I watched some of the Oscars—started late and just couldn’t make it past midnight—and am fascinated by the reaction to Seth McFarlane’s bizarre song-and-dance number, “We Saw Your Boobs,” which was essentially an iteration of actresses who’ve taken their tops off in films.
Over at the New Yorker, and about a million other places, women were outraged.
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. At a moment when Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer, talks about how women have to “lean in” in the workplace, Seth MacFarlane pops up from behind to say, “So we can see your boobs.”
In a classic Mars-Venus dichotomy, the dudes over at Deadspin weren’t so hot and bothered.
I laughed at the “We Saw Your Boobs” song, though your mileage will vary. It deflated the night’s most high-minded pretensions and reminded us in a giddy, old-show-biz way that movies are still, at bottom, about stroking the lower impulses of the audience. This is tacky and so is Hollywood, MacFarlane seemed to be saying. Don’t forget it.
By and large I’m with the women on this one. The argument that the purpose of the skit was to deflate “high-minded pretensions” seems overly generous; after all, this is the broadcast that had Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White. It’s not all that high-minded.
It felt more to me that McFarlane was trying to have it both ways: to be shocking and “edgy,” all the while injecting an element of self-awareness and distance (the whole Captain Kirk thing) that absolved him of taking responsibility for tasteless material whose primary purpose is mere shock value. (Kind of like Quentin Tarantino’s use of the n-word, although that is a topic for another day.)
And, yeah, if I were a woman, I’d be pretty irritated that McFarlane was so puerile about women’s work.
Perhaps the gravest crime here is that the bit just wasn’t funny; it wasn’t really obvious what it was supposed to be lampooning—other than, perhaps, women in film—and so the skit came across as stupid and pointless.
(Okay, the part where he listed how many movies Kate Winslet has taken off her top in was kinda funny. But that was about it.)
Just as the Onion tweet in which a nine-year-old actress was called a “cunt” wasn’t funny. The only time that word is funny is when it’s used in British gangster movies.
There was a high-low element to the show that represented something true about the movie business—it’s art, but it’s popcorn too—perhaps manifested best in Jennifer Lawrence’s pratfall. She’s all decked out, but she’s human too, right?
Still, that’s hardly a new idea, and one that should best emerge organically from the show, particularly in the acceptance speeches. No need to be a jerk to make that point. But if you do it…own it.