here. Royally pissed off, even. So when I read that Pittsburgh bloggers are devoting April 16 to a day of blogging about sexual assault, I knew there’s only one thing worth talking about: Revenge of the Nerds. That’s right, folks. We’re changing the conversation, and it starts with the Tri-Lambs.


You know the story: using brains, wit and montage time travel, a group of nerds beat the jocks, get the girls, and even pledge into a fraternity of large, stern, sweater-wearing bodyguards who are accompanied, at all times, by a funky bass riff. We shall embrace our nerdiness, and we shall overcome.

By the way, on the path to glory, we’ll also be creepy stalkers and rape a girl.

Yes, it’s true, folks: Lewis, indefatigable king of the nerds, does not woo and seduce Betty Childs. He does not use his charm and devotion to make her see that love isn’t all about buff muscles and a handsome face, perhaps because he has neither charm nor devotion. He doesn’t realize after the first few failed attempts that Betty Childs is a shallow brat who isn’t worth his time, perhaps because he, too, is a shallow brat who isn’t worth her time. He doesn’t stop pursuing the beautiful, blonde Betty Childs when she and her boyfriend let pigs loose into his house, wrecking a perfectly fine pot party and making fun of another sorority in the meantime.

She's a cheerleader and in a sorority, which means stalking is legal.

She’s a cheerleader and in a sorority, which means stalking is legal.

Betty is not attracted to him. She doesn’t want him, and by all accounts, never will. And yet: Lewis will not give up.

No, instead of giving up–he’s got a heart as big as all get-out, I tellya!–he and his friends stage a panty raid on her sorority house. For the under-30 set reading this, a panty raid is an old-fashioned way for frat boys to invade the home of sorority girls, and steal their panties while they’re at it. In the grand scheme of things, it could be called home invasion, burglary and generally be creepy, but in the context of hormonal, likely drunk teenagers living away from parental guidance, well, as long as the panties are clean and stolen from drawers, not behinds, not much harm done.

Why on earth does she say no this to guy?

Why on earth does she say no this to guy?

Unless, of course, the panty raid is a cover for installing video cameras in the bathrooms and bedrooms of said sorority girls, in which case: Ew. Yuck. Creeptastic.

But it’s OK, of course, because Betty Childs is a big ol’bitchy bitch, and her sorority sisters are, too, so we’re allowed to do things like stalk them from a satellite. Then again, maybe they do deserve it, after all, since one would think they’d be intelligent enough to notice the giant black camera lens poking out of their white, white ceiling? Hmm. Nope. Even stupid people–stupid mean people–don’t deserve to be stalked.

Fast forward through a number of other hijinks, and we’re at the big Homecoming fair, with drunk tricycle races and gay javelins, and the Nerds have a second revenge on the jocks and Betty Childs: They sell whipped cream pies for charity! And the pie is actually a Pi, get it? Because if you lick away all the whipped cream, Betty Childs is all topless and cheesecake right there on the bottom of the pie tin!

Not only have you been watching Betty Childs pee for the last month, but you also cropped out a picture of her and you’re now selling it. So add pornography sales!

But it’s for charity. And she’s a stupid meanie who just won’t stop saying no. I mean, WTFOMG.

This is where she tells him no. Again.

This is where she tells him no. Again.

Mere moments after this discovery, Lewis steals Betty’s boyfriend’s mask, and in another move that makes me wonder if maybe she didn’t forget to clean her contact lenses, she follows Lewis into the funhouse, leads him into the Moon room, and, Lewis still masked, they have lots of moon sex whilst a Martian watches.

After, she doesn’t mention his smaller hands or much thinner, shorter physique, but remarks on his incredible performance. And then he unmasks himself, revealing that Lewis, our hero, is a full-on rapist.

