I had pretty low expectations for Seth MacFarlane- ok, I predicted he would be worse than Franco-Hathaway- but I have to admit that in terms of fulfilling the role of Oscar host- standing up and keeping the show moving- he was competent. In terms of the content of his delivery, though, he was banal. What has puzzled me the most about the during-and-post-show commentary were the descriptions of his humor as “edgy.”
This is 2013, y’all. Jokes about Jews controlling Hollywood, “oh my god you might think I am gay! Tee hee,” older actors dating younger women and actresses starving themselves are not cutting edge. I was reminded of nothing so much as when my son Nathan discovered the word “butt” at age 3, and stood in the living room, shaking his rear and singing “butt butt butt butt butt” over and over. It was that level of envelope-pushing. (Except to be honest Nathan was much funnier.)
However, just because anti-Semitism, homophobia and misogyny are nothing new doesn’t mean they’re okay, either, and that was what left such a bad taste in my mouth. “We Saw Your Boobs?” Really? These women are here because they are being honored for their work- years and years of incredibly hard work and amazing performances, and we’re going to reduce them to boobs?
I thought of 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis then, and wondered if she noticed. If she noticed that even if someday she plays a character who is being raped, for pete’s sake, some idiot is taking note of the exact time stamp because, hey, boobs. If she noticed that even if someday she is as accomplished as Meryl Streep, the Academy may still think reducing her to “boooooobs” is an appropriate accolade.
How could she not notice? MacFarlane made sure to point out exactly how long was left until she would begin to be boob-tracking-worthy…. and reminded us all that time would be fleeting. Sally Field, you may be nominated for a third Academy Award, but let’s not forget that the time when your boobs were of interest has long passed.
My main gig is raising two boys, so I always come back to what I want them to learn- and not learn- from moments like this. They both have girls they know and admire- S. is the best reader in kindergarten, C. does first grade math, the other S. tells the funniest jokes. In preschool H. loves bugs and reptiles, C. swings higher than even the 4 year olds. I wonder when and if their peers will stop judging these girls on their merits- when my sons will find themselves confronted with the choice to objectify them. How do I help them remember women are just as human as they are? How do I show them how wrong so much of our culture is?
I don’t know the answers, but I do hope that by the time they hit adolescence, Seth MacFarlane will have outgrown his. I’m not holding my breath, though- his unimaginative riffs on 3 year old “butt butt butt” humor have made him a lot of money. He’ll keep going with “boobs boobs boobs” until the market for that dries up. It’s a long road ahead.
(The two things I *do* hope Quvenzhane noticed were:
1)Of the six young filmmakers chosen to carry the trophies, three were women and two were women of color.
2) Shatner’s joke about Amy and Tina- in a very short time we’ve gone from a time where you could get paid to argue that women aren’t funny to a time when the conventional wisdom is that the funniest, best hosts would have been two women.
We’ve come a long way, Quvenzhane. But some of the men are having a hard time keeping up.)