Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Was Seth MacFarlane's Oscar Hosting Offensive to Women?

Back in the mid-2000's I used to read a fantastic site called Fire Joe Morgan.  Created by a group of buddies working under pseudonyms, the site made it their holy quest to seek out and eviscerate lazy, unsubstantiated and downright sh*tty sportswriting.  For me, it was a godsend.  One of the wittiest, funniest and yet intelligent sites I still have ever encountered on the web, I found FJM absolutely awesome (somewhat-cool, semi-related story, I found out years after the site shutdown that the primary founder, "Ken Tremendous", ended up revealing himself to be Michael Schur, creator of one of my all-time favorite tv shows, Parks and Recreaction, as well as Mose from The Office.  So yeah, feel free to use that one at the bar if you feel like.  Chicks dig small world internet stories).

But FJM's style was one where they would literally go line-by-line and dissect the ever-loving sh*t out of an article.  So if you were a writer who didn't put the proper work in, man watch out.  Because these guys knew their stuff (Moneyball style), were excellent comedic writers and were straight up ruthless.  So good.

Now applying that same style to those writing about movies and television is a lot different because subjectivity plays a much larger role in critiquing your subject.  But at the same time, just because subjectivity plays a significant role in the structure of your piece doesn't mean your subjective opinion is immune to being idiotic.

So yeah, I came across an article this morning that pissed me off to the point that I felt compelled to go after it FJM style.  And true, it may be rude and unprofessional and probably even mean, but hey, I do this as a hobby between working a nine-to-five and putting as much cheap vodka into my system as possible.  Empathy isn't exactly a strong suit for me.

Now a little background on the article.  Published in The New Yorker and authored by a Ms. Amy Davidson, the main thrust of the piece is that Seth MacFarlane's hosting gig of the Oscars was plagued by offensive misogynistic antics.  Now as a human being that lacks a vagina, I can't really comment on whether MacFarlane's act was offensive to women or not.  Did I find it stupid and crude?  Yeah, sure.  Offensive?  I don't think so, but I'm completely open to someone making the case that it was.

So Ms. Davidson, please proceed...

Watching the Oscars last night meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane.

So you kick off your piece complaining about a guy who crudely made fun of people... by crudely making fun of him?  Got it.  Good start.

That would be tedious enough. But the evening’s misogyny involved a specific hostility to women in the workplace, which raises broader questions than whether the Academy can possibly get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year.

Misogyny n. – “Hatred of women.”  Hmm... seems a bit strong, no?  I mean I feel like that’s a word that should be reserved for someone like King Henry VIII or most of the male populace of the Middle East.  A poor man's version of Trey Parker and Matt Stone though?  Yeah, I don't know...
It was unattractive and sour, and started with a number called “We Saw Your Boobs.”

All controversy aside, how the hell was “We Saw Your Boobs” ‘sour’?  What does that even mean?  You can’t just use an adjective because it sounds phonetically appealing.  That’s lazy writing, Ms. New Yorker.  Tsk, tsk, a slap on the wrist for you.  Actually no, never mind, I don't want to be considered a misogynist.  Keep going, you're fine...

“We Saw Your Boobs” was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. What made it worse was that most of the movies mentioned, if not all (“Gia”), were pretty great—“Silkwood,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Monster,” “The Accused,” “Iris”—and not exactly teen-exploitation pictures.

So... it would have been better if they were teen-exploitation movies?  Not sure I follow that logic.  If the argument is that these were all good films and that these women were baring all for the sake of art, wasn’t MacFarlane essentially then making fun of stereotypical shallow males who are incapable of simply seeing past “NIPPLES!!!” and appreciating the actual performances for what they are?  Am I missing something here?

The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job. Or did they just think they were doing serious work? You girls think you’re making art, the Academy, through MacFarlane, seemed to say, but all we—and the “we” was resolutely male—really see is that we got you to undress. The joke’s on you.

Okay... so pretty much what you’re saying is that most female actresses aren’t capable of realizing that they are being manipulated by studio heads to take their clothes off under the guise that they will be giving artful performances?  Hmm... alright, three things.  First, you have no authority or expertise to speak on this.  Second, for you to take the position that you can somehow lump all actresses (and women, for that matter) together as some monolithic group and then “speak” on their behalf is beyond narcissistic.  And three, this is becoming increasingly painful to read.

At a moment when Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer, talks about how women have to “lean in” in the workplace, Seth MacFarlane pops up from behind to say, “So we can see your boobs.”

What the f*ck does a sh*tty comedy routine have to do with the ex-COO of Facebook commenting on the state of gender relations in the modern workplace?  Rick Reilly would like his hyperbolic writing style back.  He’s not a good sharer.

