Subscribe via RSS Feed

Satire and Defenses of (De Facto and De Jure) Oscar Misogyny

[ 267 ] February 26, 2013 |

The great Emily Nussbaum links to, while critiquing, a defense of the Onion‘s Quvenzhané Wallis tweet. To amplify Nussbaum’s response a little, I actually agree with Johnson that the intent of the tweet was to mock misogynist attacks on girls and women in Hollywood. The problem is that directing that epithet at a 9-year-old, in the context of a tweet, completely swamps the intent in practice. It functioned as an attack on Wallis no matter what the intent, as The Onion ultimately recognized itself. The poor execution of the joke defeated the purpose.

Predictably, similar defenses of MacFarlane have made made, and they’re even less tenable. First of all, I don’t believe that the primary intent of MacFarlane’s witless parade of sexist and racist cliches was to mock MacFarlane. But even if we implausibly assume arguendo that the the intent of MacFarlane and the writers and producers was to produce a mean 4-hour satire of a comedian reduced to using material that would have been rejected as too tired by a Catskills hack 40 years ago, the same problem remains — the material just wasn’t sharp enough to make the joke work. Pace Grierson, the attempt to “critic-proof” the misogyny by going meta is just a chickenshit cop-out; pointing out that your next gag will by unfunny and offensive does not, in itself, make the joke any less unfunny or offensive. And while the idea of a song called “I Saw Your Boobs” could in theory be mocking the sexist douche making the joke, in that context when it goes on for nearly two crudely and painfully unfunny minutes the butt of the joke is the actors whatever your intent was.

Entertainingly mocking something by impersonating it is certainly something that can be done to great effect — cf. Randy Newman or Stephen Colbert. (Hint: for one thing, Newman and Colbert don’t sound exactly like a Lester Maddox fan or a Fox News host; the discernible ironic distance is a large part of what makes the joke work. There has to be a twist.) The Onion can pull it off at its best too. But don’t try it at home: if you’re less talented than Newman or Colbert the results can get pretty ugly. The Onion failed this time, and if it’s what MacFarlane was trying to do he didn’t come close.

…Margaret Lyons on why this matters.

Comments (267)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Boots Day says:

    The most important thing that needs to happen with respect to the Wallis tweet is that people need to stop talking about it. That poor little girl’s whole life is becoming defined by whether it’s acceptable to jokingly refer to her by a particularly nasty epithet. Can’t we just let it go, for her sake?

    At this rate, in 2026, when she wins her second Academy Award, the first line in her Wikipedia profile is going to be how the Onion called her the c-word when she was nine years old.

  2. oldster says:

    “There has to be a twist.”

    I can’t resist quoting in extenso:

    David: Well, the point is, it’s much worse than “Smell the Glove”…he releases that, he’s number three.
    Ian: Because he’s the victim. Their objections were that she was the victim. You see?
    Derek Smalls: I see….
    Nigel: Oh…
    David: Ah….
    Ian: That’s all right, if the singer’s the victim, it’s different. It’s not sexist.
    Nigel: He did a twist on it. A twist and it s-
    Derek: He did, he did. He turned it around.
    Ian: We shoulda thought of that….
    David: We were so close….
    Ian: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been fine.
    All: Ah….
    Ian: But it’s…it’s still a stupid cover.
    David: It’s such a fine line between stupid an’…
    Derek: …and clever.
    David: Yeah, and clever.
    Nigel: Just that little turnabout….

  3. Murc says:

    Not for nothing, Scott, but if you’re going to tear into someone, try and get their name right. MacFarlane is eminently tear-into-able, but getting his name wrong makes you appear ignorant and ill-informed. Like when The Donalde got Charli’s name wrong back in the day, only not nearly as bad, because you have actual substantive critiques.

  4. Book says:

    MacFarlane: 3 As.

  5. Book says:

    “We Saw Your Boobs” was not self-deprecation. It had been if they posted a 15-second segment without mentioning anyone, but he went all in and did the entire skit. He generally kept running his jokes into the ground and descended from humility into stupidity. Just see the Ted segue for reference; I loved his self-deprecation, but then he went into full self-promotion mode and was painfully unfunny.

  6. anon says:

    I’m looking forward to Amy and Tina’s “we saw your dick” next year! Equal objectification if not actual respect.

    • Fighting Words says:

      Granted, that list would only include Harvey Keitel, Jason Segal, and Richard Gere.

      • Saurs says:

        *cracks knuckles*

        Nope. Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Steve McQueen in that one photo, spliced images from gay porn Friedkin inserted (if you will) into Cruising, Andy Serkis, William Peterson, Viggo Mortenson, Malcolm McDowell, Jaye Davidson, Martin Compston, several dudes from Ghosts of the Civil Dead whose names escape me, Michael Pitt, Robin Williams, Kevin Bacon, Leonardo DiCaprio (and possibly David Thewlis?), Graham Chapman, Gael Garcia Bernal & Diego Luna (overrated), Oliver Reed & Alan Bates (underrated), probably a bit o’ side-dick from Cillian Murphy, a lot of the dudes in Derek Jarman films, et al.

        And that’s just Anglo movies. Just listing (and remembering) all those Italian exploitation films would wear out both hands.

    • Matthew Stevens says:

      During Oscar marathon 2008 (watch all best pic nominees in one day — it was easier with 5 nominees), we noticed every single movie had a guy’s naked ass in it. The last one that night was Frost/Nixon, and we joked that at least this movie wouldn’t have any bare male butts. Wouldn’t you know it, in one of the last scenes, we saw a naked man run into the Atlantic. I’m surprised no one noted it that year.

  7. Vic says:

    Here’s the thing, MacFarlane is on record for exclusively dating actresses then complaining about them being stupid. And also seeking women who “don’t challenge me intellectually.” So this wasn’t the act of someone poking post-modern fun at the Rat Pack sensibility, it was a guy who desperately wants to live in that world. That matters when judging the intent.

  8. Uncle Kvetch says:

    painfully unfunny

    Scott, I really don’t think this angle helps your argument. You’re absolutely right to call SM out on the misogyny, but “unfunny”? When have the Oscars ever been “funny,” beyond a wry chuckle or an “Oh, that’s clever”?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Well, sure, the misogyny rather than the unfunniness is what made Macfarlane worse than the typical Oscar host, but the unfunniness is nonetheless one reason that even if we assume that his material was “satire” it didn’t work.

    • actor212 says:

      Since Carson’s monologues, I hope you mean.

      This, for instance, was when he was already losing velocity on his fastball.

      • commie atheist says:

        Interesting you shouls post that, since he makes a sexualized joke about the 8-year old actor in “Kramer Vs. Kramer” (paraphrasing – he’s the only actor in Hollywood not mentioned in Britt Ekland’s memoir, but give it time, since it’s early in the year).

        And having sat through all ten minutes of the monologue, I’m sorry to say that he had lost much more than his fastball.

  9. To the extent you can defend the Onion, this is basically all of it: the premise of the joke (and I’d argue the point of directing it at a 9 year old who wouldn’t typically draw that sort of overtly obscene language from all but the most truly disgusting assholes) is clearly non-offensive and satirical, but the delivery of it is basically just impossible, so it really doesn’t work as broadly understood humor that isn’t just flat out offensive. But they recognized that and apologized for it which, given their track record, should suffice in this case.