I’m sure he doesn’t think he’s a rapist. He just wants a chance to show Betty how good he really is, because sex and love aren’t about mutual attraction; no, love is about being forced to realize what you’ve been missing all this time. And she does, of course. She realizes and regrets all that great sex she’s been missing, and by the end of the evening, is even convinced she’s in love with the guy.

So what’s the lesson we learn from this, folks? How is the conversation changing? Well, on one hand we’ve got the big dumb jocks, who are big and dumb and vandalizers and, by all accounts, major assholes. We don’t ever see it happen, but I think we can assume one or two of them have coerced a girl into having sex, perhaps even forcibly. They’re Olympians among men, and therefore they get to go all Zeus on whatever girl happens to walk by. They’re your garden-variety date-raping frat boys.

On the other hand, we have the hero of our movie, a far more insidious kind of rapist. This is the guy who believes he deserves a conventionally beautiful woman, but by virtue of genetics and social skill deficiency, can’t seem to get one. And it’s not his fault, no way. He’s smart and his friends think he’s funny. If she just got to know him better, she’d see. Really, she would. And the fact that she’s mean, well, sure that’s embittering, since he’s entitled to so much more. Entitled to as much as any other Greek god, really.

So, really, what’s the fucking problem, Betty Childs? Why are you such a bitch, you shallow cheerleader? Why can’t you be my trophy wife, instead of his? I love you because you’re beautiful and you don’t love me because I’m not, which makes you a bitch and me persecuted. So what’s wrong with transforming into a swan to get a little something-something? And see: you liked it. You said you wouldn’t like it and you DID, so I win.

What I really want to know is: where’s Gilbert in all of this? That guy’s actually decent, and self-aware, and has a very sweet girlfriend whom he respects; how is Gilbert at all OK with the stalking and the nonconsensual porn and the rape? Spiral of silence, boys: if ever it crosses your mind “Should they really be doing this?” then the answer is no. In fact, if it involves a woman who doesn’t even know she’s involved in your “should,” then the answer is “Fuck no.” Wait, make that: “Fuck no, call 911.”

Don't disappoint me, Gilbert.

Judy will be so disappointed in you, Gilbert.

“All nerds think about is sex,” Lewis says, and judging by the library of videotapes of your bare ass, Betty, you can bet he’s not kidding. I just wonder how you’ll react when he takes you back to the Lambda house and all his brothers start remarking on that mole you have. But it’s OK: even if you dump Lewis, he knows the right way to treat a girl. Stalking and raping works!

Crap. Now I’m depressed. But I don’t have to be. Because I donated to the Change the Conversation fundraiser, which is raising money for the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), which provides support for survivors of sexual violence and sexual assault. You can donate, too.  Because sexual relationships should start with adorable computer hacking, not with panty raids, stalking and rape.

Why isn't this on a t-shirt yet?

Why isn’t this on a t-shirt yet?

24 responses to “Changing the Conversation: The Rape of Betty Childs

  1. Pingback: Don’t listen to the devil on your shoulder | slumber party movies

  2. I’ve thought about this very issue before, although it’s rare to hear someone bring it up. Even as a kid I thought the Funhouse scene from ROTN smacked of some kind of sexual assault. What’s worse is that rather than feel violated, Betty apparently falls in love with the nerd.

    Having said that, the film is a product of its era, It doesn’t make it right (as I said, even then I knew something weird was gong on), but the behavior is a little more understandable given the context. I saw a movie from the early 1990s recently where the hero throws around the word “fag” in a way you would NEVER see today.

    Ultimately, the Betty Childs funhouse scene (and the other sexual hijinks) is a real flaw in the movie, but I think that the film’s cultural value outweighs those factors, providing the audience is able to put those instances into context and maybe even to talk about them.

    A more recent film by which I was far more disturbed for the same reason was the remake of the Stepford Wives. Basically these dudes want their wives to be more wifely, so THEY FORCE THEM TO UNDERGO BRAIN SURGERY so that they dress real purty and keep the house tidy. But where it really loses me is when the women discover what the men have done to them–do they call the cops or better yet murder their assailants? They do not. There’s some tsk-tsking and finger-wagging before the men get their comeuppance–now THEY have to do the housework.