The song was part of a larger skit whose premise was that William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, sends MacFarlane a message from the future about the dumb things he might do while hosting the Oscars. But that premise is not an excuse.

Who said it was?  Listen sweetheart (okay, I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself), posing hypotheticals to further your argument is essentially creating a straw man.  It’s a dishonest argument style and I will not stand for it!  I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.

Getting Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts to pre-record looks of mortification didn’t help, either. (It was hard to tell watching at home, unless you were keeping track of what each woman was wearing, that these weren’t live shots.)

Yes, God forbid these women have self-deprecating senses of humor about themselves and their work.  Down with independent thought!

It just seemed like a way for MacFarlane to make fun of viewers for being prudish and not “getting it.” (See, the cool girls think that it’s funny!)

Jesus, condescend much?

We got it. It just means that there’s a whole army of producers to blame. Also, future Uhura should have a word with future Kirk.

I... I honestly have no idea what she's alluding to here.  Wait, was Captain Kirk a misogynist?  New to me, man, because he was probably my mom's, aunts' and grandmother's favorite television character of all time (true story).  #confused.  

The Academy is supposedly a trade group, and yet it devoted its opening number to degrading a good part of its membership.

Again, stretch.  Now listen.  I understand part of your job is to manufacture controversy so you can then insert yourself into said controversy via a column, thus validating your job and making yourself part of the so-called “conversation”, but can we try and take it down a notch here?  Please?

And who knows what the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus thought that it was doing by serving as MacFarlane’s backup singers, but it’s hard not to wonder what the rhetorical point was meant to be.

Hmm...  Yes, very good question, I too wonder WHAT A CHORUS S OF GAY MEN FROM LA WERE THINKING WHEN INVITED TO PERFORM AT THE OSCARS.  Because we all know that no gay male performer EVER dreams of doing a live song-and-dance number at the Oscars...

We saw your boobs, but that’s not even what we find attractive, so you exerted no power in doing so—all you did was humiliate yourself? Maybe that’s reading too much into it.

It is.

It could be that MacFarlane just thought it would be funny for him to say the word “gay” as often as possible.

Umm... no, probably not.  I’m guessing it was juxtaposition.  A simple but effective comedy tool.  See every buddy cop comedy ever made for further reference.  Now please stop analyzing comedy.  This is like reading Tim Tebow discuss recent advances in the field of evolution.

There are many variations on misogyny,

For the love of God, please stop using that word within this context.  The guy did not role up on an African village, machete in hand, and order every woman's vagina sewn shut.  Seriously, you’re pulling some hardcore Orwellian sh*t here, lady.

and MacFarlane by no means confined himself to a single one. (A Buzzfeed post called “6 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars” was revised, in the course of the evening, to “9 Sexist Things.”) “Django Unchained,” he said, was “the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who has been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.” Relationships are complicated, and it can take a woman more than one attempt to leave an abuser. But if any woman who goes back is told that she has forfeited sympathy and can be written off with mockery—that the whole thing is now an amusing spectacle—then we’ll end up with more dead women.


There are surely better things to joke about. Instead, we got a borderline anti-Semitic Teddy bear asking where the post-Oscars orgy would be. The answer was Jack Nicholson’s house; maybe not the same Jack Nicholson house where Roman Polanski raped a girl, but still, not funny.

It wasn’t funny because it was offensive, it wasn’t funny because it was LAZY.  There is a major, major difference.  Now please, please, please stop discussing comedy as if your Louis CK or something.

One of the more dispiriting distractions from MacFarlane was the sight of actresses who weren’t all that old whose faces seemed paralyzed, and younger ones who talked about how they hadn’t eaten in a long, long time. When Hugh Jackman showed up on the red carpet with his human-looking wife, they were waylaid by Kristin Chenoweth, in screeching miniature, who asked to be lifted up so that her weight could be compared to that of an Oscar statuette. It was another view of what is asked of women. At the end of the show, Chenoweth joined MacFarlane in a number reminding “losers” that they’d lost.

I agree that that the “losers” bit was awful and, yes, Kristin Chenoweth is insufferable, but I have no clue what this has to do with MacFarlane’s act being misogynistic.

The main misogynistic awfulness was centered on the workplace. There might have been a slight dread that MacFarlane would make a waterboarding joke, but he didn’t—maybe he felt that Senator Richard Burr, of North Carolina, had taken care of that at the Brennan hearings. But since so much of MacFarlane’s humor was rote and derivative, it’s more likely that he just stopped at the idea that “Zero Dark Thirty” was about “every woman’s innate ability to never ever let anything go.” That’s what it means when a woman in the office believes in something, and presses for it?

