Home Culture Sociology Why Seth MacFarlane is not a great satirist

Why Seth MacFarlane is not a great satirist


While it was nice to see the first ever RISD grad hosting the Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar hosting turn was not really a triumph for humor. The woman-bashing element, in particular has come in for endless (and deserved) criticism. As I suggested earlier, of course it was no surprise that the creator of Family Guy would come out with tasteless, demeaning humor—that’s his schtick. The show had big ratings, particularly among younger audiences, proving that putting an edgy host under 40 in charge would draw a younger crowd. I can see the Hollywood suits analyzing it with wonder now: “The kids like kids!” Amazing.

And of course lots of people enjoyed it and laughed along. What does surprise me is many of his defenders claiming that MacFarlane was delivering clever satire. Here’s a typical note:

Anyone complaining in these comments ever heard of satire. I think MacFarlane’s humor is satire and is meant to provoke. Seems pretty effective to me.

Provoking, yes—like a blunt instrument. Satire is meant to take one thing and examine it through a humorous lens, usually in a critical way. MacFarlane’s humor often doesn’t have that object at all—it’s one-dimensional shock humor.

Let’s take the most obvious example: “We Saw Your Boobs.” The set up is William Shatner as Captain Kirk slingshotting back in time to warn MacFarlane not to do the horrible tasteless things he’s about to do and thus earn the label of worst Oscar host ever. To show what’s about to happen. Shatner cuts to a video of MacFarlane singing a song called “We Saw Your Boobs” where he names actresses and the films in which they appeared sans shirt.

Now, if the object of the humor was actually MacFarlane and his penchant for ribald attack humor, a simple 15-second cutaway—much like those on Family Guy—would have gotten across the point…and the humor. But no, it goes on for nearly two minutes—the point is to name and shame, say the word boobs and turn actresses into dehumanized objects yet again. I have a dream that someday women will be judged by the content of their character and not the content of their Maidenforms, but that day has not come for MacFarlane. In his world, if you’re a woman and doggedly track down the worst terrorist the world has ever known, you’re not a hero—you’re just another woman who’s mad at being stood up on a date.

Now of course, there is often pop culture satire on Family Guy, but the humor is as much aimed at the helpless as at targets that need to be taken down a peg. It’s the mocking humor of the powerful, not social critique. This is backed up by the show’s structure as a prototypical interaction of id, ego, and superego—Peter, Brian and Stewie—all voiced by MacFarlane, reinforcing the one-dimensional viewpoint.

And for those who say it’s all an act, well, in his New Yorker profile, MacFarlane was asked about his penchant for dating starlets, and he replies he isn’t looking for an intellectual equal, pointing to his own parents, saying his father wanted someone who was exciting. “My father and my mother were not…intellectual equals by any means.” Maybe his mum was a dimwit, but it takes a tough man to call her one in a national magazine.

I’m not a fan of MacFarlane’s humor, but I see why people laugh. And he has worked hard to go from a schlubby animator to a handsome song and dance man. (Looking at his unvarying smile, and smooth 39-year-old visage, one might guess some of the work included botox.) He’s the highest paid comedy writer in the world, has had a Grammy-nominated album of him singing classic songs, a #1 movie, and a lot of that success is admirable. But a great satirist? Nope, not this time.


  1. I’ve never been a fan and I stopped watching his show after the first couple of episodes. His humor is lazy and derivative of both The Simpsons and South Park. Many people have told me they think his humor is “funny, because it’s true” but really it’s not. It’s stereotyping with a fresh face, mean spirited, and many people are not smart enough, or to young, to realize that it’s supposed to be funny, because it’s wrong so they take the ideas and run with them. There’s an old saying that goes something like, “if you want to get your message to the masses, don’t give a sermon, make the laugh.” Seth has no message. He’s like a snotty little kid who will take any opportunity to humiliate a classmate, because he thinks it makes himself look clever to the rest of the kids. Who would want to really put themselves out their, take chances with their art, or dare to do something truly inspired, if we only ever continue to cheer for the person who enjoys ripping it down for a cheap laugh and his own gratification? It’s his right to be that way in this country, but I find him irresponsible, dishonest in his humor, and pandering to the lowest common denominator, simply for a laugh, and by continually putting him up on a pedestal, we diminish our ability to strive for better. But hey, that’s just me. I could be wrong. Maybe, the word does need more movies like Ted and a hundred more episodes of Family Guy. We’re all free to chose. I just think what I chose might say something about my character, in the long run.

  2. To further why it was not satire IMO, based on what I learned many years ago in high school Lit classes (satire through the study of A Modest Proposal for example) is that a fundamental part of satire is that it criticizes and ridicules a topic in order to affect change.

    If there is no goal in the satire it is just a tasteless joke about eating babies.

