February 25, 2013

Sexism at the 2013 Oscars

Seth MacFarlane, misogynistic Oscar host

But strange hatred was everywhere. From the boob song to Twitter-bashing, the Oscars' gender politics were a mess

By Willa Paskin
It is the nature of the world we live in that less than 12 hours after the Academy Awards finished, it has been widely noted that Seth MacFarlane made a whole lot of misogynistic jokes at this year’s Oscars. (In the long opening number, in which William Shatner was sent from the future to help MacFarlane avoid being called the worst Oscar host ever, a number of headlines were flashed on-screen: with just a smidge more foresight, they probably could have predicted the one on this story too.)

The show began with a song called “We Saw Your Boobs,”about all the actresses who have shown audiences their tops at one time or another. The women name-checked in the audience didn’t seem pleased (though that was agreed upon in advance). And when Channing Tatum came out a few minutes later to dance with Charlize Theron, he didn’t even strip away his pants at the end of the number. There was no reciprocity last night.

The lady-dissing jokes didn’t stop with the ode to breasts: MacFarlane cracked that Jennifer Aniston was a stripper. He sexualized the young Quvenzhané Wallis: “It’ll be 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney,” which is, somehow, only the second most offensive thing someone said about the adorable 9-year-old last night. He also described Jessica Chastain’s character in “Zero Dark Thirty,” the ultra-driven women who through sheer force of will made the raid on Osama bin Laden possible, as “a celebration of every woman’s innate ability to never ever let anything go.”

In this context, the more standard, easy-target knocks—the kind of joke almost any host would make in our tabloid era—about Rihanna and Chris Brown’s ongoing train-wreck relationship and the hairiness of the Kardashians seemed even more mean-spirited. More remarkable than all undercutting remarks, is that without them, MacFarlane had barely anything to say about women at all: they were either boff-toys or nothing. He introduced Sandra Bullock by her random credit in the movie “28 Days,” just so he could make a joke about getting drunk himself.
Seth MacFarlane saw your boobs

And then couldn't avert his eyes from women's chests—via his vile jokes—for the rest of the night

By Elissa Schappell
It was pretty staggering. On a night meant to honor and reward the best performances of the year, MacFarlane let the female Oscar nominees in on a secret: We don’t see the work you’re doing. We’re too busy staring at your tits. Giggle, giggle. Boobies. It wouldn’t be funny if he sang, “We saw your dick” because men aren’t expected to strip down in order to sell a movie, and it would be super gay. Want to peek at Bradley Cooper’s grade A beef dart? Dream on. Long to ogle Samuel L. Jackson’s heat-seeking-moisture-missile? As if. Get a load of Hugh Jackman’s wee little Jackman? Not in this lifetime.

Despite MacFarlane’s fondness for rape jokes on “Family Guy,” I am sure that it was pure stupidity that led him to name-check Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball,” Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry” and best actress nominee Jessica Chastain in “Lawless”—as the scenes in which we see their breasts are ones in which they’re being raped or gang-raped.

Shame is played for laughs, though. When actresses such as Charlize Theron’s names were called, they mugged humiliation, shrinking down in their seats in complete mortification. Slap a big Scarlet B on Charlize. B for Boobs. B for Bad Girl. Because what woman would choose to show her breasts unless she was forced to, right? Charlize, that slut, liked it.

When MacFarlane sang about seeing 2012 best supporting actress winner Anne Hathaway’s boobs in “Brokeback Mountain” it felt like the gleeful taunting of the snotty little brother who proudly announces at his sibling’s graduation party, “My sister’s got pubes!” Most creepy, perhaps, was that the focus on the actresses’ boobs wasn’t just on the silver screen, but little screens too. He reminded Scarlett Johansson that “We saw them on our phones,” because hacking someone’s cellphone and putting the pictures on the Web is just so funny.
Amy Davidson: Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars’ Hostile, Ugly, Sexist Night

Don’t blame Seth MacFarlane!

“The Oscars” hired a host to shower contempt on the nominees, the industry and the audience

By Joan Walsh
In the golden age for Oscar stability, 1939 to 1967, Bob Hope hosted or co-hosted 17 of 28 shows. In between, they’d go with ensemble casting that combined glamour and humor. Between 1955 and 1997, three dominant hosts—Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal—combined to do 20 shows, and each of them had at least one stint of four consecutive years, a mini-era, if you will. Since then, it’s been 16 consecutive auditions.