    Macfarlane’s nonsense just makes no sense whatsoever as anything other than a string of deliberately misogynist/racist cliche jokes, and they don’t even have the benefit of being so over the top as to make themselves almost non-offensive like they can in a cartoon.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

      Also saying “cunt” is always going to draw a lot of fire. Had they said “shithead” the controversy would not have been half as much.

      From a satirical perspective, aiming a crude remark at the person at the Oscars least likely to be called a nasty word like that works. From a tactical perspective, jokes aimed at kids and the c-word made the outcome predictable, and so the joke stupid. But pretending like the Onion was attacking or insulting the little girl is silly. Everyone knows what the joke was supposed to be, even if it was poorly executed.

      And I will continue my McFarlane defense… sure, the Oscar routine was unfunny, though I insist the “We saw your boobs” part was ironic lampooning of a sexist reality in the movie biz (good actresses are often asked to get naked). “We saw your dick” would be every bit as ironic and acceptable, except it doesnt reflect a real-world sexism, and so the ironic commentary is pretty empty.

      And for the most part, that is what MacFarlane’s only comedic success, Family Guy, does accomplish. Lampooning racist and sexist stereotypes is a good way to render the harmful harmless. Clearly that is the intent, and the only reason that this sort of satirical humor is funny. It is exactly what Steven Colbert does, but with a bit more shock-value. That sort of humor is not in fact racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. and to label it so is, I think, to be intentionally obtuse.

      And to stave off, yes, Family Guy is derivative of the Simpsons, Married with Children, et al. Those in turn were derivative of All in the Family, which was derivative of The Honeymooners, etc. There is not a lot new under the sun.

      So sure, maybe that sort of humor isnt your cup of tea, you find the aesthetics of an adult cartoon banal, you have a quick gag reflex to that sort of thing, fine. But lets not pretend it is some sort of regressive attack on women, minorities, etc. That’s clearly not the point.

      • sharculese says:

        And for the most part, that is what MacFarlane’s only comedic success, Family Guy, does accomplish. Lampooning racist and sexist stereotypes is a good way to render the harmful harmless. Clearly that is the intent, and the only reason that this sort of satirical humor is funny.

        It really isn’t clearly the intent, and you repeating that over and over isn’t making the case.

        • Lost Left Coaster says:

          Family Guy left any mildly sophisticated notion of satire behind a long, long time ago. Today the show is simply lowest common denominator humour designed to titillate 12-year old boys, and people with that level of maturity.

      • I disagree with the MacFarlane defense, but I think you’re right about the Onion: had they chosen a different word other than “cunt,” the same exact joke probably works without getting lost in the outrage. If nothing else it’s a good example of how dialing the offensiveness up to 11 is often counter-productive to making a good joke out of offensive material.

        • had they chosen a different word other than “cunt,” the same exact joke probably works without getting lost in the outrage

          Only for people already familiar with the Onion. For others, it’s going to look like the direction of the profanity at the young girl was, itself, supposed to be the joke.

          • Paulk says:

            I haven’t seen if anyone has asked whether the person who wrote the tweet was English. The usage of that word is very different across the pond and might not be understood as quite as offensive as it is here.

            • sibusisodan says:

              Is it? Not from this Englishman’s perspective.

              If a radio announcer flubs the pronunciation of ‘Kent’, that unintentional spoonerism gets taken off the ‘listen again’ feature quicker than you can realise you heard it, and profuse apologies all round.

              In the pantheo-saurus of ‘words which should not be uttered in polite company / on air’, it ranks at the top, pretty much in the UK. So I don’t think it’s really all that different in usage.

              • Origami Isopod says:

                Usually, when there’s an online discussion of how offensive the word is, and the British defense (defence?) is introduced, the Britons who most strenuously say, “Er, no, that word actually does carry misogynist baggage in the UK” are women. I’ve seen some men back them up, but I’ve never seen a British woman argue that the word wasn’t offensive.

                • elm says:

                  My understanding is that while it’s still offensive in England, it’s not at the same level as it is here. In the U.S., it’s probably the worst thing you can call a woman. In England, it’s just a run-of-the-mill insult. I’m not English myself, so perhaps I’m wrong.

                • Dave says:

                  In certain parts of Scotland, it has acquired a status somewhere between a punctuation-mark and a term of endearment. In England, per se, not so much. As in, not at all, it is a vile insult, which if you use to somebody’s face you are consciously running the risk of physical injury, or exploiting your privileged position to limit that risk.

              • Whispers says:

                Having lived both in the US and in London, it’s definitely a word more lightly used in England. On my very first day of work, two co-workers called a male co-worker a c_nt. I still haven’t heard any male American call another male American one.
                That’s not to say that it’s lightly used in England. But it’s beyond the pale in America. At least when directed at men.

            • cpinva says:

              i’m not aware of any language, across the planet, in which that term isn’t considered offensive.

              “The usage of that word is very different across the pond and might not be understood as quite as offensive as it is here.”

        • Karate Bearfighter says:

          Had they said “shithead” the controversy would not have been half as much.

          Funny that you should mention this; Doug Benson has been doing a variation on this joke at the end of his shows for at least 4 years now. (Eg., “As always, Willem Dafoe is a shithead”, “As always, Mother Teresa is a shithead”, etc.) He’s been forced (by negative audience feedback) to be explicit about the fact that he’s having a joke at the expense of celebrity culture … which then renders the joke pretty toothless.

      • Malaclypse says:

        “We saw your dick” would be every bit as ironic and acceptable, except it doesnt reflect a real-world sexism, and so the ironic commentary is pretty empty.

        No, precisely because men are not normally reduced to their genitalia, “we saw your dick” would be ironic, in exactly the way “we saw your boobs” isn’t. To quote oldster brilliantly quoting Nigel, “We saw your dick” would have a twist. No twist = no irony. This isn’t that difficult.

        • oldster says:

          To be clear, I assumed Scott was quoting Nigel in the OP.

        • daveNYC says:

          They could have set up a good combo though. Rip through the boobs song, then start in on ‘We Saw Your Dick’ but putter out after 15 seconds due to lack of names. Throw in a couple of cutting remarks about the difference and you’d probably be good to go.

        • John says:

          The whole thing is stupid, but I just want to note that breasts are not genitalia. Asking women to show their breasts is not actually the same thing as asking men to show their penises.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            I don’t undestand the point of this comment. Yes, the taboos against showing (female) breasts are weaker than showing (male or female) genitalia, but men have no analogue forbidden display object other than the penis. (I suppose buttocks, but buttocks seem less forbidden than breasts.)

      • actor212 says:

        Had they said “shithead” the controversy would not have been half as much.

        “A bit of a dick” would have worked and would have been eminently funny.

      • Origami Isopod says:

        But lets not pretend it is some sort of regressive attack on women, minorities, etc.

        Says the dude who is never the subject of such attacks.

        Not your call.

        • Philip says:

          Could you clarify here, because I’m a little confused. Are you saying that satire that falls flat is exactly the same thing as what it was trying to satirize? If so, it seems to me that making fun of people who would say, in more polite terms, exactly the same thing, isn’t an attack on women. Without context, I would agree that this tweet would be am attack on women, but the context here is that it was posted by a website well known for making fun of nasty positions by making their subtext the text.

    • is clearly non-offensive and satirical

      The problem was, that intent was not clear to the reader.

      An eight-paragraph mock-editorial could have made that joke work.

      • No, there’s no problem with the joke as a joke. There’s no way to read it as anything other than non-offensive, satirical, etc. Here’s a pedantic explanation.