  3. I dunno, he was alright. I was just glad not to see Billy Crystal again. He kind of looks like Bob Hope or something, seemed to fit the look of the show. He wasn’t always tasteful but thats the humor of the times, a bit nerdy to me but not that bad.I thought he worked for South Park. I kind of enjoyed him irritating the audience. Does all that genius and craft of acting talk at the Oscars any more sincere. George Clooney dates tons of starlets and models that don’t look like intellectual equals either (to my great envy) No one complains about him since he has all those causes (= free pass from prudish judgments), a bit of a double standard… People like to judge too much in this society. (isn’t there like 50 judging reality show contests on now)..Especially with sex. It always has to be hidden but everything else is fair game. In France, this would be funny… (and they respect comics)

  4. The Oscars are so irrelevant I’m not sure it’s worth it to even get bothered by the host or anything else involved in them.

    Do people under 35 even know who half the “stars” are?

  5. I think Family Guy has been terrible for the past couple of seasons but his other creation American Dad consistently makes me laugh. Could be because the writing staff is different. I thought he did a good job as the host on Oscar night. I liked the “we saw your boobs” song and I was aware that the reaction shots were pre-recorded. I guess it is because I am ok with his crude style of humor at times and this one worked for me. The Zero Dark Thirty joke got a laugh as well. I have liked both Seth and Gervais but then again I like people who don’t play it “safe”

  6. Maverickman — it’s not a question of “playing it safe” — it’s just a matter of pointing out how humor is used to undermine women’s achievements.

  7. I really think the Oscars should embrace the fact that they’ve got an older demographic and not work so hard to get kids who aren’t familiar with 80% of the nominees to watch the show. It’s a show you grow into. When you’re 16, you’ve only seen the movies that are up for technical awards and some of the animated features, and you’re more excited about the MTV Movie Awards. You don’t get into Oscar-type movies until you hit college, and letting the kids from Modern Family host isn’t somehow going to make you more interested in whether or not Meryl Streep wins something.

    The Oscars are like golf. Some kids will be into it, but it’s one of those things that survives because there will always be more old people coming along to replenish the ranks of people who’ll sit around watching it on Saturday afternoons.

  8. Heidi,
    Feel free to use me as a punching bag if you like, but I fail to see how his humor is used to undermine women’s achievements???

    I’m not a McFarlane fan – for the most part his humor is the same childish bullshit revamped from episode of Family Guy to episode of Family Guy – crudely Funny the first couple of times around but nothing special unless you are a goofy high school kid or dip shit college student after that.

    Havind said that I fail to see how any joke made by McFarlane during the Oscars (or at any other time for that matter) undermine’s the achievement of any woman, any where, at any time.

    Please give me an example – or perhaps explain what you mean by under mine because I simply don’t see it based on how I understand the word and its usage.

  9. un·der·mine (ndr-mn)
    tr.v. un·der·mined, un·der·min·ing, un·der·mines
    1. To weaken by wearing away a base or foundation: Water has undermined the stone foundations.
    2. To weaken, injure, or impair, often by degrees or imperceptibly; sap: Late hours can undermine one’s health.
    3. To dig a mine or tunnel beneath.

    This was from FREEDICTIONARY.com

  10. Is McFarlane an idiot – sure (others may find him funny or even a genius, but hey, a lot of folks watch Fox News and MSNBC and believe what each says whole heartedly…but I digress…)

    But again, to say his comments, jokes, whatever have undermined woman is just a bit much. Are there woman somewhere right now sitting in a job interview thinking “my god, I hope this guy who is about to hire me didn’t watch the Oscars this past weekend, he may have heard Seth crack a dumb ass joke and think less of me because of it!”

    I just don’t see it. Was his humor offensive to some…..absolutely. Funny to others, you bet. But undermining……..uhhh…..this guy has no where near that amount of stroke.

  11. Does anyone think less of Kate Winslet because he mentioned around 8 movies she was in during his “boobs” bit?

    If anything, it reminded me why I would much rather watch Winslet in her worst flick than McFarlane any day of the week.

  12. The Oscars wasn’t his best stuff but he is still a genius. I normally hate when people say “you just don’t get it” but i think this time that’s the case. I don’t even know how to explain it but it’s not as “one dimensional” as you think. I saw your boobs was not meant to shame anybody. I have seen it reported that the reactions were pre-taped which is why Naomi Watts & Charleze Theron were wearing different clothes.

    For those who think he is terrible, what comedians or actors do you think are funny?

  13. “Looking at his unvarying smile, and smooth 39-year-old visage, one might guess some of the work included botox.”

    And if that was a male writer writing that about a female host, the outrage would be overwhelming. Do as I say not as I do, hm?

  14. I am at the point where I couldn’t care less about the Oscars. The show skews older, yet every movie playing in widescreen release is aimed at teenage boys. People who used to write great movies are now writing great cable dramas, and the movies are either whiz bang blockbusters or wanting to be whiz bang blockbusters.

    Besides, in 1994 they gave best picture to Forest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction. Why bother with anyone who would do that?

  15. MacFarlane’s not a satirist at all. He’s a farceur; he makes his daily bread poking at any and all sensitive areas (unlike the SOUTH PARK posers).

