Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seth MacFarlane's Boob Gate And The Oscars Bro-Haha

I admit, I didn’t watch the Oscars live. I wanted to. But instead I went to visit my parents, which, as it turns out, is generally more important. And when I came home and turned my computer back on, I was instantly soaked by a social media frenzy—something about the Oscars, Seth MacFarlane and… a song about boobs! I wanted to see what the furor was about. Actually, what I really wanted was to catch the Oscars. But I couldn’t. An online replay of the entire ceremony was not to be found, but a song titled “We saw your boobs” was more ubiquitous than downloadable porn shots of actual boobs. So I listened to it and was at once in shock, thinking—what a catchy tune!!!

No, I really was shocked, mostly by the reaction to the song, particularly from journalists, pundits and other media VIPs whose observations I usually hold in high regard. Even one of my journalistic heroes, David Carr, referred to this Academy sanctioned stunt as “dudeism ” and suggested “punching a whole in the theater to let some of that testosterone out.”  Maybe he has a point. After all, when David Carr speaks, I usually shut up and listen.


Then again, short of being blamed for the holocaust and Jim Crow, Seth MacFarlane, the man behind 'Family Guy,' was accused of all things and called “sexist,” “racist,” and “full of gay panic,” even though the ending of the song was accompanied by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Which prompted this thought: what kind of a homophobe gets a glee club of singing homosexuals to back him (pun fully intended)? What’s more, during the performance, MacFarlane got dangerously close to them—to all of them!—but didn’t appear panicked at all. Didn’t even flinch. In fact, he looked positively gay!

Of course like all comedians, MacFarlane is not impervious to flopping. Not all his jokes worked. And yes, he did make fun of the Jews (that would be me), obesity and made a gay joke or two. But not even the sum of all those admittedly less than tasteful gags amounted to the backlash against the “We saw your boobs” song.

Amy Davidson wrote in the New Yorker:
“’We Saw Your Boobs’ was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. What made it worse was that most of the movies mentioned, if not all (“Gia”), were pretty great—“Silkwood,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Monster,” “The Accused,” “Iris”—and not exactly teen-exploitation pictures. The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job. Or did they just think they were doing serious work? You girls think you’re making art, the Academy, through MacFarlane, seemed to say, but all we—and the “we” was resolutely male—really see is that we got you to undress. The joke’s on you.” 
Okay, I know that in America we are supposed to pretend that women are smarter than men, but I personally balk at the suggestion that seeing breasts was the only reason I had for watching some of those great films. In fact, when women artists are marginalized and overlooked, I dispense justice.  Otherwise, all true. These actresses showed their breasts because it was part of their job—a job they elected to do and were compensated for handsomely. Of course to say this categorically is to reduce the likes of Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet to flash dancers. Instead, I expected a seasoned journalist like Davidson to go beyond the “how” and the “who” and focus on the more nuanced “why.” But it was easier to reserve the rest of the article for wild conjecture at the expense of Roman Polanski, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and everyone else. But not Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook—she was spared—the one woman who probably knows the sizes of all the boobs in the world. In fact, I bet she can see your boobs right now!

But what about the “why?” Why did all these smart, elegant, gifted women expose their breasts? Was it to inspire or entertain? To make art? To make money? To use them as antennas to commune with god Xenu from the Galactic Confederacy? Whatever the answer, the decision to expose themselves was their own unforced prerogative. Independent and self-determined, these women chose to shed their clothes and Seth MacFarlane’s song, juvenile as it may be, made a factually accurate statement about them doing it. We, the world, saw your breasts, the song goes—a a priori verity if I ever heard one. And why did you, our beloved stars of stage and screen, show them to us? Seth MacFarlane doesn’t say. I guess that makes him a lousy journalist. But a misogynist? I vote no.        

Here is a more measured take from Beverly Donofrio , acclaimed author of “Riding in Cars with Boys”, who posted this on Facebook:
"With all the brouhaha about the "I saw her boobs" segment of the Oscars, I am reminded of the first draft of the "Riding in Cars with Boys" script, which included this detail from the book: the list my friend and I kept of all the men we'd had sex--including age, astrological sign, performance rated from 1 to 10, and penis size. The men producers objected that the list was in bad taste and had to go. The women producers wanted it to stay, because it was true. FInally the men came up with a compromise: The list could stay but only if it omitted penis size." 
Can’t we all just get along?

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