ONTD Political

The Banality of Seth MacFarlane's Sexism and Racism at the Oscars

2:08 pm - 02/25/2013
The host's feeble wisecracking may have been meant to provoke, but provoke what?

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.

That's not to say the Family Guy and Ted creator made for an out-and-out terrible host. His lack of nervousness, his throwbacky radio-broadcaster voice, and his clean looks added up to a charisma score greater than zero, which is more than could have been said for James Franco. And at the very beginning of the evening, it seemed as though we were in for a tolerable if insider-y night: joshing about Ben Affleck's directing-award Oscar snub, referencing the unimpressed Tommy Lee Jones meme spawned at the Golden Globes, drawing knowing chuckles by observing that the film industry's big box-office haul this year meant Hollywood accountants had to "work harder to prove that nothing made a profit."

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 ever 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.

MacFarlane's fake edginess didn't totally derail the night, but it did irritate, given that the ceremony was already too long. Tributes to James Bond and 21st-century movie musicals were nice in concept (the former more so than the latter—it's way too soon for Dream Girls nostalgia) but dragged in execution. The speeches were mostly charming, though it was embarrassing for everyone involved when the producers blared the Jaws theme to shoo the happy winners off stage. And as for the winners, I was no great Argo fan, but it was hard to not be moved by seeing director/producer/star Ben Affleck choking up during his acceptance speech (even if he displayed more emotion in those few moments than any characters did over the course of the film he won for).

And in a way, after last year's snoozy retrospective tone, it was nice to see someone as youthful as MacFarlane trying to push buttons. But it was also depressing that these were the buttons he chose. The fight over what's OK and what's not OK in comedy is deeply worn out, but it's a fight MacFarlane asked us again to have—almost explicitly, with that Captain Kirk shtick serving as a trolling prebuttal to the tsk-tsking media—on one of pop-culture's biggest nights.

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.

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eyetosky 25th-Feb-2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
My exact process regarding this whole thing too. "Amy and Tina were so great! Who's hosting the-... well, nevermind."
katrinar 25th-Feb-2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
i found the salma hayek joke to be far more offensive - who cares that you can't understand the latina when she looks SO SEXY! fuck you, asshole.

and the joke about the kardashians all having beards, same thing.

people who aren't white are funny. let's make fun of racial stereotypes from the 1950s.

just pathetic.
aviv 25th-Feb-2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
and that antisemitic "joke" that Ted (that fucking bear) made? How funny!!!!
underlankers 26th-Feb-2013 03:54 am (UTC)
The guy who had a joke on Family Guy involving Hitler as a scare-Jew? People expected that guy to be tasteful and show tact? I mean really, now.
cuterabbit33 25th-Feb-2013 06:04 pm (UTC)
I wasn't able to see the whole show because I had work that day. When I did get home and heard about some of the stuff he did, I honestly thought people were making it up because I thought Seth would be classier than that or the people who hired him wouldn't have allowed such idiocy. When I did sit down to watch, I kept looking at my older sister and mother and saying "Is... is this really happening?" Like the Ted Hologram and the 'bless the losers' song.

I expected no less and no better from him, and yet I was still shocked and disappointed. I knew when it was announced he was hosting that it wouldn't end well, but I was amazed at how bad and awful he was.
star_glitter7 25th-Feb-2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
I thought he was funny but I also like Family Guy...
kaelstra 25th-Feb-2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
Well, there's your first problem.
mollybarton 25th-Feb-2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Fuck him. He is a vulgar, mean, arrogant twit. I had to mute the show so I wouldn't hear anymore of his crap.
clevermanka 25th-Feb-2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
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

I saw some comments about this on Tumblr this morning, but I didn't watch the show, and had no idea it was that bad. JEEEEZUS.
bleed_peroxide 25th-Feb-2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
That was my reaction as well when I read that. I don't have cable so I didn't watch them, but now I'm really motherfucking grateful that I didn't. Yay, a bunch of awards picked by old, crusty white guys and hosted by a guy that's known for being a misogynist prick. Sounds awesome.

lovedforaday 25th-Feb-2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
his whole schtick is so old-timey
ook 25th-Feb-2013 11:54 pm (UTC)
MacFarlane took vocal training from a 90 year old couple who also trained Frank Sinatra, so there ya go.
girly123 25th-Feb-2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
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.

Fuck him, he stole that from Futurama.
And I'm only bringing that up because I don't have the energy to touch on the way more awful shit he said.
vulturoso 25th-Feb-2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
They should let Bill Cosby host. I'd like to hear jokes that are funny and not at any group's expense, for once.
nightfury 25th-Feb-2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
I just thought his jokes were lazy and entirely expected. Like he didnt even try, just went for the easy and the obvious.
crossfire 25th-Feb-2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Honestly, is anyone surprised? We're talking about Seth MacFarlane here. The man makes a living off that kind of humor.

Like I tweeted last night, I think George Takei and Steve Martin should tag team the next Oscars. (Can you just imagine the opening number? omg.)
keestone 25th-Feb-2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
I'm not a fan of Steve Martin, but now I really really really want George Takei to host.

Maybe give Anne Hathaway a second chance to host with him instead of douchebag James Franco. The funniest thing I've seen from last night was her "Break a leg" comment to Kristen Stewart.
kaelstra The Onion doing something right for once25th-Feb-2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
From The Onion's Facebook page:

Feb. 25, 2013

Dear Readers,

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.


Steve Hannah
The Onion
that_therapist Re: The Onion doing something right for once25th-Feb-2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
I hope they name, shame and sack whoever sent out the Tweet.
that_therapist 25th-Feb-2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
Not too surprised. I gave up on Family Guy once MacFarlane's ego got way too overblown, and I passed on Ted for the same reason. Just making these "jokes" to get the press. I'm just going to watch the part tonight with Captain Kirk, and leave it then.
bushy_brow 25th-Feb-2013 06:48 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I watched a Naruto marathon instead. Ugh.
blackjedii 25th-Feb-2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
How much was filler?

srsly. I haven't watched Naruto in like, seven years. o.o
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