        The side of this I haven’t really seen discussed is that the Onion is being held responsible in large part for people mis-characterizing the joke and reacting to it on the basis of that mis-characterization. That’s a bad cultural response to comedy, that’s a bad cultural response to art.

        Go ahead and be upset by the mere use of the word cunt, or that its use on Oscar night was poor timing. But being upset at the way the joke strikes a stupid reader, or how people will react to a mis-characterization of the joke, is a bad dynamic and deserves a lot of pushback.

        • There’s no way to read it as anything other than non-offensive, satirical, etc.

          Clearly, you are wrong. Clearly, it is not only possible, but actually quite likely, for the joke to be read that way.

          If the reader doesn’t understand you, it’s not the reader’s fault. You failed to write well for your audience.

          We’re not talking about fourth-graders struggling through a college text book that wasn’t written for them; we’re talking about Twitter readers who signed up for the Oscar tweets reading a tweet about the Oscars.

          • daveNYC says:

            If the reader doesn’t understand you, it’s not the reader’s fault. You failed to write well for your audience.

            Didn’t we just have a post about someone writing a letter to their congresscritter regarding a Duffel Blog story?

            • There’s a difference between what you put on your own web site, which provides quite a bit of context, and what you put in a tweet, which appears as one of the zillion tweets that show up when you search on #Oscars or whatever.

              • daveNYC says:

                You mean the search that shows up with the name of the Twitter account prominently displayed? Not finding the joke funny? I can get that, it wasn’t that good of a joke and the c-bomb ruined what little chance it had. Not understanding that it was a joke? That just means you’re stupid.

                • spencer says:

                  Not everyone who searches for #Oscars would necessarily be familiar with The Onion.

                • daveNYC says:

                  God save us from the day we start tailoring our humor to match the general awareness of your average Twitter user.

                • ….on Twitter.

                  God save us – Please God! Save us! – from the horror of people writing for Twitter as if they were writing for Twitter.

                  My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me!

                • Not understanding that it was a joke? That just means you’re stupid.

                  Everyone understood it was a joke. You’re being stupid if you haven’t figured that out.

                  What they didn’t understand was the point of the joke. Instead of reading it as a parody of the snarky-to-cruel commentary that often accompanies the Oscars, they read it as, basically, a poop joke: Ha ha, I said something ridiculously offensive! I cranked it up to eleven!

                • spencer says:

                  God save us from the day we start tailoring our humor to match the general awareness of your average Twitter user.

                  Seriously, fuck right the fuck off with that shit. I know there’s a ton of crap on Twitter – there’s a ton of crap on any kind of media outlet, social or otherwise – but I’ve found it amazingly valuable. There are some brilliant people on Twitter who use it extensively, and I’ve discovered writers / thinkers/ artists / whatever via Twitter that I probably never would have found otherwise. I know the 140-character limit makes it easy to be superior and dismissive about it, but if you think Twitter is inherently a wasteland – or, rather, a wasteland to a greater degree than the Internet in general – it’s because you don;t know how to use it.

                  tl;dr – reflexive Twitter hate makes you look stupid, old and douchey.

                • I thought he was saying something else, that the standard for twitter humor can’t be “things the average user thinks are ok”. Which sounds like you’d agree with.

                  But yeah, if you accurately summarized him, he can fuck right the fuck off.

                • Whispers says:

                  I can understand that it was intended to be a joke without thinking that it’s a joke. I can also think it wasn’t intended to be offensive and still think it was offensive.

                  Saying that people who disagree with you are automatically stupid doesn’t make your argument any stronger. On the contrary.

          • actor212 says:

            If the reader doesn’t understand you, it’s not the reader’s fault. You failed to write well for your audience.

            Hm, I agree to an extent, but I think there’s an incumbency on the part of the reader, especially in an age of instant communication and instant research, to double check before taking offense.

            • When you’re putting your stuff on the Oscars twitter stream, I don’t think you have the right to expect all that much work from your audience.

              • actor212 says:

                Yes, but it’s the Onion and while the tweet was undoubtedly shared with people who went “Duh-huh?” the folks who “got it” and didn’t bother to put some context to it before sharing are culpable too.

            • Dave says:

              Pardon me while I scream with laughter at the idea that reader incomprehension is the fault of the writer. I take it you’ve never taught, and perhaps never written?

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                Or never heard the old saw (which I’ve seen variously attributed to Taft, Augustine, and (I believe correctly) to Epictetus):

                Do not write so that you can be understood write so that you cannot be misunderstood

                Yes! Taking responsibility for reader misunderstanding is obviously something that no self respecting writer would do!

                • Dave says:

                  Nothing has ever been so clearly written that an idiot cannot misunderstand it. Much as there is no rule so clear that Wittgenstein cannot ask what it would mean to follow it….

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  While true, so? It’s a completely banal and common idea that the writer should shoulder the blame. And there’s a wide swath of confusion which is clearly the writer’s fault. I’m not sure why it’s so laughable.

                  I’m not sure that appealing to a fairly radical skeptical position strengthens your position. You can endorse the notion that the writer’s job is not to allow the reader to be confused while acknowledging that this will not always be possible (even just in the ordinary sense and not taking into account indeterminacy).

                • chris says:

                  The joke is that that’s impossible, right?

                  Right?

                  Please tell me that someone does not take that as literally an obligation of writers.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Is there a joke?

                  Obviously, it is literally impossible. But it’s perfectly fine as an aspiration.

                  After all, The Donalde systematically and maliciously misread me (and has SEK as well), that doesn’t stop me from using this slogan as a regulative ideal.

                  Indeed, when I get a review of a paper that’s clearly misunderstood what I’ve written, I spend a good deal of time (after lambasting them as unbearably incompetent) thinking about 1) how to counter their misunderstanding and 2) whether there would be a net gain in clarity. (Obviously, if I just shift the misunderstanding around, that’s not necessarily a win.)

                • I’m not sure why it’s so laughable.

                  It’s laughable to people (for instance, those who do most of their writing in blog comment sections) who think that writing exists for the purpose of making the writer feel good, as opposed to for the purpose of reaching a reader.

                  Your job is to communicate something to the reader. If it doesn’t work, you didn’t do your job.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I’m not so sure, Joe.

                  Obviously, the point is technically correct: There is no way to prevent arbitrary misunderstandings esp. if you read “prevent misunderstandings” as “write a text that has exactly one, fully determinate and determinable, meaning”. After all, even if it did, someone could still fail to determine it. If I only partially read English, I might mistake a perfectly clear English text because I fall for a false cognate.

                  So, Dave might be in the grip of philosophical confusion rather than blog commenting self-importance.

              • I take it you’ve never taught, and perhaps never written?

                In point of fact, I teach writing.

                If you write for an audience, and the audience doesn’t understand you, you have done a poor job with your writing.

                Even if you, and even some other people, think your writing is just super, that’s not the standard.

            • Whispers says:

              Wondering if you would feel the same way if a 9-year old girl in your family was called a ‘cunt’.

              I think the sheer number of people who have found it offensive should have, by now, completely undercut the ‘blame the reader’ argument.

        • The Onion writer wasn’t making that joke among a group of friends, who know him and his sense of humor.

          Try this: observe a group of people who don’t know you, pick out the nicest one, and walk up and say “So-and-so is such a cunt.” See if they react with the same hilarity as in the example provided in the link.

          • GeoX says:

            The Onion was, however, presumably writing for people who know the Onion’s collective sense of humor.