  3. I love Revenge of the Nerds, being a nerd myself. I love that they win, that they’re weird and clever, and I really do love Gilbert and most of the other Tri-Lambs. But I always found Louis to be not just the “clueless” one, but to be a bit sleazy, even as a ten-year-old watching it. I do think it’s a product of its era (God knows we’ve done enough posts around here about those movies) but it was only recently that I put my finger on WHY he seemed so sleazy. It’s because he is.

    In the end, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me; just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I used to find Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” to be hilarious, but I can’t watch it now for all the AIDS and fag jokes. I think we can appreciate something being a product of its time, but also recognize that it’s screwed up.

  4. The difference is there was never a time where filming a woman without her knowledge was thought of as okay, like saying fag used to be okay. You were a sleazy peeping tom in 1956, 1986, and now. But Smak is right, in the 80s you were supposed to know that it was wrong, so it was okay to joke about it. However, Changing the Conversation is about not assuming that people know it’s not okay. It’s about saying, “Oh hey, just so you know, pretending to be her boyfriend so you can have sex with her is rape.” (I think some dude recently got put in jail for that exact thing. Anyone see that? He would’ve benefited from this post.)
    I also agree about Stepford Wives. That candy-colored remake was awful. The first one was better. It was a feminist horror movie. Hmm. Post idea?
    PS: I take the cultural significance of RoTN very seriously. Every day, someone gets to this post by searching for My mothers old douchebag is in Ohio:

  5. Great point, shindancer. Some things used to be “OK.” Being a peeping tom was NEVER OK, but RoTN frames it as such, because it’s revenge on the rich, bitchy pretty girls. It’s the framing that makes it different than Animal House, where Bluto gets punished for peeping in on the girls.

    And, of course, it’s always vital to recognize the enablers–ALL the brothers peeped. ALL the brothers posted the picture. They’re all complicit in everything except the rape–and I’m pretty sure they’ll be OK with that when they find out he got the girl.

  6. I’ve often wondered this about 80’s movies. Back to the Future is another good example. Biff is a full on rapist, and even though the hero of the movie saves the girl NO ONE mentions that he is a raping creep, or calls the police. It just kind of “Hey, she was defenseless and already in a car so….” WTF??!!

  7. Here’s what’s awesome about the internet: a bunch of folks have already pointed out the obviousness of Betty’s rape, this post being my favorite:

    But then we’ve got a whole lot of other message boards that have commenters saying things like “Just chill, it’s RoTN,” and “Whoa, not that deep.” It’s rape, folks, legally and morally.

  8. It has ruined the movie for me. Not the talent show song, of course, but the rest of the movie can go fuck itself. Too rapey.

