Here’s to low-hanging fruit!
Unlike a lot of people, I love the controversy Seth McFarlane smeared all over creation with his presence at the Oscars. I’ve seen numerous comments regarding his jokes with many of them quite passionate in opposition. As a columnist, I have torn into the topic like a rabid dog chasing a mail truck. And yes. I have slobbered.
Before I impart my take on the festivities and tell you what lesson I gleaned, I’d like to congratulate McFarlane for generating so much debate and discussion. I would kill for that kind of press. Hat’s off, man!
What struck me as intriguing were the opinions that McFarlane’s material was sexist. The one joke that drew the most ire was the opening song, “We saw your boobs,” in which he supplied a list of leading ladies and movies where their bulbous girlie parts can be observed. For some reason, this set off a firestorm of negative commentary, which only goes to show nothing gets people talking more than a celebrity nipple shot. Sequestration? Forget it. Global warming? Whatever, man. Give us areolas and be damned!
Let’s forget the concrete subject of the song for a minute. Sure. From 10,000 feet, lyrics joyously talking about celebrity cleavage look sexist to females. But upon closer examination, the abstract theme of McFarlane’s song isn’t so much an anit-feminist rant as it is a scathing commentary on the incredibly stupid nature of men. By gleefully proclaiming, “We saw your boobs”, he’s basically saying men are so shallow and stupid they will ignore an Oscar winning performance by an actress and a film’s subject matter just to salivate over 5 seconds of A-list tits on film.
As an aside, in the larger scope of the sketch, which included William Shatner coming from the future to warn about his disastrous hosting job, McFarlane was parodying what everyone was saying pre-telecast. That he would do something stupid and offensive. So he went right at it. But instead of going it alone, he got actresses to play along with the joke via pre-recorded cutaways. Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and Sally Field all contributed to the farce, which from where I sit, doesn’t fully support the sexist accusation.
I can’t prove what those actresses were thinking, but I’d like to think the females who participated had a clear idea of where McFarlane was going with the farce and in response to the constant focus below their neckline they finally had an opportunity to tell 1 billion viewers, “Get over it. My boobs were in the picture. Who gives a shit?”
As a stupid man, the only issue I took with McFarlane’s tune was his failure to mention Rene Russo’s boobs in “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
All that said, I could easily be giving McFarlane way too much credit for crafting a joke with an abstract theme. Maybe he was just having fun with boobs and all I’m doing is looking for a justification to have enjoyed it and a way to fill some column space.
Frankly, I believe that’s all any columnist who has weighed in on the matter has done – supported their opinion with subjective commentary, slanted facts and either haughty review. That’s what we do. And in this case, us columnists online and in esteemed publications like The New Yorker, who have wasted time and energy deciding whether McFarlane is a sexist-homophobic-racist-jerk, have merely opted to write about something that required no research and no real effort. All it needed was an ability to communicate witty criticisms of a comedian’s work. To be blunt and accountable, that is much easier than writing about the deficit, the environment, water boarding, or anything else for that matter.
Criticizing the artistic efforts of someone else truly is the low hanging fruit of columnists. And that was my real “Ah-ha” moment of the debate.
So how do I turn this into a topic of substance? By suggesting something original, which others can tear to shreds. So I’m proposing a new standard of practice for comedians who host awards shows so that us columnists can focus on anything other than our baseless critiques of humor. If I can conceive of an original thought, than I’m actually creating and not just commenting to advance my own agenda.
So I’m calling my new rule the Jewey-Gayish-Fatty Statute of comedy. From now on, I would like to see comedians balance the insulting themes within their routines. If they tell a joke that pokes fun at women, they have to counterbalance it with a joke that talks about men. If a joke highlights Jews, the next one must take a swipe at Muslims. Gay jokes must be balanced by wry commentary about nuns. A joke about Republicans must be followed by an insult to rational thinkers. You get the idea.
The goal is for this new rule to help future awards show hosts offend everyone and thus not make anyone feel singled out.
And if that happens, perhaps columnists like me and others will remain focused on the important issues.
Like Michelle Obama’s haircut.