            • “writing for”

              He didn’t seem to understand who his actual audience was, then.

              Maybe John McCain’s “Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran” joke really would have had them rolling in the aisles at a VFW post, but the national news media was in the room, and he failed to know his audience.

              • If you can explain how to read that joke as anything other than as a joke, and as a joke that is non-offensive, satirical, etc. I’ll agree with you. But you can’t. You just can’t. Let alone the fact that it’s coming from the Onion’s twitter feed. A large amount of vitriol is directed at a misunderstanding of what that sentence is saying, and an obvious misunderstanding.

                And that deserves enormous pushback because jokes, stand-up and art in general will always be misunderstood. Holding an artist responsible for how people react to mischaracterizations of their art is a very ugly and chilling cultural dynamic. There are arguments for doing so at marginal cases (where eg violence is possible) but this ain’t one of them.

                Part of the problem is what Nussbaum identifies as the viral, “everyone look at this out of context of the rest of the jokes we’re making” nature of a comedy twitter stream, which in an environment of rapidly reacting to things encourages misunderstandings like this. It’s partly the Onion’s fault that this happened. But at the same time that doesn’t mean it was right to have happened.

                • If you can explain how to read that joke as anything other than as a joke, and as a joke that is non-offensive, satirical, etc. I’ll agree with you. But you can’t. You just can’t.

                  Actually, I can – buy you won’t. No matter what I write, you’re clearly so dug into your position that you will never, ever admit that there is any other possible point of view besides your own.

                  What kind of person asks a question, and then insists – twice! – that there is no possible way to answer it? What the hell is that?

                  How about this mind-blowing impossibility: the joke looks like someone indulging in empty shock humor. No, that can’t possibly happen, because you don’t know a single person who doesn’t love the Onion.

                  Holding an artist responsible for how people react to mischaracterizations of their art is a very ugly and chilling cultural dynamic.

                  A Twitter artist. Got it. Heaven fucking forbid that people who take to Twitter to comment on subjects of broad popular interest should be “chilled” by realizing that there are people who don’t know what the Onion is who are going to be reading their tweets.

                  No, hipsturbia, you don’t get to go through life being pissed off that the whole world doesn’t understand your in-jokes.

                • thebewilderness says:

                  She is a slut.
                  She is a whore.
                  She is a cunt.
                  She is a bitch.

                  These are not actually jokes. They may seem like jokes to you and whoozit the insult dog, but to half the effing population they are exactly what they are meant to be. Demeaning insults screamed at uppity women.

                  There is no point at which they become funny through repetition. Nor do they magically become funny when applied to a 9 year old black girl. Because guess what? 9 year old black girls hear that shit every effing day.

                • joe,

                  Hope you feel better.

                  thebewilderness,

                  I agree that there can be problems with the use of cunt. As I said above, it’s fine to get upset at the joke’s use of a demeaning insult to women. But a lot of the outrage is about misunderstanding the joke as a shot at Wallis. That’s what I’m talking about.

                • Both Sides,

                  I’m not the one walking around in a snit because people didn’t like a joke. I don’t have anything to feel better about.

                • JL says:

                  Quoting JfL:

                  How about this mind-blowing impossibility: the joke looks like someone indulging in empty shock humor.

                  That is in fact exactly how a decent portion of the people I follow on Twitter, some of whom read the Onion at least semi-regularly, interpreted it. Sure, that wouldn’t be the Onion’s usual style of humor, but sometimes even good people and institutions do incredibly douchey out-of-character things, and some people interpreted this as one of those times. And there’s a lot of empty shock humor in the world…it’s not that hard to believe that someone could be engaging in it.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  If you can explain how to read that joke as anything other than as a joke, and as a joke that is non-offensive, satirical, etc. I’ll agree with you.

                  But this is a non sequitur. A joke can be offensive, even if it is satirical.

                  A initial problem with the joke is that there are too many readings which are at the too mean expense of a 9 year old (e.g., suggesting that she’s difficult to work with, or full of herself, etc.). You have to work quite a bit to get to “it’s taking standard media crap about female actress and highlighting the craptasticness of that”. Even then, I’m not so sure that work is reasonable or worth it.

                  The mere fact that she could read it and misunderstand it as directed toward her or *feel* like it’s directed toward her even if she recognizes it’s not or be exposed to people who misread it is enough to make it fall pretty flat for me.

                • spencer says:

                  How about this mind-blowing impossibility: the joke looks like someone indulging in empty shock humor

                  That is exactly how it looked to me, and I read The Onion regularly.

                • Bijan,

                  So there are two issues you bring up. One is what the joke’s saying, and the other is what the effect of the joke would be on Wallis. I got no beef with being upset about the latter.

                  But as to the former, I really don’t see how you’re getting readings of that joke where the punchline is that Wallis is difficult to work with or stuck up. “Everyone else seems afraid to say it”, and the conversational tone where a harsh insult is used, mean that the joke only works if the term obviously does or obviously does not apply to the subject. And it obviously doesn’t. Even if you hadn’t seen any of the wide-spread coverage of Wallis in the last six months, she brought a doggie purse to the Oscars. C’mon.

                  Interpreting the joke as denigrating Wallis, or as just heh heh cunt heh heh, ignores the structure and content of the joke.

                  And that’s why it’s worth pointing out that getting upset in this manner is misplaced, because it’s getting upset at a misunderstanding of a joke. You can think it’s not funny, or that using cunt is too harsh, or that children shouldn’t be used this way in jokes, or critique the joke for any number of other things. But the critiques have to be things about what the joke actually does. Because the alternative can get very ugly very quickly.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  But as to the former, I really don’t see how you’re getting readings of that joke where the punchline is that Wallis is difficult to work with or stuck up.

                  Because that’s the surface meaning? And a possible second reading as well?

                  “Everyone else seems afraid to say it”, and the conversational tone where a harsh insult is used, mean that the joke only works if the term obviously does or obviously does not apply to the subject.

                  That “obviously does” part is what the joke writer has to contend with wrt content. That’s where delivery or additional content would clarify. “Gosh, that sweet delightful talented person is such an asshole! How dare they be more talented than me.” Is unambiguous.

                  And it obviously doesn’t. Even if you hadn’t seen any of the wide-spread coverage of Wallis in the last six months, she brought a doggie purse to the Oscars. C’mon.

                  I saw none of those things until well after seeing the tweet :) Also, the “afraid to say” bit tends to support the negative reading more in the context of a highly positive image.

                  Interpreting the joke as denigrating Wallis, or as just heh heh cunt heh heh, ignores the structure and content of the joke.

                  I don’t think so. I’m happy to concede that it was the intent of the joke and even more happy to concede that the intended reading is a reading. But it’s quite wrong to say that its the dominent much less the only reading.

                  You might argue that the principle of charity requires that we look for the best reading, but comedy ain’t a charity and making shock jokes about kids is risky.

                  And that’s why it’s worth pointing out that getting upset in this manner is misplaced, because it’s getting upset at a misunderstanding of a joke.

                  A misunderstanding of the intent of the making of the joke. For me, the joke falls flat because the other readings (combined with the possibility of actually hurting the kid on any reading) aren’t worth the intended reading. (The intended reading is a great thing to make, but this execution is very poor.)

                  You can think it’s not funny, or that using cunt is too harsh, or that children shouldn’t be used this way in jokes, or critique the joke for any number of other things.

                  Which I do :)

                  But the critiques have to be things about what the joke actually does.