What are they looking for? Well, it’s obvious they want younger viewers, a quest that hit bottom when Anne Hathaway was teamed up with James Franco, who didn’t show up. But the job description also comes with a sadism quotient: They have to needle the nominees expertly, but without drawing (visible) blood. Of course the winners participate, as if to appease vengeful gods, who would take away their cheekbones and glossy hair and paychecks and overall great good fortune if they didn’t allow themselves to be mocked for one national night of all-in-good-fun.

When it works, it is good fun, with just enough admiration, affection and mockery. Mockery is essential to the formula; the host has always been a comedian except in those ensemble years. But because they’ve changed hosts so many times, the meta story—and to insiders, the only story that matters—is how did the host do, or how badly did he bomb. To an extent, MacFarlane gave the academy exactly what it deserved. (And let’s remember, people, his script was pre-approved, probably by many layers of powerful vetters.)

We’ll be talking for a long time about what it meant that MacFarlane’s nastiest humor came at the expense of women, gays, blacks and Latinos, Jews, Quvenzhané Wallis and Abraham Lincoln. Maybe his appalling John Wilkes Booth joke was intended to get into our own heads and say: Yes, this is just as awful as you think it is. And it’s supposed to be.
The Onion’s hipster misogyny

Being ironic and self-aware and knowing something is offensive doesn't make it funny--or OK

By Falguni A. Sheth
That was bad enough. This morning, I woke up to the news that the Onion decided to take up MacFarlane’s “humorous sexism” prompt and notch it up to ironic racist misogyny with a tweet on its official account about 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, the heart of the film “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Notice that at least 515 people found this tweet “funny” enough to retweet before the Onion deleted it sometime later. Who gets a tweet retweeted over 500 times unless it seems so overwhelmingly insightful—or so overwhelmingly funny and untroubling? Add to that casual acceptance some part of the 413 who favorite—favorited?—a racist and misogynist tweet about a 9-year-old African-American girl.

It’s a blaring example of how casually racism and misogyny, even about young children, can be accepted and even celebrated by some percentage of the public—especially when it is couched in the form of humor. So many kinds of hostility—racial, sexual, homo- and trans-phobic humor—gain an easy acceptability, precisely because it plays into the ironic hipster self-aware racism of “being so cool that we know it’s racist that it’s ok to participate in it. We’re above it.”

Someone on Twitter suggested that “no one believes that Quvenzhané is a c—.” What does it even mean to say that someone “believes” or “doesn’t believe” this? Others will respond that it’s just an offhand comment. Nope. It’s a sexual and racial epithet.
And:For a girl-child to be referred to in such a way, and to have the remark be repeated in such a widespread fashion, shows the casualness with which the decency and dignity of young people of color can be violated without a second thought. It is a message that will be picked up, spread and reinforced in other venues, much like a wildfire in a dry forest.

Twitter may be prone to this, especially in the urgency of the moment of “live-tweeting”—the urge to be faster, smarter, quicker, sharper, more acidic, in order to have one’s “thoughts” (if we can call it that) shared quickly and widely. But it also has the unwitting implication of removing most filters to thought. It has a limited use, as in this case, in that it reveals the unacceptable thoughts that many would think quietly. Hiding those thoughts don’t make them go away; at least we get to know and have proof of the easy vileness that those in public “spaces” can promulgate concerning young vulnerable targets. It’s also evidence of the casual verbal hostility that is acceptable to direct toward women—and women of color—and young black girls on a daily basis.

Seth MacFarlane to Rush Limbaugh: Now I understand why conservatives hate the media

Rush says he sent MacFarlane a mash note, and compares Michelle Obama's Oscar appearance to something out of Orwell

By David Daley
Limbaugh was fired up about the Oscars, and saw evidence of a liberal conspiracy to create a totalitarian world, and also a political tug-of-war between Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein.

