In Defense of Seth MacFarlane -- He Was the Best Oscar Host

Categories: Film and TV

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Writing a critique of Seth MacFarlane's duties as Oscar host on the website of The New Yorker this morning, Amy Davidson found herself defending Chris Brown. At least sort of. "Relationships are complicated," she wrote in the midst of a stern rebuke of MacFarlane's Chris Brown/Rhianna joke, "and it may take a woman more than one attempt to leave her accuser...if any woman who goes back is told that she has forfeited sympathy and can be written off with mockery...then we'll end up with more dead women." There is a lot to unpack here.

MacFarlane's joke is a straight line to "more dead women"? He is somehow "writ[ing] her off with mockery"? Mockery is something to be criticized in a comedy routine? Perhaps more than anything, Davidson's argument is astounding in that she appears to be coming out in support of the Chris Brown/Rhianna relationship, standing behind their desire to be together, and withholding judgment on the validity of their union -- after all, "relationships are complicated." Isn't that a more problematic stance than MacFarlane's joke that "a man fighting to get back his woman, who has been subjected to unthinkable violence" is that couple's idea of "a date movie"?

Such was the fervor on the internet today to be the first and the loudest condemning Seth MacFarlane's job hosting the Oscars that writers often found themselves making somewhat tortured, hateful, or simply inaccurate statements. Tom Shales, writing at The Chicago Sun Times, described MacFarlane as "a squirrelly little ham whose forte is producing dirty cartoons for television." That's hardly an open-minded description of an entertainer, and one that I personally find offensive as a relatively squirrelly-looking fan of cartoons. Later on in his piece, Shales did offer that there was one bright spot in the telecast: a 70-year-old woman singing a 40-year-old song (Barbara Streisand's admittedly well-done tribute to deceased composer Marvin Hamlisch, singing "The Way We Were"). That gives you a pretty good idea of Shales' demographic; perhaps if Ozzie and Harriet could have been delivered to the stage by a time-machine, Shales would have been satisfied?

In a much-passed-around piece from The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber decries the "banality of Seth MacFarlane's sexism and racism" in its headline, a nod to Hannah Arendt's description of "the banality of evil" in the execution of the Holocaust by the Nazis. This is, again, perhaps a bit hyperbolic. Despite its headline, Kornhaber's piece actually spends more time trashing previous telecasts or the non-MacFarlane portions of Sunday's (the musical tributes, especially). In the end, there are only three concrete examples from a three-hour-plus broadcast of MacFarlane's "sexism and racism" -- the "We Saw Your Boobs" song, which is a particular focus or anger for the online commetariat, another joke about Zero Dark Thirty being about "a woman's innate ability to never ever let anything go," and a joke about mixing up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.

As it a focus of criticism around the internet, let's dig in a bit on the boobs song (a phrase I never expected to write). The premise of the bit was that it was exactly the sort of thing people expected from MacFarlane -- boorish and dumb and sexist. It went on for under two minutes and was explicitly called out as being a terrible bad idea before it began. Almost every actress mentioned in the song participated, via a pre-taped reaction (although some, like The New Yorker's Richard Brody, mistook the acting in those reactions for real life in an error later corrected in his column). It was dumb and silly, sure. But was it a hostile act towards women? Was it the end of civilization? One wonders if a song called "We Saw Your Butts" about men would provoke the same uproar. Obviously, the women in question knew that they are naked in some films in their past, as does everyone connected to the internet. As Brody pointed out in his piece, none of the films MacFarlane named are bad -- although some of the actresses on his list have been naked in far less reputable films which he left unmentioned. Acknowledging that fact via a jokey song seems short of the threshold for chauvinist hostility.

More than anything, though, this single-minded fixation on a few jokes of MacFarlane's willfully ignores that he presided over what may have been the classiest Oscars in recent memory. We had movie stars waltzing in flowing gowns, deft soft-shoe by men in tuxedos, music popularized by Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire sung underneath a twinkling canopy of falling stars. If that's not Hollywood glamour, I don't know what is. Sure, it was overlong. It was also one of the most elegant shows in my memory, and a joy to watch.

Does this millionaire need my help? No, of course not. He is sleeping soundly tonight on a proverbial, or perhaps literal, pile of money. Maybe he brings it out to soothe himself when he's feeling low. Still, it seems to me that we want The Oscars to be more irreverent, not less. We want to encourage the testing of boundaries by our entertainers. Otherwise, the show will be even more boring. After the reaction today, that's probably what we're all in for next year. Thanks a lot, everybody.

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7 comments
doneanddone
doneanddone

I'm going to go ahead and guess that you're an affluent white male from a similar background. Why am I not surprised you're undermining the validity of people of color and women's feelings and reactions?

palebunnyinfidel
palebunnyinfidel

 @doneanddone   You know what, I didn't see the show because I hate the Oscars, but I love Seth MacFarlane, I am a woman, and I don't give a damn what he said, why don't you go drink your baby bottle and whine about your own self serving bigotry somewhere else. Nobody cares.  If the jokes were about white men you'd be lining up to throw the first stone, so shut your double standard having hypocritical mouth.  Since I know you won't read this entire reply, let me just say that I lost my 15 year old son a few years ago in a very specific unexpected traumatic event.  He was my only child.  A couple of years later, watching Family Guy was one of the first things that made me laugh.  There have been several jokes on the show that one might directly relate to the circumstances of my son's death, and I did not become insulted, angry, disgusted or personally hurt by the jokes.  I would have laughed before I lost my son, I have no right to condemn now.  Neither do you.