                  Which I also do.

                  Even if these other readings were straight up misreadings, part of a comedian’s job is to deliver the joke with the desired effect. That means, for example, reading the audience and adjusting for them. If you do risky comedy, it means dealing with the case where the risk becomes reality.

                  Because the alternative can get very ugly very quickly.

                  I think there are bad and silly ways to critique the joke. That doesn’t mean noting the reasonable alternative readings of the content has no place in a sensible critique.

            • Origami Isopod says:

              I know the Onion’s collective sense of humor. I’ve read them off and on for years. Usually, they hit the mark, and they are bitingly funny.

              They missed on this one. Being “the Onion” doesn’t make them immune from failure.

              • SV says:

                Yeah. I can laugh at the way they mocked the bullshit Hollywood aims at celebs – particularly women – but you just don’t call nine-year-old girls cunts. That’s like kicking a puppy! (Or kicking a nine-year-old who takes a fluffy puppy bag to the fucken Oscars!)

                • Origami Isopod says:

                  I don’t think they mocked the bullshit aimed at women celebrities; I think they reinforced it.

        • Karate Bearfighter says:

          … the Onion is being held responsible in large part for people mis-characterizing the joke and reacting to it on the basis of that mis-characterization.

          But that’s also part of doing satire: owning the offended response you get from your audience. Obviously the intent was to be offensive to at least some class of people … US Weekly readers, maybe. Complaining that other people have no right to be offended because they weren’t the intended target is no more reasonable than saying you shouldn’t be charged with battery for punching John because you were trying to hit Larry.

          Having succeeded in offending a much larger audience than originally intended, the Onion had two legitimate choices: break character and make a sincere apology, or double down. I respect the Onion’s response, but I also respect Sarah Silvermann’s response to basically getting banned from network t.v. for using a racial epithet in a bit. (“As a Jew, it makes me afraid we’re losing control of the media.”) What it is difficult to respect is someone trying to have it both ways: deliberately crossing boundaries, knowing that what they are doing will be offensive to someone, and then hiding behind the ol’ “hey man, can’t you take a joke?”

          • It’s like two professional stunt men, who spend their careers very plausibly pretending to be engaged in fist-fighting, staging a fight and then getting pissed off when some passers-by break it up.

            STOP CHILLING ME! THIS IS A VERY UGLY CULTURAL DYNAMIC!

          • Complaining that other people have no right to be offended because they weren’t the intended target

            I’m not? I’m saying don’t be offended by something the joke doesn’t do. I made a point of saying it’s ok to take offense at the joke, but for things that are actually a part of the joke.

            What it is difficult to respect is someone trying to have it both ways: deliberately crossing boundaries, knowing that what they are doing will be offensive to someone, and then hiding behind the ol’ “hey man, can’t you take a joke?”

            Taking note that large amounts of outrage are being generated by the mischaracterization of a joke isn’t saying “hey man, can’t you take a joke.” I agree the Onion had to apologize or own the joke. I’m saying it’s too bad it came to that, because there are unhealthy aspects to the cultural dynamic that forced the Onion into that position.

            • Karate Bearfighter says:

              Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were hiding behind that defense. (I was thinking of folks who get called out on their own jokes, like Daniel Tosh.)I guess I don’t completely understand how you feel the Onion is being mischaracterized, though, unless you think the audience has a responsibility to know in advance in what ways the satirist intends to give offense, and in what ways he doesn’t. I also think Joe is correct in pointing out that the Onion had control over how much context they provided — 1/2 page article vs. a tweet, etc.

              • Oh, my mistake. I agree when something like this happens the “can’t take a joke, huh?” response shouldn’t be used.

                I probably should have made this more explicit, but there was a lot of “quit picking on Wallis” and “she deserves to be a star, she gave a great performance” type commentary. The Salon piece in the link above has “whoever tweeted that was trying to bring America’s fawning obsession with the child star down a notch with a dose of schadenfreude”. It’s that type of thing I’m reacting to.

                And yeah, the craft of jokes like this makes it easier when there’s a half-page of content versus a single line, and the Onion had control over where the joke was used. But I think the line pulls it off so that there’s no way to get from what was actually written to “whoever tweeted that was trying to bring America’s fawning obsession with the child star down a notch with a dose of schadenfreude”.

                Plus, some people would have had the same reaction to a pitch-perfect half-page piece. That’s the nature of art, and that’s why the nebulous boundary of “when is an artist responsible for people mischaracterizing what they’re doing” should be policed carefully.

              • John says:

                Surely this is a mischaracterization (from Prachi Gupta at Salon):

                “Most likely — the Onion has not yet responded to Salon for comment — whoever tweeted that was trying to bring America’s fawning obsession with the child star down a notch with a dose of schadenfreude. At best, the tweet reads like a degrading attack on a child; at worst, it’s a racially tinged degrading attack on a child, by virtue of the fact it dredges up memories of those offensive tweets directed at Rue from “The Hunger Games,” another young, black, female child actress in her breakout role.

                No? Whatever the tweet was, it wasn’t actually an attack on Wallis.

          • cpinva says:

            which is the standard response of rightwing “pundits”, when they get called out for saying something patently offensive, with no redeeming quality:

            “hey man, can’t you take a joke?”

            and we routinely castigate them for it.

            the bottom line: the Onion presents itself as professional satire, it is incumbent upon them, not their audience, to ensure that what they put out is satire, and can be seen as such, by the average person. they failed utterly and demonstrably, in 140 characters.

            i’m well familiar with the Onion, and i’m still at a complete loss to figure out exactly what was supposed to be satirical, about calling a totally innocent, 9 year-old black girl such an obnoxious pejorative. it went beyond the pale, for no appreciable reason. to the Onion’s credit, they pulled it quickly, and nearly immediately profusely apologised.

            it isn’t defensible, period.

            • chris says:

              they failed utterly and demonstrably, in 140 characters.

              In my opinion the Onion should not attempt to tweet. You just can’t give enough context for their style of humor to work.

              And that’s ok — not every artist has to work in every conceivable medium. Twitter has real limitations and sometimes they make it the wrong tool for what you’re trying to do.

  10. david mizner says:

    I’m not sure that this target was misogyny. I think this former Onion staffer has it right. (Although there need not be only one target.)

    I think I understand the underlying target of the joke: The Onion largely satirizes media and the general public. Everyone fawning over a clearly lovely and innocent little girl presents an opportunity to go the opposite direction with something contrasting and clearly false. It was also a take on tabloid media extremism. (I’m remembering the headline about the media’s struggles in covering Obama’s double homicide) but it was an extremely high risk move and missed that target by WIDE margin. Limited upside. HORRIBLE downside.

    https://www.facebook.com/baratunde/posts/10100688899112451

    • S_noe says:

      Yeah, I agree with BT’s take. The Onion joke would have worked a lot better with a word that might have actually showed up in a tweet from TMZ or Perez Hilton or whomever. Something like “total bitch?” And attributing the epithet to some third party?

      • JKTHs says:

        I’m not so sure if the word was the problem. It was part of it but I still think even if it was “bitch” people would still be wondering why the fuck you have this in a tweet about a 9 year old.

        • S_noe says:

          Right, but the target of the satire would have been more clear. No media figure worth satirizing (that I can think of) is calling a female Oscar nominee of any age a see-you-next-Tuesday.
          I dunno – BT’s argument is convincing and charitable toward the usually funny Onion people, so I like it, and I think the joke could have worked if done differently, but who knows.

