Yes, Seth MacFarlane's Oscar Jokes Were Sexist, And Yes It Matters

By Katey Rich and Kristy Puchko 2013-02-25 13:49:14discussion comments
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Yes, Seth MacFarlane's Oscar Jokes Were Sexist, And Yes It Matters image
Barely a year after firing Brett Ratner from his job producing the Oscars after an off-color joke, the Academy went ahead and embraced a host whose very presence seemed guaranteed to offend. Seth MacFarlane is a wildly popular Hollywood insider after a decade of Family Guy and last summer's Ted, but he's also a bomb-thrower and "equal-opportunity offender" who seemed to have no reason to leave his Nazi and Civil War jokes at home.

Obviously he toned it down a bit for the sake of the classy Academy affair and the older viewers, but when it came to jokes about women, MacFarlane was shockingly off-base. Our Mack Rawden already chimed in with his defense of MacFarlane's jokes, but Katey and Kristy-- the two proud feminists of the movie section-- had to step in and disagree. Why is a song called "We Saw Your Boobs" not just lame, as MacFarlane himself admitted in the number, but demeaning to the women he mentioned? Why is it uncool to chalk up Jessica Chastain's Zero Dark Thirty character to being a nag who won't let anything go?

If you want the short answer, it's "If you're going to make jokes at the expense of women, make them funny and original." But for the long answer, read our conversation below, and then join for more discussion in the comments.

KATEY: So Kristy, I feel like there are a million things to critique about Seth MacFarlane's hosting job last night, from the weirdly extended William Shatner cameo to the John Wilkes Booth joke that proved it really is too soon to joke about it. But, as ladies and as feminists, I feel like we've got our wheelhouse set up for us. Essentially: why on earth did everything feel so misogynistic last night?

KRISTY: The thing is, I'm totally aware that complaining about this is a trap. If you're a woman and you openly call yourself a feminist—which I do—then some people assume you have no sense of humor. I would offer Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as proof that's a tired and dumb stereotype. But the Oscars are meant to be a venue that celebrates people at the top of their field, and MacFarlane made it a frat party where women where literally reduced to their tits. I don't find that funny, especially since he name-checked The Accused in his Mr. Skin-styled rundown. I mean, that is a movie about how women being sexualized in society fuels rape culture! But on the other hand, if we stay silent about this, it's essentially implied consent or indifference.

KATEY: OK, so let's break down what we're talking about here. The easiest target, and the one he essentially set up for us, is the "We Saw Your Boobs" musical number, which is technically presented as a mistake he made in hosting, that William Shatner warns him against doing. It's a structure he set up for himself a lot of times throughout the night-- padding a risky joke either on the front or the back with some kind of disclaimer or shrug saying "hey, it doesn't really count!"

For me it's not so much that he even thought he could get away with it-- The Onion proves all the same that you can say crazy things couched in satire and pull it off. It was just confusing, and bizarre to start the Oscar show by having to follow this twisted logic of a Captain Kirk fantasy scenario. And then, of course, as you mentioned, the song just namechecked every woman who's ever shown her breasts onscreen-- even in movies speaking out against rape, like Boys Don't Cry.

Did the presence of Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and Jennifer Lawrence in the fake reaction shots make it any better for you?

KRISTY: No, because they are in a shitty position. If they say they don't want to be a part of this, then they can be called humorless bitches that don't get the joke. So professionally, it makes sense for them to play along.

Photo Credit ©ABC
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