There is only ONE way to view this.  If I laugh at jokes, I don't have the right to determine what subjects are 'off limits' based what I find personally offensive because it relates to me or my circumstances.  I know people who lost family members to murder or suicide become enraged at anything murder/suicide related to humor, but not DUI or domestic abuse or religion.   I have seen MADD who lost family members to drunk drivers demand that DUI or any humor related to being drunk should be censored.  Blacks who laugh at jokes about murdering whites, enraged at anything black race related within comedy - unless performed by a black person.  Muslims who kill over comedy related to Islam, Christians who balk at comedy directed at Christians, atheists who taunt all religions become petulant and pissed if the jokes are on them.  Peta members protesting against dead animal jokes, gays, liberals, conservatives, texans, japanese, sexism, racism, death, religion, politics ALL are acceptable, because to denounce ANY is to destroy someones right to their own sense of humor, and who the hell are you, or I, or anyone on this planet to tell other people what they have the right to say, laugh at, or make jokes about?    You are no one, I am no one, and 'no one' has any right to make decisions for ALL about what is appropriate when it comes to comedy or taste, and you certainly don't have the right to tell me, with your racist white man hating bigotry, your hypocritical generalizations and accusations of 'being a white man' and alluding that being a white male is proof enough that one is ready and willing to 'undermine the validity of people of color and women's feelings and reactions'.   OH people of color, that's funny, seeing as how often I get told there is no such thing as a 'white' person and that I am pink.  I'm pretty sure even white and pink are colors regardless.  YOU are a separatist and a bigot and a racist without a sense of humor and I despise people like you. 

NO!!!   There is not a single subject off limits when it comes to comedy.  I, myself, have had several horrible tragedies within my family relating to murder, suicide and cancer - but I will not condemn people who make jokes about any of those subjects, and if they are GOOD I will even LAUGH.  YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOMETIME, maybe you wouldn't be so hateful.  

exodous2020
exodous2020

He was horrible plain and simple. They need to stop doing stupid clips and dumb banter before each award and the mocking of stars at the beginning of the show etc. The show is as much to blame as Seth but, when most of his jokes bombed he has no one to blame but himself for the failure.

dante.999
dante.999 like.author.displayName 1 Like

An inane, poorly argued defense. 'One wonders if a song called "We Saw Your Butts" about men would provoke the same uproar.' No, one does not wonder. It's a pointless hypothetical, because men are not objectified in the way women are. Moreover, Chafin completely misses why the song crossed the line from harmless stupidity to offensiveness: the song references one movie where the character in question is raped, and another where she is abused. In this context, a 'joke' about naked boobs is simply not a joke. 

In his conclusion, Chafin argues that the Oscars need more irreverence, and on that point I agree. But irreverence implies intelligence, imagination, and fresh insight. MacFarlane brought none of those qualities. He was merely boorish.

palebunnyinfidel
palebunnyinfidel

@dante.999    First, I find YOUR complaint inane and poorly argued.  By the way, if something is inane, saying that it is poorly argued is not only redundant, but pointless.   I DO understand why petty, stupid, selfish people are 'offended'...they don't have a sense of humor, have double standards, are hypocritical, self absorbed cry babies with nothing better to do than tell somebody else what is SUPPOSED to be funny, and what in NO WAY could EVER be considered funny - because - YOU - say so !

My GOD man you can't joke about rape, because people actually get raped!  You can't joke about murder, or death, or depression, or race, or MY religion (only), or being poor, or mother theresa, mohammed, jesus, my mother, my family, my race, my job, my accent, my country, my football team, my gender, my androgyny, child abuse, disabilities, starvation, or war.  POLITICAL comedy is fine, but not if it's against MY guy, you can't make fun of Obama or you are a racist - all jokes must be leveled against conservatives, specifically Bush and Fox News.  You can't make a joke about islam, because its mean and some muslim might kill somebody and it'll be your fault - but by all means slander the pope, because he's a nazi and Christian bashing is acceptable.  Also, you can't make any cultural or ethnic jokes for the entire planet, except white christian Americans, because they are fat evil white racist and white people don't have any culture. 

YOU can go sniff your snobby 2 bit nose in the air and perpetuate the lie that you are better than somebody else, and you can take your loser .50cent words like 'boorish' that you think make you sound sophisticated, and your arrogant (and wrong) assertion that the author COMPLETELY misses 'WHY THE SONG CROSSED THE LINE' - oh no DANTE.999, the author did not miss at all why people like you claim the comedy crossed the line - he simply disagrees.  IN THIS CONTEXT A JOKE blah blah is SIMPLY not a joke.    Do you know how stupid you sound?  Nobody cares what you think DANTE, YOU are the boor!  People who tell other people what is funny, what isn't funny, what constitutes art or taste, or correctness, or exactly how and in what way something should be done - are usually hated by most people who have had to endure their snobbery.  If you don't think it's funny, then don't laugh - don't watch.  If you are offended by comedy, then perhaps you should have someone preview it for you, in order that you should not suffer such offense.  Or maybe you could just get a life, a sense of humor and shut the hell up.

It's not your place to tell other people why something is not funny, because they are not you and are under no obligation to be like you, think like you, listen to you, care about your sense of humor, or change their way of thinking to accommodate your bitching !

giantsloar
giantsloar

This writer gets it. SteveV definitely does not.

SteveV
SteveV like.author.displayName 1 Like

Three concrete examples of Seth MacFarlane's douchebaggery = three strikes. That means YOU'RE OUT. 

With defense scenarios like these, it's no wonder this newspaper is failing. 

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