          • Philip says:

            I think that the tweet was a mistake, but the way I read it, it was more trying to be one of their “make the subtext text” jokes, rather than directly mimicking the style of the media.

        • Mike Schilling says:

          “Diva”, maybe? But not a tweet, a story about how nasty and demanding she is, with the usual cliches tailored to a 9-year old. Say, claiming that some other 9-year-old actress had lipo to remove her baby-fat.

        • How about: “Gaaak! What, did your mother pick that out for you? Grow up!”

          • S_noe says:

            I kind of love that you took it that direction, JFL. You really do spend too much time with middle-schoolers!
            (To be clear, I liked the “mom dressed you” angle. That would’ve been a funny direction to take a joke. And required no offensive language directed at 9-year-olds.)

      • Origami Isopod says:

        Still relying on misogyny.

    • witless chum says:

      This is how I took it, that they were poking fun at how comically everyone who was fawning over the super-cute kid.

      • Whispers says:

        I don’t read it that way. I thought they were making fun of the ultra-catty nature of Hollywood. By saying that even a 9-year old was a legitimate target.

        But the joke failed.

    • MikeJake says:

      It’s ultimately a pretty hacky joke. All they did was “attack” the last person in the world anyone would expect to be attacked. That’s the joke. It’s not very novel.

      Not that it outraged me or anything, I just don’t think the live-tweeting thing is necessarily in the Onion’s wheelhouse.

      • Anon21 says:

        It’s ultimately a pretty hacky joke. All they did was “attack” the last person in the world anyone would expect to be attacked. That’s the joke. It’s not very novel.

        I think it was probably meant to be satire on celebrity gossip culture. So, the target wasn’t Wallis at all, but rather media people. It didn’t work, but I think that’s the likeliest explanation of what they were going for.

  11. Glenn says:

    For God’s sake, let it go already. Love it or hate it, MacFarlane’s performance is simply not that important. All of this fuss over it is probably the greatest compliment you could ever pay him, which I assume is not the intended effect.

    • sharculese says:

      MacFarlane’s performance in and of itself isn’t important, but every time this happens it’s important to ask why it’s acceptable to give a large, very public forum to this sort of behavior.

    • elm says:

      I always love the “let it go, it’s not important” responses to blog posts. In this case, it’s particularly fun.

      1. It’s just a blog post. It’s not like Scott is spending every waking minute organizing a boycott of MacFarlane or something. And it’s only been 4 blog posts over 3 days. In terms of idee fixes on this blog, this doesn’t even register.
      2. This blog has always done a lot of cultural criticism and has never been a purely political blog, so a discussion of movies and comedians, and music is a natural.
      3. The Oscars a pretty central part of American culture, so a discussion of sexism during it is a pretty good way to discuss the broader theme of sexism in American culture.
      4. Sexism in American culture is an important topic!

      • witless chum says:

        All four of these, times 1,000.

        I’m not sure how people get through typing comments that are variations on “This is an unimportant topic you shouldn’t blog about on your blog” without breaking into giggles, but they seem to manage it.

        • Jewish Steel says:

          When the internet is scrubbed clean of topics that do not interest me, then, then we will have something!

          For starters, I don’t care about cats…

        • Origami Isopod says:

          And you ever notice they never do this with sports? Or computer games? Or anything else dudes (stereotypically) like that, let’s face it, aren’t of dire importance in the grand scheme of things? But talk about an issue primarily affecting women, and it’s like you’re sucking all the oxygen out of the internet.

          • elm says:

            You’re certainly right that they’re more likely to do it on issues primarily affecting women, but I’ve seen commenters say similar things in some of LGM Tebow or steroids threads. But those issues are much less important than this one.

            • Origami Isopod says:

              Agreed on both points, but you simply don’t get the same vehemence from the same critical mass of men showing up on sports threads.

              • Malaclypse says:

                True, but that is because men sensible enough to not care about sports are sensible enough not to care about men less sensible.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I always love the “let it go, it’s not important” responses to blog posts.

        It doesn’t get much more self-refuting than that.

        • Domino says:

          I think he should of re-worded the question into – Why did you feel the need to write so much about someone’s poor performance in hosting the oscars given that it actually was a step up compared to previous years?

          I don’t care about every joke MacFarlane made, because it won’t make any difference. Would the feminist movement grow if MacFarlane had instead critiqued a male dominated culture throughout his hosting?

          • GeoX says:

            Why did you feel the need to write so much about someone’s poor performance in hosting the oscars given that it actually was a step up compared to previous years?

            Might wanna look up “begging the question.”

          • Walt says:

            Do imagine we would do something better with the time? Like if we could just stop bitching about MacFarlane, we’d be sewing mosquito nets to send to Africa? If you were personally offended by MacFarlane, you’re better off bottling up your feelings? People are talking about how the Oscars pissed them off because the Oscars pissed them off, and that’s the normal human response.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        it’s only been 4 blog posts over 3 days. In terms of idee fixes on this blog, this doesn’t even register.

        Yeah, a certain other LGM blogger would consider it barely getting warmed up.

    • thebewilderness says:

      Celebrations of rape culture may not matter to you. How nice for you.
      Many of us are affected by it every day of our lives. It matters to us.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      Of course. Misogyny doesn’t matter to Glenn, so why talk about it? Fuck off.

    • djillionsmix says:

      what this particular outlet for our culture’s ongoing celebration of misogyny thinks about justified criticism of his behavior is probably the least important thing about it, but good on you for taking the time anyway to point out what it might be.

  12. Bijan Parsia says:

    I find the “Oh, if you think X, who is a satirist was sexist then you don’t understand satire” (which I saw this morning in my Facebook feed) to be particularly odd. If you think that satire can’t be sexist then you really REALLY don’t understand satire. Taylor’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes” was a straight up satire of Wollstonecraft and eminently sexist.

    Satire is a weapon and has targets. It can be used in the service of many causes. What’s so hard to understand?

    • sharculese says:

      What I find fascinating is that nobody can ever explain how MacFarlane’s shtick is supposed to be satire. I think Uncle Kvetch in the last thread pointed out some places where he’s capable of slightly more nuance than I thought him capable of, but still if someone of that shit is supposed to be satire, it’s lazy, thoughtless satire, and I don’t see how that’s any better.

      • Just like we’re seeing entirely-fictional movies produced in the style of documentaries, we’re also seeing humor that is presented in the style of satire, but which doesn’t really contain any satire.

      • S_noe says:

        “Someone of that shit” is an awesome accidental phrase.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        I think Uncle Kvetch in the last thread pointed out some places where he’s capable of slightly more nuance than I thought him capable of, but still if someone of that shit is supposed to be satire, it’s lazy, thoughtless satire, and I don’t see how that’s any better.

        You’re correct that I find MacFarlane a lot funnier than most of the regulars here…but “satire” isn’t a label I would apply to most of what I find funny on FG. There have been clearly satirical stories and gags — e.g., Lois winning a seat on the school board simply by repeating “9/11!” — but I wouldn’t call SM’s overall schtick “satirical.”

        • sharculese says:

          Yeah, I wasn’t applying that argument to you, I was thinking of when you pointed out that Jasper, despite being a flaming queen stereotype, has some development to his character.

        • Sherm says:

          I’m with you on Family Guy, and I’m willing to give MacFarlane the benefit of the doubt. He’s a pretty progressive guy — gives a lot of money to the democratic party and is a strong supporter of gay rights.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Well, this is pretty compatible with misogyny or sexism, unfortunately.

