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The Oscars: what did you think?

The Oscars: what did you think?

The Atlantic

The best moment of Seth MacFarlane’s Oscars hosting gig may have come late in the night when, in announcing Meryl Streep, he said “our next presenter needs no introduction” … and then just walked away.

If only he’d kept his mouth shut more frequently.


But then William Shatner was beamed in for a Family Guy-esque experiment in the meta. Captain Kirk had come from the future to reveal that the headlines the next day would proclaim MacFarlane the worst Oscar host ever, unless he changed his routine. Cut to a clip—from the future, see—of MacFarlane performing “We Saw Your Boobs,” during which he essentially read off a Mr. Skin database of shirtless-actress appearances over time. The bit could have been a hilarious acknowledgement of MacFarlane’s past idiocies—if it had been, like, five seconds long. But no: We got a full minute-plus of breast chronicling, followed by MacFarlane’s definition-of-homophobic insistence to Shatner that he wasn’t a member of the gay men’s chorus he’d just sang with.

From there, the jokes just got more and more… well, what’s the word? Calling them offensive gives them too much power, which isn’t to say that black people shouldn’t have felt uncomfortable about MacFarlane pretending to mix up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, or that half the population needn’t have squirmed when MacFarlane called Zero Dark Thirty’s plotline an example of “a woman’s innate ability to never let anything go.” What the jokes were, really, was stupid, boring, and empty: humor that relied less on its own patently sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. content than on admiration for or disgust with the host’s willingness to deliver it. So much of comedy is about the shock of recognition, of seeing some previously unacknowledged truth suddenly acknowledged, but the only recognition MacFarlane offered was that some people say dumb things about other peoples’ gender/racial/sexual identities. Which, of course, should not be shocking at all.


It shouldn’t be hard to come up with a sensible position on this. Everything, including punchlines about the Jews cutting non-Jews out of Hollywood, snickers about women faking the flu to lose weight, and cracks that there’s no need to try to understand what Salma Hayek’s saying because she’s so hot, is “OK.” It’s a free country, etc. But that doesn’t mean those jokes aren’t hurtful, obvious, or dumb. It doesn’t mean they don’t make the world a worse place. Humor, after all, can be an incredible weapon for social progress, but it can also be regressive: The more we pass off old stereotypes, rooted in hate, as normal—as MacFarlane did again and again last night—the longer those stereotypes, and their ability to harm people, will be in place. If only Captain Kirk had told us whether we’ll have moved past this nonsense by the 23rd century.

Did you watch? What did you think? Should the church speak up?


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Adam Spencer

Your original post, Ann, asked what we thought about the Oscars. So I shared a link that expressed what I thought in a pretty complete way. You are welcome to disagree with what I posted, of course. But please don’t suppose that I’m some kind of hateful idiot who doesn’t “get it”, who’s blind to his own male/white/straight/middle class privilege and who’s never cracked a feminist theory book in his life. I “get” lots of what the angry blogosphere is saying. And I stand behind most of what they’re about. I just don’t see this particular issue the same way they do. And that is, because you asked, what I think.

Ann Fontaine

You really don’t get it do you Adam? Here is a blog that says it best:

1. Next up, let’s welcome nine year-old first-time nominee Quvenhané Wallis by calling her out as a future lust interest for an old white man. Do I really have to get all women’s studies here and point out the history of old white men owning young women of color that this joke harkens to? You have to be numb to historical resonances not to feel the sting of that joke in your gut. Wake up, people.

2. I have not heard one defense of this show that didn’t come down to “I thought it was great, so there must be something wrong with you” or “Guess you just don’t have a sense of humor, honey” or “What did you expect from Seth MacFarlane?” (I didn’t expect anything from him: I didn’t know who he was before the telecast and I consider him a spokesman for the movie industry’s sexist, misogynist attitudes. As such, he did his job impeccably well)

Read it all

Adam Spencer
Kurt Wiesner

Katie McDonough in Salon writes:

“Hey, Seth MacFarlane, did you know many of those “boob” scenes you sang about were depictions of sexual assault?

Seth MacFarlane has made millions off being an immature man-child. In fact, it was the success of his particular brand of gross-out offensive humor (served with a smile, of course) that got him the Oscar gig in the first place.

So it came as little surprise, then, when base misogyny and racism dominated MacFarlane’s performance on Sunday. And while the musical opener “We Saw Your Boobs” has been called immature (true) and sexist (also true) — it wasn’t just a harmless roundup of spicy movie scenes. Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs. Scarlett Johansson found herself on the list because of a real-life violation: Her nude photos were stolen from her phone and leaked online.

Oh, your privacy was invaded and your breasts were splashed across the Internet against your will? That is hilarious!”

C. Wingate

Come on, fellows: you’re giving Puritanism a good name.

My teenage kids, especially my daughter, found MacFarlane’s stunts tediously offensive. I gather that much of the readership here is as old as I am, and I at least can remember being in middle school in the 1970s and kind of raunchy gag gifts they sold in Spencer’s back then. It’s not edgy if it has been done for thirty-odd years. Also, I might point out that plenty of people saw a lot more of Radcliffe than his boobs, if they went to the right theater. No comment on that, of course, in the song. In light of the aforementioned daughter I have absolutely no problems with prudish impulses, though in her case I suspect that any male person who dares to consider her a sexual object is likely suffer severe hearing impairment at the least. Sure, Hollywood is in some sense terribly hypocritical, but his skewering was superficial and abusive. Far more telling, we thought in our house, was how Brave, with its message that the solution to a girl’s problems was (literally) to get her mother to let her hair down, won out over Wrecking Ralph. But that’s not a cheap shot taken at the expense an imaginary prudish society, so no danger of letting that uncomfortable truth be said, humorous or not.

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