Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seth MacFarlane: What a Boob. Iran Would Have Him Photoshopped.

Good luck to historians 200 years from now trying to make sense of the society and customs of early 21st century from the artifact of the Oscar broadcast.

In a mere 3 and 1/2 hours, the cultural mirror that is both the TV Oscars show and the films themselves reflected back a very confusing tableau.

Seth MacFarlane is the incarnation of the Frat Boy, sophomoric humor that fuels the adult animations of Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show. These shows have found their audience (FG is in its 11th season), and this has made Seth a very rich man. Good for him.

The great thing about these animated shows is that they are contained: don't like the bathroom humor and fart jokes, don't watch.

The Oscar awards show is a different matter. For decades it has been a show that many people are interested in and feel a little connection to because the American love of movies is so broad based. And that makes the Academy Awards show a national treasure of sorts, like the World Series and Super Bowl. In more recent years the world audience for the show has grown and grown. Because, it seems, love of moves is international, and the level of skill and imagination coming out of Hollywood interests people of many countries. Excellent. All are welcome in the audience.

Who Decided to Let the Silly Boy Host?

It was an embarrassment all around to let one type of infantile, tawdry humor host the Oscars. It's sad that the Academy has lost faith in itself, that it feels it has to actively do something to bring in younger viewers.  Good films, good stories will do that.

Seth then took his shtick to a pathetic level with his ditty "We saw your boobs." As countless people have written/tweeted, it's not that it was a funny, clever look to challenge the moirees of women and how they dress or to challenge if nudity serves a role.

Instead, he just trivialized actresses in dramatic roles about serious issues like rape, the death penalty, and a serial killer

Halle Berry Monsters Ball
Heleun Hunt The Sessions
Charlize Theron Monster
Jodi Foster The Accused
Hilary Swank Boys Don't Cry

like an 11-year-old who's just found Playboy and then decided to do a faux Vaudeville number in front of the mirror in his parent's room. Adding in the gay men's chorus--for whom women's breasts are always and only funny--just made it uglier. And he did it at the very place and moment the craft of women acting in films was going to be honored.

I can't even call this "sexism," because it's deeper than that corporate word. I wish the best actress nominees had walked out, and said they'll come back when an adult is on the stage.

The "boys will be boys" crap is so tolerated in Hollywood that we saw The Onion slide unconsciously down the slippery slope to crudely tweet curse at a 9-year old actress. Gross.

Michelle's Iranian Makeover

Because I don't watch Family Guy, I was surprised at the height of baseness Seth hit all night. To make this cultural whiplash even more surreal, CNN reported that Iran's Fars News published a story about the Oscars on its website, and showed a photo of Michelle Obama presenting the Best Picture from the White House.

CNN pointed out that the photograph had been retouched: short sleeves were added to the sleeveless dress, and the neckline filled in to cover her chest. No boob peeking here at all, because the Qur'an asks

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women."

More about the state run Iran TV tactics in The Guardian. In Muslim countries we see that the modesty idea has lead to men controlling what women wear along with many other aspects of their life to the extreme degree. But at its root, there is an underlying truth here: men think about sex a lot. Seeing more flesh of more women will lead them to thinking about even more sex. So, an 'out of sight, out of mind' strategy isn't entirely crazy in a power struggle. The cover-up also robs women of the power of their sexuality, another thing men strive to do, when they want.

So, a lessoned learned, again:  Seth & his cohorts is the price we pay for freedom. But: if women produced more in Hollywood, and particularly the Academy Awards, we could have our plunging necklines, and a good Oscar show too. Isn't that a win, win for everyone?