Seth MacFarlane made a whole bunch of sexist, reductive jokes at the Oscars last night. It’s frustrating enough to know that 77 percent of Academy voters are male. Or to watch 30 men and 9 women collect awards last night. But MacFarlane’s boob song, the needless sexualization of a little girl, and the relentless commentary about how women look reinforced, over and over, that women somehow don’t belong. They matter only insofar as they are beautiful or naked, or preferably both. This wasn’t an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze.
MacFarlane’s opening musical number, “We Saw Your Boobs,” might as well have been a siren blaring, “This isn’t for you.” Come on, everyone likes boobs, right? No. The answer is no. They’re not something I hate, and heck, I have a pair to call my own, and yet my takeaway from The Accused was not “Finally, I’ve seen Jodie Foster’s breasts.” My lasting memory of Boys Don’t Cry is not “Hey, free breasts!” At least there was that super timely and relevant reference to Kate Winslet’s many nude scenes.
Jeez, the song was a joke! Can’t you take a joke? Yes, I can take a joke. I can take a bunch! A thousand, 10,000, maybe even more! But after 30 or so years, this stuff doesn’t feel like joking. It’s dehumanizing and humiliating, and as if every single one of those jokes is an ostensibly gentler way of saying, “I don’t think you belong here.” All those little instances add up, grain of sand by grain of sand until I’m stranded in a desert of every “tits or GTFO” joke I’ve ever tried to ignore.
Then came the joke about actresses getting the flu to lose weight. “It paid off,” MacFarlane said. “Looking good.” Well, thank God, because what matters to all women is that we look good for Seth MacFarlane. How many women did he introduce over the course of the night by mentioning how they looked: “Please welcome the lovely ___ ,” “the beautiful ______”? How many men?
Uh, those are compliments! Now he can’t even give women compliments? Compliment away, friends. Let’s compliment the shit out of each other. But let’s be really cognizant of what we compliment each other on, and what that says about what we expect from each other, and what we consider valuable and worth mentioning. It doesn’t matter what Salma Hayek says, because she’s so pretty!
You just don’t like Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humor. What did you expect? Actually, I do like Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humor. (Sometimes. No one likes everything all the time!) I’ve been a loyal Family Guy viewer for almost fifteen years. I’ve been to — and adored — Family Guy: Live. If MacFarlane had sung “Shipoopi” all night, I’d be writing a really different story right now. Instead, there were jokes about how Rex Reed would probably call Adele fat — because that’s what’s important about her — and how someday Quvenzhané Wallis will be old enough to date George Clooney — because that’s what’s important about her — and how sometimes, gasp, a woman might have body hair — because that’s what’s important about them. Women are nags, and Jews run Hollywood! Thank you, Seth MacFarlane, for this cutting-edge humor. Like Mark Wahlberg said, the party’s at Jack Nicholson’s house. You remember, that place where Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. Ha-ha, ha-ha, ha.
I dream of someday watching women win all the non-performance categories, of women making as many films as men do, of women and men being nominated for a comparable number of awards. There are a lot of reasons why that day is far, far in the future. But 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 ceremony where women aren’t being actively degraded.