Oscar host ticks all the wrong boxes
Seth MacFarlane onstage during the Oscars. photograph: kevin winter/getty images
Q What do Seth MacFarlane’s “jokes” say about attitudes to women in Hollywood?
When Seth MacFarlane opened the Oscars with a song called We Saw Your Boobs, set up by William Shatner as a segment from the future to demonstrate how much he would offend the audience on the night, the only thing more depressing than the lyrical content was the female actors who colluded in pre-recorded “reactions”.
As MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and the film Ted, reeled off the names of female actors and the films “we saw your boobs” in, it set the tone for the night, eventually ticking all the wrong boxes: race gags, sexism, jokes about domestic violence and rape, and barely veiled homophobia.
You can’t really blame MacFarlane. The organisers knew what they were getting in for when they sourced his frat-boy humour, but his script would have gone through endless edits, filters and executives until it reached the autocue.
Over the past few years, the Oscars has been unnecessarily seeking “edginess”. But what people actually want from the Oscars is old-school glamour and tradition, not someone introducing Django Unchained with a joke about Chris Brown’s violent attack on Rihanna.
Hollywood is of course all about image. You only have to observe the surgically tortured bodies emerging from their limos on to the red carpet to cop that. But even though inequality is embedded in Hollywood, with women completely under-represented in lead roles, as directors, writers and cinematographers, and where 77 per cent of the Academy itself are men and just nine of the 39 Oscars were won by women, MacFarlane went too far.
The backlash has been huge, indicating perhaps that overt sexism in Hollywood isn’t acceptable anymore. In one of the countless reaction pieces, Margaret Lyons wrote on Vulture.comin an article titled “Why Seth MacFarlane’s Misogyny Matters”: “I’ll tell you what’s not helping: the biggest night in film being dedicated to alienating, excluding and debasing women. Actual gender equality is a ways away, but I’d settle for one four-hour cere- mony where women aren’t being actively degraded.”
MacFarlane saved his grossest offence for Quvenzhané Wallis, a nine-year-old girl nominated in the best actress category.
You’d hope that a child would be spared until at least her teens before being treated as a piece of totty, but not for MacFarlane, who “quipped”: “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be 16 years until she’s too old for Clooney.”
Sexualising a nine-year-old? No one would like to thank the academy for that.