Kevin Winter

At Monday night's American Music Awards, Anna Kendrick accepted the AMA for Top Soundtrack on behalf of Pitch Perfect 2. The tiny, eminently likable actress took advantage of this opportunity to crack a series of irreverent (and mostly funny) jokes at the expense of the album's collaborators, calling some of them a "ruthless little group of sociopaths" and telling another that he owes her $37.

But one of Kendrick's punchlines went too far: her reference to "[burying] a hooker."

Yes, the "dead hooker" trope has existed long before Anna Kendrick stepped up to the mic (it's the entire premise of the 1998 movie Very Bad Things), but that doesn't make this any joke less problematic. The implication that sex workers are disposable—that their lives don't matter, that their murders are something to giggle at—is unacceptable.

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This, of course, isn't just a matter of media representation, but of a real-life crisis. Studies have shown that female sex workers, frequent victims of sexual assault and physical violence, are 18 times more likely to be murdered than other women of their age and race.

Just last month, Aziah "Zola" King's compelling Twitter tale of a weekend of stripping, prostitution, and sex trafficking in Florida raised questions about how we talk and think about sex workers, particularly people of color. I have no doubt that Kendrick, a vocal feminist, meant no harm (maybe it was an inside joke?)—but if someone as otherwise progressive as she is can crack a joke like this without batting an eye, that's a troubling indication of just how far we have to go.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.