Sexism at The Oscars

I already knew that Seth MacFarlane was an jerk.

Even though he’s created one of my least favorite shows in recent memory (sorry if there’s any Family Guy fans out there, but diabolical babies and talking dogs aren’t really my thing), I was willing to give him a chance. Nothing could be worse than the Anne Hathaway/James Franco debacle of 2011, right? RIGHT?!


Instating McFarlane as host seems to have been the Oscars’ producers way to appeal to a younger demographic, one that would also overwhelmingly appeal to young men based on McFarlane’s past work: Family Guy and raunchy talking-bear comedy Ted. The show’s viewership has increased in recent years (after hitting an all-time low in 2008), with a 20 percent increase in 18-to-34-year-olds, (its highest number since 2007), and hiring McFarlane to host seemed to be their solution to continuing that trend.

Despite a ratings success, however, the overall show was tasteless, and unnecessarily took jabs at women. Here’s why:

1. The Boob Song and William Shatner
OK, Oscars. I get that you’re trying to be all self-reflective and acknowledge that McFarlane was a terrible choice for a host before critics could bash you in their reviews, but there are plenty of other ways to do that. Boobs are funny, right? Because women have boobs and that’s all they’re good for, right? Hilarious. Even bringing in “future William Shatner” to lambaste McFarlane’s hosting couldn’t save the show. I get that his jokes are lowbrow, but if you’re going to spend the entire first 20 minutes of the show bashing him, why ask him to do this job in the first place? As the New York Times’ media/pop culture critic David Carr put it, it’s a little too “meta” to play off your own bad reviews before you’ve even been poorly reviewed:

One sort-of-OK thing to come of this segment? Jennifer Lawrence’s reaction, even though it was pre-recorded.

2. The Chris Brown/Rihanna joke
Django [Unchained] is a movie where a woman is subjected to violence or, as we call it, a Chris Brown and Rihanna date movie.”
Jokes about domestic abuse aren’t EVER funny. Tarantino said he used Django Unchained to bring about a modern conversation about slavery and violence in the Antebellum South and race relations today, NPR reported Monday. This is a conversation that logically extends to violence against the women, and humans in general, throughout the film. You don’t joke about rape.

3. Apparently Jennifer Aniston is a stripper
“Of our next two presenters, at least one is honest about being a former exotic dancer,” said McFarlane. Silence followed.
Just because her co-presenter Channing Tatum was actually a stripper before coming to Hollywood, doesn’t mean that Jennifer Aniston is too. Just because she’s beautiful, doesn’t mean she stripped her way into an acting career.

4. Quvenzahné Wallis is ONLY 9 years old.
Yes, George Clooney dates younger women. That’s fine. McFarlane’s joke highlighted that Wallis has about 16 more years before she can start dating Clooney, emphasizing how young she is. Clearly a joke, but insulting nonetheless. Plus, The Onion’s disgustingly offensive tweet on the subject didn’t help.

5. Women are stubborn
According to McFarlane, Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty is an example of “a woman’s innate ability to never let anything go.” Yes, women are nags, men don’t stop to ask for directions. Let’s perpetuate antiquated stereotypes.

6. “The flu”
Much like domestic violence, I’d say eating disorders (primarily seen as a “female disease,” though that’s changed in recent years) are usually pretty off limits in the realm of mainstream humor. That didn’t stop McFarlane though, because starving yourself is clearly a healthy and progressive way to fit into that fabulous dress: “And those of you who gave yourselves the flu two weeks ago to ‘get there’? It paid off.”

7. Salma Hayek is hot
“We have no idea what they’re [Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem] saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive.”
Because Salma Hayek is SO HOT, that’s the only reason we need to make an attempt at understanding her English, which can be muffled at times by her accent. As Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic points out, these instances exemplify why McFarlane’s humor was so meaningless and empty: “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 … the longer those stereotypes, and their ability to harm people, will be in place.”

Despite McFarlane’s banal humor, there were some powerhouse moments for women this year. The live musical performances by Adele and Shirley Bassey after a lackluster “50 years of Bond” montage; a win for Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence (their speeches were certainly highlights, as was Lawrence’s fall/recovery on her way to the stage); Catherine Zeta-Jones’ ability to STILL look amazing while performing numbers from the now decade-old Chicago; the appearance of FLOTUS, though it may have been slightly misplaced.

So why were women the butt of so many jokes at the Oscars this year? Slate’s Dana Steven’s summed it up better than I ever could: “Has Jennifer Lawrence ever made a savvier career move than tripping over her pale-pink giant-skirted brocade gown on the way to the podium, then making it back to her feet on her own, waving off the proffered help of both Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman? No wonder Seth McFarlane’s worried. We’re one reproductive-technology breakthrough away from not needing men at the Oscars at all.”

This year’s Oscars, it seems, were the beginning of the end for men in show business, with Seth McFarlane as the first casualty. Bring back Tina and Amy.


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