It’s been three days since the Academy Awards, which in most years would make this blog post very late with a side of irrelevancy. I mean, in most years, who’s still talking about the Oscars three days later?
After SethGate, a lot of people, as it turns out.
The Academy Awards show is watched by an estimated 1,000,000,000 people every year, so in case you’re one of the other six billion who didn’t tune in: three nights ago ABC TV aired the 85th annual Oscarcast, with the show hosted by Seth MacFarlane, the little-known (by Hollywood standards) billionaire responsible for developing animated comedy shows like Family Guy, and for last summer’s talking-teddy-bear film Ted. MacFarlane has legitimate comic sensibilities and looks good in a tux, so the Oscar producers probably figured booking this cipher with a strong fan base of young adult men would help attract a more youthful audience to the graying demographic who usually watches the show.
Mission accomplished – and then some. Overnight ratings for the show indicated a healthy surge in viewers born after 1980, but not without cost: before the Oscarcast was over – and pretty much nonstop since it ended – the Internet has been ablaze with opinion pieces lambasting the show in general and the host in particular for misogyny, offensiveness, bad taste, and basically everything wrong with Hollywood today.
I may be closer to MacFarlane’s target demographic than some of these columnists, but my wife isn’t, and we both watched the show with a grudging respect for the host’s fresh-air irreverence. True, you don’t expect a song-and-dance number titled “We Saw Your Boobs” on the Oscars. But you don’t have to be a MacFarlane apologist to recognize that bit as lampooning the leering male stereotype – and in many ways MacFarlane’s own reputation among immature adult men – more than as a celebration of female nudity. Other jokes were less complex, as he went for the easy marks of Hollywood starlets starving themselves to fit into their evening gowns; of the hoary stereotype of Jews running the movie business; and of defining the age of 9-year-old actress Quvenzhane Wallis in terms of when George Clooney wouldn't want to date her any more.
All right, that last one went too far. I can't say I didn't wince a few times during the Oscarcast, but I also laughed. More often than not MacFarlane did what a host was supposed to do -- make some jokes, serve as a bridge between the humble viewers and the impossibly good-looking millionaires in the theater, and keep the show moving along. Critics who took him to task for not being more like previous Oscar hosts miss the essential point that the Oscar producers didn't want him to be like those hosts. They knew what they were getting: a comedian who appeals to yiounger audiences, with a knack for satirizing our contemporary popular culture (and one who knows how to sing). If the rest of us have a problem with that pop culture he's poking fun at, let's not kill the messenger.