            But suppose he had a non-sexist intent (it’s absolutely possible). That just makes the (arguably) failure to be non-sexist (esp. in aggregate) more unfortunate for him.

        • penpen says:

          I think the word is nihilistic.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          This is what makes this “it’s satire” schtick all the more annoying. First, you have to establish that it is satire. Then you have to establish that the satire doesn’t have the objectionable property in question.

          I’d guess is that the standard defence is relying on the very common use of parody, exaggeration, and irony in satire. Since the first order or literal expression isn’t the intended conveyed meaning, the objectionable content is sanitized. Since hugely exaggerated ironic presentation of an objectionable view or trope is a standard, if someone cliched, way of satirizing it, it’s a short hop to claiming that the objectionable expression is actually a critique of such.

          But obviously, not all satire is ironic and not all irony works or is working to undermine the content.

      • djillionsmix says:

        it’s the modern definition of satire where you just say some racist shit, and then shout ‘it’s satire’ at anyone who describes it as what it is.

        • djillionsmix says:

          er, misogynist, rather, in this case.

          …i guess i didn’t catch all of he show, i assume he probably said some racist shit too

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        And note that the target (nudity in entertainment) is a rich target for satire. Cf the SNL skits “Holding your own boobs magazine and Game of Thrones.

        Some interesting things about those (in contrast to the Boob song):

        1) They are actually written, funny, and well delivered. The Boob song is just a litany of actress/film where there was top nudity. The only twitch was at the end when some actress had a lot of films with nudity. (I am NOT watching it again.) Note that there’s no way to read that as anything else but targeting the actress (as a slut/exhibitionist/talentless). That’s the point of the joke. Similarly, since there are lines about how much he (or other male viewers) get a kick out of seeing the boobs, picking appearances of breasts in rape science (e.g., The Accused) straight up sexualizes rape. (This could have been addressed perhaps separating them out, faux treating them solemnly, and then admitting titillation anyway (which turns it back on the viewer).

        2) They are not mean, even though they do have some bite. Perhaps they should be meaner.

        3) They definitely don’t target the women (esp. qua women).

        4) They are actually satire.

  13. Law Spider says:

    Personally, I thought that the Lincoln joke was quite funny (in a groaning sort of way) — and it’s the first time I’ve ever laughed at a Lincoln joke.* Equally funny, to me, was the defensive Napoleon follow-up (when he clearly anticipated the groans). The full “boobs” song was a waste of time, but I’d take McFarlane over Franco any day.

    * I didn’t see it coming — then again, neither did Lincoln!
    (…Yup, it’s still difficult to tell a good Lincoln joke.)

    • sharculese says:

      The Lincoln joke was okay as a joke, what rubbed me the wrong way was how calculated it was. You could tell he was setting himself up for the pat on the back for ‘going there.’

      • Law Spider says:

        But is that truly unfair in light of the grief that he’s gotten for it (among other criticisms, obviously)? It was a risky joke, and he knew it. But perhaps your complaint is that he telegraphed his recognition of the riskiness — great stand-up comics feign shock when their risky jokes get push-back, thus better setting the stage for the straight follow-up joke/retort. That’s a legitimate criticism.

        • sharculese says:

          Exactly. I thought it was like that prickly exchange with the audience after the Rihanna joke – he can’t push buttons without calling attention to the fact that he’s doing it.

      • witless chum says:

        I just looked up the clip and, yeah, it kinda works and I can’t believe the crowd groaned at a goddamn Lincoln joke, but I agree it’s sorta muggingly lame. I’d probably found it funnier if he’d done it a little more subtly and sort of passed over it in his delivery. It works better as an aside that takes people a second to catch than as a wait for the cymbal crash punchline.

    • Tehanu says:

      The joke itself was more of a groaner than a joke; what made it funny for me was the follow-up, “It’s been a hundred and fifty years — still too soon?”

  14. TribalistMeathead says:

    “Hint: for one thing, Newman and Colbert don’t sound exactly like a Lester Maddox fan or a Fox News host; the discernible ironic distance is a large part of what makes the joke work. There has to be a twist.”

    I think the last few lines of Rednecks helped explain Newman’s joke as well.

  15. Mike Schilling says:

    The Jews totally controlled the Catskills.

  16. wengler says:

    I’m kind of glad I missed the Oscars, like every year since Return of the King won it all.

    I am not glad that I spent that time watching Waiting for Superman.

    • JL says:

      I spent that time sitting on a bus from NYC to Boston listening to the vent above me make obnoxious noises. As I tweeted at the time, based on the reports I was seeing of MacFarlane’s performance, I think I got the better end of the deal.

  17. Winchester says:

    You guys see misogyny and racism everywhere.

    Perpetually scandalized !!

  18. AuRevoirGopher says:

    Wait ’til Lemieux finds out that MacFarlane engaged in Green Lanternism.

  19. Martin says:

    I think what the boobs musical number really shows is MacFarlane’s lack of range, i.e. lack of options when pressed to come up with something entertaining. The Shatner framing device was obviously incorporated to sabotage any attempts to track MacFarlane’s intentions from his “intentions” or his performance from his “performance,” but MacFarlane’s lame-iosity becomes clearer when you realize that MacFarlane explicitly bracketed the musical number as offensive enough to trigger a strongly negative reaction from the Internet — and then did it anyway. It’s a cheap way to signal some kind of superiority over PC mores, but — really, when you’re telling your audience that the material is bad, that ought to be a sign that you should choose another option (or another host). The rebellion implicit in the Animal House/Stripes line of comedy, which once actually had some generational oomph behind it, doesn’t extend that far. A cheap ploy to transform lame retrograde attitudinizing into something “cool” and “rebellious” should be identified and condemned as such, assuming the content isn’t good, which it wasn’t. Ipso facto you’re making it harder for actresses to pursue their livelihood, making it harder for Quvenzhane Wallis to progress into a career in which being George Clooney’s lover isn’t necessary for success, and so on. Even if you were winking when you said it.

    • Martin says:

      Even worse, almost zero jokes that MacFarlane made were predicated on any sense that MacFarlane himself enjoys and understands movies (musicals excepted, of course). No, all the jokes were about the party at Jack’s house, the Jews that run Hollywood, and so on, all about the surface of the business of which he’s a member. Does MacFarlane know who George Cukor is? Has he seen more than two Sidney Poitier movies? Can he pick William Demarest out of a lineup? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and neither do you, but on the given evidence I’m not encouraged.

      • Richard says:

        Yep, William Demarest and George Cukor jokes and references sure would have made for a lively Oscar show and boosted ratings.

        • Martin says:

          I never suggested he should do that, but it would be nice if it weren’t so likely that he probably doesn’t give a shit about such things. And since part of his job is to intone names like Sidney Poitier, it’s relevant.

        • Martin says:

          I’ll state it differently. Most of his jokes were about the insider-y business of Hollywood, a la the party at Jack’s place. He consciously avoided jokes about the movies themselves. IMO. That’s a choice he made, not I. He’s the one communicating that a smug sense of belonging to the in-group is more important than the pleasure that can be gotten from movies.

          • actor212 says:

            I said on a different thread that the Oscar broadcast could be the toughest one in the world, because you have to keep two audiences in stitches, one of which are insiders, the other very much not.

