Unpopular Opinion: Seth MacFarlane did great
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 21:02
You know, sometimes I feel like I should just title this column “Unpopular Opinion with Tyler McCarthy.” That way, I can pretty much tell the reader outright that they should start sharpening their criticism pencils because I’m about to take something in pop culture and tell everyone who reads this column to relax about it. It would also save me the trouble of having to explain directly that I’m not a sexist, racist or general bigot in any way. I’m just a guy who thinks that playing the devil’s advocate can be valuable thing.
So yes, as many of you may have guessed by now, I’m writing today about Seth MacFarlane’s gig as Oscar host. Months ago, when it was announced that the Fox cartoon funnyman would be hosting the 85th Academy Awards, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt. I don’t dislike “Family Guy” or MacFarlane’s two other creations, but I also stopped watching them regularly a long time ago. So allowing a man who specializes in making guilty pleasure content to host the top tier of entertainment award shows didn’t sit quite right with me. I gave him a chance, though. After all, he’s a singer and comic and seems to have a great respect for the business, which is exactly what I saw at the show.
However, the next day, when I made my usual rounds of checking the news, I was disappointed to see that almost everyone was panning MacFarlane as being a misogynistic host. I took a closer look at all of the claims and came to the conclusion (or “unpopular opinion”) that perhaps the Oscar’s viewership has become a bit oversensitive.
Criticism seemed to start right out of the gate with the “Saw Your Boobs” song. As I watched, I almost jumped ship on MacFarlane myself right then and there. But then I looked at the bit as a whole. William Shatner had dusted off his old Starfleet uniform and the joke was that he was warning MacFarlane, from the future, about all of the mistakes he will be making later in the night and suggested ways to change them. No one who wrote that song thought of it as anything but tasteless – that was the point. When you have the actresses in question shown on screen looking mortified (in a pre-recorded segment) it should highlight the absurdity of how people perceive women in film, certainly not celebrate it, which is exactly what “Saw Your Boobs” did. Any who think otherwise are either missing the point or ignoring it in favor of making the issue volatile at MacFarlane’s expense.
The most difficult of the moments to look past was MacFarlane “sexualizing” 9-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. I place “sexualizing” in quotation marks because that’s where ridiculous things that other people say belong. The joke here was that, after congratulating her on being the youngest nominee ever, he says that she’ll be too old for George Clooney to date in 16 years. Let’s break this down in terms of what it says about each person. For Wallis, it says that she will age someday. For Clooney, it says that he has an affinity for women who are drastically too young for him. It wasn’t the height of appropriate humor, but it was pretty tame by MacFarlane’s usual standards. Besides, the joke was clearly on Clooney, not Wallis.
Then there’s the joke about actresses getting the flu in order to lose weight to fit in their dresses. By all means, let’s lash out at MacFarlane for his comments here. It’s clearly not indicative of a bigger issue. It’s not like all this week there have been fashion blogs and shows ranking Hollywood’s most talented actresses by their appearance. MacFarlane wasn’t congratulating these women – that wouldn’t be a joke. He was drawing attention to how insane it is that so much emphasis for women at red carpet ceremonies is on how they’ve dressed, and who they’re wearing and how they’re not looking ugly. I’d be willing to give MacFarlane a high five for that one.
I laughed a lot at the Oscars. I also would like to think that I have nothing but the utmost respect for women. I don’t appreciate having to read and hear about how my laughter associates me with supporting misogyny or how it sets the cause of women back decades. It doesn’t. What it does is overcome oversensitivity and unnecessary criticism. I’m aware that women continue to have an uphill battle ahead of them, and I’m sympathetic to that. But is this really the way to fight it?