The bar set for Seth MacFarlane was quite possibly the lowest set for any Oscar host in the last decade. Even Franco and Hathaway garnered some high hopes. But it seemed the world was all too eager to start booing MacFarlane before he even got on stage. So it’s no surprise that in the aftermath, most critics have been practically tearing their hair out with rage. But, I would argue that not only was MacFarlane charming and comfortable (he made Paul Rudd and Melisa McCarthy look like 9 year olds), he was actually a far better host than we’ve had in a while.
So, first up, the elephant boobs in the room: Sexism. This has been a common critique of Seth, and while it is certainly true of the Oscars and of the entertainment industry as a whole, I don’t think this one really falls on MacFarlane. First of all, The Quvenzhané Wallis/George Clooney remark, which has been rehashed as some attempt as sexualizing a 9 yearold. This was clearly a jab at George Clooney. It was at his expense. Seth even tossed the guy a drink. Secondly, the “We don’t know what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive,” this comment followed by the appearance of Salma Hayek (followed by her unfortunate mispronunciation) prompted another uproar of sexism, but if you actually listen to the joke, he mentions Penelope Cruz, JAVIER BARDEM, and Salma Hayek. His point is not about women but simply steamy foreigners. Finally, the boobs song. Out of context, I can’t deny, this one looks pretty bad. But let’s put this one in context for a moment.
The Oscars decided this was the year they would celebrate music in film. So, hiring MacFarlane, an accomplished comedian and disturbingly talented crooner, becomes sort of a no-brainer. And Seth proved that not only would he bring some funny jokes (my favorite being the Sound of Music reference), he’d also stick to the mission statement. So, while it’s easy to jump on the “Why the hell was Shatner there?” band wagon, take a closer look at what that segment actually accomplished. If the goal was to showcase the various uses of music in entertainment, they really did hit all the bases. Music can be a romantic affair (a la: a lovely Tatum/Theron number from Swing Time), a stodgy but harmless mess (the smarmy Radcliff Gordon-Levitt business), a clever joke (the not entirely awful “Be Our Guest” number), or a horribly tasteless ordeal ("Boobs"). Showing how music can be used to insult as well as compliment was relieving at an event filled with so much self-congratulating. In this context, the boobs song served its purpose as a truly intentionally tasteless song.
All of this really begins to call into question the very purpose of the Oscar presenter. So let’s be clear. The Oscar presenter is supposed to be a fool. He wants you to laugh at him, at yourselves, at those around you. His job it denigrate everyone, including himself in funny ways. That’s what he does. So maybe Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin denigrated everyone in ways that were less hurtful, who the fuck cares? These people are receiving gold statues from their peers after making millions of dollars; no one cares if a jackass in a suit knocks them down a few pegs. This is what the fool does. This is what he has done for centuries. In that sense, “We Saw Your Boobs” could be seen as a remarkably efficient attempt at ridiculing half the damn audience. At the end of the day, would I like to see MacFarlane sing a ditty called “We Saw Your Dick”? Absolutely. But, it just so happens that the MPAA doesn’t think I should be allowed to see Hugh Jackman’s penis. And shame on them for that.
It seems lame to blame the MPAA or prevalent societal sexism when MacFarlane is up there making jokes at Rihanna’s expense (which only RDJ seems to think are funny), but it’s not a fools job to give you a pep talk when you’ve fallen in the mud. That’s what self-help authors are for. If you’re tired of being offended by the Oscar host, we could always hire Oprah. Or Bob Ross. I hear he isn’t doing much these days.