  9. Pingback: I Love Sororities. | slumber party movies

  10. Pingback: Dissecting the Nerds Montage. | slumber party movies

  11. Pingback: Friday Morning Videos: SCOTUS #2, The Bamboozin’ and Smackin’ Edition | slumber party movies

  12. Betty is the snot assed bitch we all have had the displeasure of encountering at some point in life. Most of the time it is Jr. High or High school where we first see this type of female. She is arrogant, self centered, and always has to be the center of attention. She’ll be the head cheerleader, the most popular girl, and always but always, going steady with some Alpha male and making sure everyone is aware of the fact. Frequently, she is from affluence and dresses well. She’s the one who has her nails professionally done every week, has her hair done every couple of months, and gets to drive daddy’s sport car. She loves to flaunt her cute figure and head of hair. This is the gal that snubs a “hello” from any guy that is thought to be unworthy of her. Then she’ll tell her girlfriends how humiliated she was that some creep in school spoke to her. Faculty fawns over her because she is pretty, and popular. Generally, this gal is smart and has a good grade average, and only has girlfriends who are like her. Her gal pals are just as stuck up as she is. This brat is so afraid of being knocked off of her pedestal that she is mean, vindictive, manipulative, and disingenuous. Usually, at some point in life, some guy will get into her panties and then cheat on her, which she cannot understand or deal with well. Miss Perfect is not very good in bed, and is full of hang up’s. She is demanding and selfish, which is a problem in every relationship she has. She does not age well and is the type to have nips and tucks, Botox, while trying to cling to past glories and youth. Miss Perfect is also the type to have an office romance with the boss or some single sexy looking guy working there if she thinks it’ll lead to a greener and wealthier situation for her.
    In the Revenge of the Nerds movie, I would have loved to seen Louis screw Betty’s lights out, get a blow job, and then screw her once more, as Stan discovers them going at it, then Louis reveals who he is, shocking her. Instead of establishing a relationship with this bitch, he just tells her to take a flying jump off of the bridge, and cold cocks Stan knocking his ass out. Now that’s Revenge!

    The coach too is an asshole that should have had his ass stomped by U.N. Jefferson and his men.

  13. For a dude with a lady name this Rene guy clearly doesn’t know shit about women.

    My favorite part of the above delusional rant is this: “Miss Perfect is not very good in bed, and is full of hang up’s. She is demanding and selfish, which is a problem in every relationship she has.”

    In other words Rapey Rene is actually ADVOCATING for rape by his perception of a FICTIONAL CHARACTER being “not very good in bed”. So in other words, if she were great in bed she wouldn’t deserve to be raped? If this made-up popular girl from a 1980’s comedy film were better in fictional bed real women wouldn’t deserve to be raped? Cause you know getting raped would certainly remove all of those “hang-ups” this fictional character may or may not have.

    How does Rene know she’s not good in bed? Did he hook up with her in the Revenge of the Nerds fan fiction he wrote? Is he confusing this made up character with some high school girl who was sensible enough not to have sex with Rapey Rene? What are the problems Rapey Rene has in every single relationship. Is it the rape thing?

    As for rape-trolling Rapey Rene, I think Coach Harris said it best: “You know, when you were a baby in your crib, your father looked down at you, he had but one hope – some day my son will grow to be a man. Well look at you now. You just got your asses whipped by a bunch of goddamn nerds.”

  14. Someone should do a trailer recut of RotN into a dramatic made-for-tv movie called The Rape of Betty Childs. I’d like to know how she dealt with the aftermath, and whether she got some revenge of her own.

  15. You all are stupid, it’s a silly movie from the 80’s and you all sound like a bunch of harpies.

  16. And you think – willy dilly – US Congress will underwrite your wishful thinking?

  17. Pingback: Ghostbusters Annotated (Part Three) - Deadshirt

  18. Christopher Chase

    What about the predatory, middle aged, female pedophile, would be landlord who makes inappropriate sexual innuendos and unwanted touching on Wormser? A clearly prepubescent boy.
    Are the other charchters rapists and complicit bystanders? Yes, yes they are.
    If you going to unpack a 34 year old film and examine it under modern light, be prepared to unpack ALL the parts you don’t agree with or may not like or may not agee with your central thesis.

  19. +1 to the last comment – watching this now and still love it. This is the epitome of university shenanigans from the 80’s and a story of how the guy got the girl. Not to be re-evaluated under the new-regime of hyper feminism (OMG I can’t believe they made this!). Deal with it, get over it, and grow a thicker skin – it’s a movie.

    Placing this in context, do have a similar issue with Predator where an alien skins humans alive, or is that ok and you’re just complaining because this particular movie has an aspect that involves women?

    Think on that and perhaps re-evaluate.

  20. Here’s something for YOU to think on and re-evaluate? How is it that you look EXACTLY like my mother’s old douchebag, when the bag in question is in Ohio? No answer for that, do ya?!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s