            Imagine if Colbert had done the Press Club gig in 2006 for the home audience, instead of focusing on inside baseball. Not nearly as funny for them and the TV audience still managed to get some of the jokes and laugh along with the live audience.

            MacFarlane pretty much decided to ignore both audiences and pay lip service to entertaining them. It was a self-indulgent bit of showmanship and probably his last gig hosting.

            • Martin says:

              I think my point isn’t that MacFarlane could have done something different, it’s that he suggests a very shallow interest in the art of the movies. I think I heard him mention Poitier during the telecast, and when he did it came off as coming from someone who has hardly any idea who Poitier is — whether it’s true or not. That’s regrettable. I think his interest in Jack’s afterparty and the preponderance of pro-Israeli views among Hollywood producers or whatever is done out of necessity, because he can’t crack wise the same way about movies, so he has to seem knowledgeable about something. I’m overstating all of this, trying to describe a vibe I got watching him, that he doesn’t really care about movies.

              • Martin says:

                And by the way, this is hardly limited to MacFarlane, I think Letterman and Chris Rock and maybe Jon Stewart had a bit of the same thing. Ultimately the only question I have is, when is Neil Patrick Harris going to take over the gig for good? He’s the obvious person to do it, isn’t he?

                • Richard says:

                  I think the obvious choice for next year is to hire Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from the Golden Globes, if they are available.

                • actor212 says:

                  See, at the Golden Globes, they not only allow the consumption of alcohol, but openly encourage it. The Oscars, believe it or not, are dry.

          • Richard says:

            Actually I think he did tell some jokes about Django and Lincoln and a few more of the nominated films

            But he wasn’t hired to be a fan of the history of Hollywood. (And, of course, he doesn’t write all the jokes – he has a roomful of paid joke writers hired by the Academy for much of that)

            He was hired because they thought he was funny, that he would bring in some youth audience and, because he’s a passable singer and dancer, that he would fit in with the theme of Music in the Movies.

            Are you telling me that James Franco, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman (to name a few of the hosts of the last decade)had a greater love of the movies or communicated the pleasure that can come from the movies.

            • Sherm says:

              He was hired because they thought he was funny, that he would bring in some youth audience

              I don’t know whether or not he was funny as I didn’t watch (celebrity circle jerks are not my thing), but he certainly brought in the youth audience as evidenced by the ratings.

              • Richard says:

                I haven’t seen the demographic breakdown but ratings were up from last year (but that may have been due to the fact that the nominated films were, for the most part, blockbusters whereas the films last year – like The Artist – werent (at least in the US) – and the fact that there was no clear winner for any of the big awards except Daniel Day Lewis.

              • Ed says:

                but he certainly brought in the youth audience as evidenced by the ratings.

                I wonder about calling 18-49 year olds “youths.” Curiosity about MacFarlane was a factor, sure, but there were a lot of hit movies in the mix this year(and Adele was singing “Skyfall”).

            • Martin says:

              I stated in a follow-up post that Letterman, Rock, and Stewart may be similar. I think Crystal and Goldberg pass my little test. You’re parodying my comment by stating that I’m asking for a historian of Hollywood, which is silly and unfair. To communicate being a fan of Hollywood history isn’t that hard, and I stand by my perception that MacFarlane gave off the clear vibe of someone who hardly knows a movie that was made before Alien. That isn’t desirable.

              Now you may want to turn that on its head and say that a guy whose TV show does certainly traffic a lot of movie references not that much more recondite than Alien references is desirable. That may be true but it’s still only one part of the job. It’s better if you have both. And the shallowness of MacFarlane’s apparent interest in movies doesn’t get us around the basic problem, that the show was harshly criticized in a lot of places. The Academy may be OK with that, who knows. The ratings were up, but that could stem from a lot of things. I personally think the Academy will reconsider having MacFarlane as the face of the Academy.

              • Richard says:

                MacFarlane has already said he doesnt want to do it again. I agree with you that the fact that ratings were up may have little to do with him but the fact that ratings were up 11% in the 18-49 age group is probably due, in part, to him. (When his name was first announced, I, an old guy, had no idea who he was – although somewhat aware of Family Guy. I thought he was the SNL Weekend Update guy until my kids corrected me)

                I just dont agree with your belief that MacFarlane gave off a vibe of someone not able to communicate a history of the movies or that this matters. My favorite host of the last 20 years was Steve Martin and I dont think he gave off the vibe you’re looking for.

                As far as being the face of the Oscars, I’m not sure that they are seeking someone to be the yearly host or whether they are happy with changing the host year by year. A regular face of the Oscars really hasnt happened since Bob Hope (45 years ago) and then Billy Crystal but for a much more limited time period. As I said above, hiring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would seem to be the best best for next year

          • Halloween Jack says:

            It’s the same sort of pop-culture reference sweet spot that has made him successful, at least financially; they’re easy enough for a lot of people to get, but those people still self-congratulate heavily for doing so.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s a very good reading of the night as a whole: a poorly executed, asinine attempt at further dumbing down one of the dumbest events ever by ensuring that it wasn’t alienating to even the lowest browed audience member (who doesn’t know anything about film but likes action movies and bro-comedies). Hence, jokes about beating up bitchez, boobs (actually calling them boobs like you’re a naughty thirteen year-old), about dumb incomprehensible Hispanics, mocking stupid women trying to lose weight, about the hilarious excesses of Hollywood (rape parties and underage girlfriends and bad musicals), referencing the one fact nearly ever American knows about Lincoln (shot, theatre, wife, &c).

    • Djur says:

      The boob song was the only thing Macfarlane did that I think actually worked. Everyone’s expectation was that he was going to (a) sing (b) make a lot of irrelevant pop culture references (c) be offensive, so he has William Shatner show up and introduce a song where he sings about boobs.

      I don’t think people would find it so offensive if he hadn’t been terrible for the rest of the night — it would have been seen as a winking reference to his reputation and nothing more.

      • JL says:

        The boob song, when I saw it later, didn’t really bother me, but it also didn’t do anything for me. I thought “Eh, this is kind of pointless but whatever.”

        Then I found out that at least four of the actresses named in the song were playing rape victims when they showed their boobs, and I thought “Okay, ew, that makes me feel worse about that bit.”

        Not that I think MacFarlane was actually trying to pick on actresses who were playing rape victims! I doubt the context in which they showed their boobs even crossed his mind…and that, itself, is a little bit of a problem.

        • Richard says:

          I dont think MacFarlane would have come up with the boob incidents. He probably came up with the idea but then the staff of writers would have detailed the occurrences, undoubtedly not putting the occurrences in any sort of context.

  20. actor212 says:

    MacFarlane’s problem was he couldn’t insert a fifteen minute fight with a chicken in the middle of things.

  21. CaptBackslap says:

    This is all fiddling while Rome burns. The existential threat to culture is Who Booty, currently closing in on critical mass to become inescapable.

    Don’t say you weren’t warned.

  22. sparks says:

    Am I glad I missed all of this. No Twitter, no Oscar watching.

    Being sick with the flu has its advantages.

  23. djillionsmix says:

    It’s a shitty tweet because the people being ironicized by the tweet all unironically love the shitty tweet.

  24. [...] look at witches in the media. •Yesterday I linked to discussions of sexism at the Oscars. LGM argues that even if it was satire, it didn’t work. •Wall Street continues to whine—why, the [...]

  25. “Too soon?” let me introduce you to “Too young?” I believe this means that the floodgates have been breached.

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

  • Switch to our mobile site