Speaking of Michelle Obama’s appearance via video link to hand out the best picture Oscar with Jack Nicholson, Limbaugh said:When I saw Moochelle Obama on that giant screen, I mean, she dwarfed Nicholson. If you look at that, if you saw it, that screen on that stage, Moochelle and the military people, gosh, they weren’t even referenced, those military people. I don’t know what that was. Was it a cocktail party? I think they were props. Anyway, she looked bigger than life. I mean, she looked like anybody would have, don’t misunderstand, but just one bite and swallow that whole room, that’s how big. The optics, of course, are what matters. And I thought of 1984, the Macintosh ad from the Super Bowl in 1984, exact type of scenario, except Michelle Obama was actually the Dear Leader of this, obviously a totalitarian state. And the Dear Leader was making some giant speech and fist pounding and robotic citizens were sitting there nodding, everybody in total agreement, and a lone person runs down the center aisle and obliterates and destroys the screen.
Comment:  So we have a ton of sexist and racist "jokes"--approved by the producers and uttered to an audience of millions. We have the Onion's sexist tweet. We have McFarlane whining because the media called him on his sexist and racist performance. And we have Limbaugh calling the First Lady "Moochelle" and accusing her of a conspiracy.

This is the "hipster" attitude we've talked about so many times with regard to Indian headdresses, costumes, and mascots. It's commonplace in our culture. "Jokes" and tweets show our "unfiltered" prejudices, as do the anonymous comments on the Internet. Below the surface of alleged equality, people are seething with resentment at women and minorities.

Nice try, Americans. You think it's okay to be racist and sexist if they wink to themselves or others, say it's "ironic" or "satirical," and didn't mean to offend anyone. Here's a news flash, bigots: Your invisible and imaginary intent doesn't matter. If you say and do the same things as a racist or sexist, you're a racist or sexist also.

Our culture's racism and sexism hasn't gone away. It's just morphed into a slightly more subtle form. We don't prevent Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton when they run for president, we just sneer at them when they do. And then we say it's a "joke," because if these actions were done seriously, they'd be pure bigotry.

Hipster bigotry = bigotry

One more posting makes it clear what's wrong with the Onion tweet, McFarlane's jokes, and laughing about women and minorities in general.

David Carr On Quvenzhané Wallis And The Onion: The Worst Possible Response

By Maureen RyanWell after The Onion apologized for the statement about Wallis (which had already been deleted), here's what David Carr of The New York Times had to say: "Onion to writers: Tweet incredibly edgy, funny stuff. If you go over the line, we'll just slide you under the bus."And:Carr is not dumb. As a media columnist, he's proven in other situations that he understands how power dynamics work. Why is he so blind to the hierarchies and power imbalances here? Why isn't he using his power to excavate and examine them, even a little bit?

A lot of comedy comes from playing around with and commenting on status and power, and one of The Onion's best-known gags involves taking Vice President Biden--an icon of Establishment power--and re-imagining him as a lovably foul-mouthed, working-class dude. It's funny because Biden is famous and important in real life, but The Onion writers give him a narrative in which he appears to have less power--but their version of Biden is actually more likable and memorable than the real thing. That's clever.

There was nothing clever, witty or perceptive about the Wallis comment. The tweet that invoked her name--and the treatment of women at the Oscars in general--was about putting less powerful people in their place. When a more powerful entity attacks a less powerful entity--especially a more vulnerable group that has been historically marginalized and demeaned--why should we worry about how the more powerful feel? Shouldn't we just expect them to take their lumps when criticized?

As Emily Hauser pointed out, "Humor rooted in demeaning & belittling those who are routinely demeaned & belittled is a) lazy & b) part of the problem." It's true. Carr's comment smacks of siding with bullies, and we already have enough of that kind of exclusionary thinking floating around. Yes, we can "take a joke," whether those jokes are from McFarlane or The Onion, but not when they're "an ostensibly gentler way of saying, 'I don't think you belong here'" or when, in "the process of trying to satirize the media's cruelty towards women, they actually [end] up accidentally perpetuating it."
For more on hipster racism, see Conservatives Deny "Black Jesus," Genocide and Gap's "Manifest Destiny" T-Shirt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wait, people watch the Oscars?

Anyway, at this point, Family Guy is mostly incest humor and regurgitated memes that I don't think they meme what MacFarlane thinks they meme. He's not really funny.