Seth MacFarlane as the sexist host.
I can’t decide whether I should applaud or start a radical feminist movement.
After watching the 85th annual Oscars on ABC, I feel so conflicted. I am a devout fan of Seth MacFarlane. I have been following his career since my childhood, and my immediate reaction was that he killed it. Success. Brilliant. That’s what I find so baffling. I laughed, cheered, and rooted for this man whom I admire in a creative sense, and I didn’t even feel shocked by the underlying sexist tones. Until later, that is, once the first song had time to sink in. Most women are numb to objectifying insults. I am so desensitized to the concept, I didn’t realize the harmful message being sent to a group I represent. I laughed my ass off, at the expense of my identification as a feminist.
“The Academy is supposedly a trade group, and yet it devoted its opening number to degrading a good part of its membership. 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. 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?
How can one be both a feminist and a comedian? Who do we get to make fun of? If the roles were reversed, how would the patriarch in Hollywood react to my song entitled, “We saw your penis.” And, no, a male chest is not the equal to women’s. Even though they look identical, one is sexualized and “forbidden” to see, and the other is fine. The only sexualized part of the male body in American culture is his penis. That is why it makes men uncomfortable, it is an unheard of practice in film. Women have a different expectation to show their chest because it is sexual. We aren’t allowed to at the swimming pool, but in an R rated movie, it is A-OK. Society (especially Hollywood) has created the sexualization of female breasts, not me. Don’t kill the messenger.
The mirror of this analogy is hard to picture because males aren’t asked to show their naked bodies. They are good enough without having to expose the personal and the physical to the world.
Something that all serious actresses need to internalize is the role of women’s sexuality in film. How can we be funny, brilliant, strong, etc, when we are objectified at the highest and most respectable level of film and television, the Oscars, for Gods sake?
This attempt to reach the youth audience was perhaps the reason for MacFarlane not holding back on the mean. He was going for the most laughter as possible, not caring who is offended in the process. The show wasn’t just sexist, it was also racist and anti-semetic. Seth MacFarlane isn’t to blame. It is not him as much as our culture that needs comedy to rely on the put downs of others. He was just doing what has worked for him in the past on Family Guy, and that is to make people laugh.
The truth is, the “cool” girls like Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence who were in on the sexist jokes saw them as just that: a joke. It is exhausting as a female to be offended by every sexist or misogynist thing that Seth MacFarlane says, as he is impersonating a comedian. It is just proof of our offensive cultural and ideological sense of humor– one that you cannot pin solely on the shoulders of Seth MacFarlane or any other performer. We laugh because we have been desensitized to sexist humor. Every minority group is an easy target. All of these jokes have been done before.
The Academy of film has been degrading women long before Seth got to poke fun at it. What my problem is, though, is that he is blaming the females instead of the culture of Hollywood.
“I’ve long thought that the nudity of women in movies has often been used by producers as a sort of ugly rite of passage, a public refraction of the casting couch—but, rather than lampooning the industry potentates who pay for it and market it or, for that matter, the male voyeurism that they serve or the societal sexism that underlies the practice, MacFarlane seemed to be mocking and embarrassing the actresses themselves.”
Once again, something that women have “gotten used to”, is the fact that men we really, truly love can be sexist. It is their culture, not them, that invented and perpetuated the degrading discourse.
But what is terrifying is that comedy is a way of justifying sexist discourse. “It’s no big deal, don’t be a bitch, look those girls thought it was funny they got the joke, laugh along.” These are all the immediate response to a feminist that points out sexism in the world of comedy. “Don’t take it personally.” Something that women do, have done for centuries, and are using too much effort to attempt to do. Just because I love Seth MacFarlane as a performer does not mean that the words he said didn’t hurt. It is terrifying because a wonderful man can say to the world that I, a female, am less than human. And the world laughs because it is, either ironically or non, accepted as truth.
It would be truly extraordinary if a comedian were funny without offending any group of people. Show me a single comedian who says they don’t make people laugh at the expense of others, and I’ll show you a liar.
Unfortunately, film is no exception to the rule of sexism in America. This is just one example of how patriarchal values have been wrapped around every aspect of our culture. All females in America have to deal with these jokes. The most romanticized awards show in Hollywood is not to blame, Oscar was merely an actor playing his role in the larger picture of misogyny in America.