Jesus Christ, really?  I mean that joke’s been around for over five thousand years.  Seriously, read some Pliny the Elder, the guy won't shut the f*ck up about relationships (ba-dum-CH!)  But seriously, for the umpteenth time, stop equating offensive jokes with lazy jokes.  THEY.  ARE.  NOT.  THE.  SAME.

There was a joke, too, about Jennifer Aniston not admitting having worked as an “exotic dancer”—and at that point MacFarlane had already more or less called Meryl Streep one. It’s possible that the line about not caring that he couldn’t understand a word that Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek said because they were good to look at was directed as much at Latinos as at women, since he also mentioned Javier Bardem—but that doesn’t make it any better.

I hate you so hard right now.

What are women in Hollywood for? To judge from a few other MacFarlane jokes, they’re for dating men in Hollywood, until the men decide that they’re too old.


How old is that? Quvenzhané Wallis, who was nominated for best actress, is nine years old. “To give you an idea how young she is, it’ll be sixteen years before she’s too old for Clooney,” MacFarlane said. (And what is too young?)

F*ck you, I laughed.  Sue me.  The Cloonz rules.

 But the misogynistic low point involving Wallis was a tie between MacFarlane and the Onion. After a clip of her performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” played—in which she acted strong and independent and ready to yell back—she pumped her arms joyously. “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?” the Onion tweeted. The line was deleted an hour later. But rather than being an aberration, it was of a piece with the evening.

Ehh... again, major stretch.  Pretty tasteless, I agree, but that’s what The Onion does.  Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.  But more to the point, it had nothing to do with MacFarlane.  And for you to suggest so is disingenuous and borderline slanderous.  So nice job, really raising the level of dialogue here.

Act assertively, and we’ll put you down. (As with the Salma Hayek thing, there may have been a racial strain to this one, which only makes it more enraging.) And anyway, when you grow up, we’ll just want you to show your boobs.

I find this article infinitely more offensive than any of the lazy schtick MacFarlane pulled out of his ass Sunday night.  INFINITELY.  And what scares me most is I’m not sure if this woman is consciously aware of what she’s doing in writing this drivel, or if she actually believes it.  Either way, it's not good.

What the women actually showed during the evening was that they worked a lot harder, and a lot smarter, than Seth MacFarlane.

Maybe?  I don’t know.  I mean whether you liked MacFarlane’s act or not, you can’t deny the fact that the guy worked his ass off to make it happen.

Shirley Bassey sang “Goldfinger,” and Adele sang “Skyfall”—it’s notable that two of the better moments in the show involved Bond films

They were highlighting fifty years of Bond.  They were very solid performances.  It was not notable beyond that.  And with yet another misnomer, you confuse correlation with causation in order to make your completely bullsh*t argument.  *face palm*

—and Barbra Streisand was mesmerizing with “The Way We Were.” Either by dint of age or body type or simple strength and craft, none of the three were what the Oscars had been telling women that they had to be—a reminder that it’s best not to listen to guys like MacFarlane.

Or maybe they’re just not idiots that read into every single hacky joke from a second rate comedian as if was some ideological rant by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When Daniel Day-Lewis, accepting an Oscar for best actor that was presented by Meryl Streep, joked about the two of them having done a “straight swap,” scuttling a plan for him to play Margaret Thatcher and for her to be Lincoln, one wanted nothing more than to see each of them in those roles—not because having them dress in drag would be fodder for a future MacFarlane number but because of how Day-Lewis might convey Thatcher’s temporal power and the strength that Streep would bring to the role of a President.

Okay, she’s definitely f*cking with us at this point.  She has to be, right?  Right??

There are more and less obvious ways to talk about politics and the Oscars.

Wait, where the hell did that come from?  Who mentioned politics?

Was it a good idea for Michelle Obama to announce the Best Picture winner by video—and would it still have been if “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Django Unchained” had won?

No, definitely no and definitely, DEFINITELY no.  But please stop with the irrelevant hypotheticals.  They serve no purpose except to generate false controversy and piss people off.  Which I know is probably your goal, but I'm still going to request you abstain.

Beyond cameos and torture, the ceremony engaged in a political fight involving women, and took the dumber side.

No, it didn’t.  You're just an idiot.  Or a master manipulator.  Either way, I don't like you.

Movies, and what women do in and to them, are better than the Academy seemed to realize. The same could be said about a lot of women in a lot of jobs. And women can’t forget it.

"Yeah, man.  Let me tell you, rich white women problems.  They're the WOOOOOOORST." -Every starving person in the world.

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