Seth in the middle of an irony-free, old fashioned dance number, flanked by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo: Craig Sjodin
If you're going to enjoy Seth MacFarlane as a host of the most watched television broadcast on the planet you have to ask yourself a question: does an awareness of one's vulgarity, racism and adolescent-level sexist humour make it okay to proceed with said vulgarity and sexist humour? If you answered yes, you probably enjoyed MacFarlane's shtick. If the answer is no, then welcome to our world.
MacFarlane opened tamely enough, with a couple of standard jokes about the establishment, but then he careened straight into Family Guy territory with the following (awkward) clangers. First, there was a song about boobs.
Meryl Streep we saw them in "Silkwood" and Naomi Watts in "Mulholland Drive" and Angelina we saw them in "Gia." Anne Hathaway we saw them in "Brokeback Mountain." And Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball." Nicole Kidman in "Eyes Wide Shut" and Marisa Tomei but not Jennifer Lawrence's at all. We saw your boobs. We saw your boobs. Kristen Stewart we saw them "On the Road" and we saw Charlize Theron's. Helen Hunt we saw them in "The Sessions." Scarlett Johansson we saw them on our phones. Jessica Chastain we saw your boobs in "Lawless." Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet in "Heavenly Creatures" and "Hamlet" and "Titanic" and whatever you're in right now we saw your boobs.
The Captain Kirk gag, which was probably great in theory but poor in its execution. Photo: Kevin Winter
But, hey, William Shatner was up there playing Captain Kirk / devil's advocate /audience surrogate so that meant MacFarlane was simultaneously sending himself up, right? Well, kind of. As Daily Life's Candice Chung pointed out so eloquently here, hipster sexism, (that is, self-aware or ironic sexism) is still sexism. Adding insult to injury? The fact that two of the boobs references he made were from rape scenes.
Okay, so fine, so what is humour anyway? Can't we all just relax our politically correct rectums and enjoy a joke?
Well. We would love to, only, we're just kind of concerned that after years of lady-hating, juvenile jokes on the Family Guy and American Dad MacFarlane doesn't play to be edgy or interesting - the jokes aren't sophisticated enough for that. Rather, he finds this stuff funny because deep down, it reflects what he truly believes - and he truly believes this shit. Let's look at the rest of the gags.
Calling Jennifer Aniston a stripper:
Our next two presenters, at least one is honest about being a former exotic dancer. Please welcome Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston.
Which would be maybe funny if Aniston was known as a 'party girl' in any capacity, only she's not, she's a yoga-practising, clean-air breathing, purified water guzzling 44-year-old woman. It would be funnier still, if it was a sensible, old lady presenting out there. Only it wasn't, so it looks like MacFarlane just wanted to call a woman - any woman - a stripper. And the 'ladies are whores' shtick is something he regularly employs on his two shows.
Next up, insinuating that the Kardashians have "dark facial hair."
This man has gone from starring in "Gigli" to becoming one of the most respected filmmakers of this generation. I feel like we're six months away from having to call him le Benjamin Affleck. I thought we'd cut this joke but really, want to do it? First time I saw him with all that dark facial hair I thought, my god, the Kardashians have finally made the jump to film.
Which again, could have been funny if it wasn't - oh yeah! Totally sexist and racist and once again, inaccurate. The thing that every pop culture tragic knows is that the Kardashians are bald everywhere except their heads. They do not believe in body hair. They are body hair atheists, guys.
Joking about Chris Brown beating Rihanna:
This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman who has been subjected to unthinkable violence or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie. Oh. Oh, no. No, that's what we were afraid he would do.
Hey, MacFarlane! Quick tip: make fun of the jerks, don't make fun of the women who are caught in the cycle of abuse, yeah? Or you're going to look like an arsehole. Then there was the comment about not caring what Salma Hayek had to say because she's so attractive.
And finally, insinuating that all women are, yep! Nagging pains in the ass!
And how great was Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"? Yeah. Playing a woman who spends almost 12 years tracking Osama Bin Laden. Twelve years. The film was a triumph and also a celebration of every woman's innate ability to never ever let anything go.
To say nothing of the Nazi jokes. Or the jokes where he confuses one African American actor for another.
So we've established that MacFarlane is regressive, racist and sexist but that's not entirely why he failed. The main reason MacFarlane missed the mark last night was because he failed to strike the right note. The Oscar hosting gig is pretty straightforward - it's an old genre; basically, it's a lounge act. You know what it's not? It's not the place to trot out your swearing Teddy Bear routine or exercise the sort of B-Grade fantasies of William Shatner that would fit snugly into an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
But, it's tricky, right? Because despite the fact that the majority of Academy voters are male and over 60, there are still plenty of people, (close to a billion of them I'd guess) who don't go in for cheesy dance acts and Sinatra songs performed almost entirely without irony - which is exactly what MacFarlane, a frustrated Michael Buble wannabe himself, (remember that album?) chose to lead with.
The common definition of a nerd is someone oddly eccentric or your friendly maths wizard who doesn't like athletics. But my definition of a real nerd is someone who can not tell the temperature of a room; someone so lacking in self-awareness and tact and maybe even common social understanding that they're blind to other people's reactions. See, a true dork can not stop himself from telling bad jokes, not because he doesn't care that they'll miss, but because no matter how old he gets, (MacFarlane turns 40 this year) he can not step outside of his adolescent view of the world to see how much it's changed.