    The object of his humor in the “boobs” skit was to point out that Oscar can nominate all the high-falutin’ flicks, can ignore pretty much every good comedy every made– and hetero guys will still primarily remember which hot chick showed her tatas in which flick.

    “Forget it, Jake. It’s hardwired sexual response.”

  16. Here’s the problem with the Oscars:
    You can’t win. No matter who the host is, everyone is waiting to criticize the show. If the host plays it safe, it’s boring. If the host is provocative, then the show is offensive.

    The balancing act: giving out the awards (boring) while entertaining the viewing audience (interesting). Do you go for comedy? Then how far do you go? Do you go for song-and-dance? Then how do you make it memorable?

    Norah Jones sang a great song, but nobody noticed. Michele Obama announces the winner for Best Picture, and commentators criticize her for using the military as a prop. (Imagine that… Rush Limbaugh and Iran are on the same side of an issue!)

    The final song, about losers, required a huge amount of up-to-the-minute re-writes, and actually gave the Oscars an ending over the credits, instead of a glib farewell from the host. Yup, people didn’t like that either.

    I want an edgy host, or hosts which make me expectant. It’s a live event, and in this day of live blogging via Twitter and Facebook, you gotta be watching to catch the OMG moments. (And to give snark as good as the host, like during the red carpet.)

    And you know what? Nobody writes about the Grammys or the Emmys or any other award show like the Oscars. Nobody remembers who hosted the Emmys or the Grammys (does anyone watch?).

    And yes, even Johnny Carson was a bit racy.

    Of course, if the Oscars are so lackluster, then why do they win so many Emmys?

  17. @ The Beat

    What achievement are we talking about ? About Chastain’s character’s key role in the OBL search ? I don’t see how Seth’s crack undermines that. But I am coming from the perspective of someone who is not female.So I can see why men or women might have a problem with it , because it reinforces some stereotype about women being stubborn, vindictive or something. But I laugh at it being mindful that it was poke at a stereotype, which like most have no basis in reality.

  18. While I don’t know that it really requires all that much analysis, i’d say that things like “We Saw Your Boobs” is somewhat satirical because it points out that you have all of these elegant ladies wearing elegant outfits and participating in an event that is suppose to be the height of class, and many of them showed their tits in a movie like cheap strippers. Now you can argue the aesthetics of the movie and whatnot, but at the end of the day, classy ladies – we saw your boobs.

  19. I didn’t care for Seth, but I watched the show. Well, I recorded the show, and it is so gawdawful that I am just watching it in small chunks until I eventually get through it.
    Yes, it was tasteless, but the pacing felt wrong too. Seth was slinging crap at everything, throwing little snide remarks around, but they were throwaways. Trying too hard! That’s it! He tried desperately hard at it.

    Oh well, I am difficult to please. I didn’t like the guy last year either, good old whatsisname that was on stage with Anne Hathaway. The half asleep stoner. Not sure what happened there. Anne had to save the day on that show.
    Let’s have Chris Rock return. He can be tasteless too, but HE makes me laugh at his jokes.

  20. To my mind, there are plenty of flaws about the Oscars. Some of those flaws lead into the trouble of hosting them.

    The less stuffy Golden Globes tends to make for better tv. Like the Oscars, it’s Hollywood celebrating Hollywood. The difference, as is often the case in life, is that the Golden Globes aren’t looked at with the air of prestige or historical baggage that is not only tied to but touted by the Academy and co.

    As for MacFarlane and the job he did, the jokes were like the telecast itself: to self aware and just to damn long.

    Part of the reason MacFarlane’s humor works on Family Guy or even Ted is the fact that they take place in partly fictionalized or fully fictionalized worlds with absurd elements. And the jokes come and go quicker.

  21. I don’t see how he undermined any female actresses with the boob song. Unless we are somehow suggesting that actresses stripping off their clothes (who strip off their clothes far more than male actors in movies) is some form of female expression. McFarlane is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but he was actually quite funny.

  22. As for the boobs song, he was simply making fun of Hollywood pretending to make hight art, while they really obsessed with boobs and try to find any excuse to expose some in their movies.

    Several high profile starlettes in Hollywood who have first been unwilling to do any kind of nudity have been more than willing to do so when the producers put more money on the table. So yeah, it was satire. Good enough satire for a 2 minute song? Doubtful.

    I haven’t seen much Family Guy, but the few moments I’ve seen have been ok. As for his other jokes, hit and miss. But I have a soft spot for anyone who takes the piss out of a Hollywood audience.

  23. A 15 second cutaway wouldn’t have worked because it was a silly childish concept that needed to build to a classy old timey dance number and the amazing gay men’s choir. It was silly and that’s what Seth brings. Silly, surreal humour which is needed at such a self congratulatory event. You can’t have deep satire because if you did the whole event would fall apart. Real satire would show that awards for arts are pretty much bullshit (is the best picture ever really the best picture?). You can’t really slam the rich and powerful at an event celebrating them and that’s all satire really could do in that situation. So Seth starts off with Captain Kirk traveling back in time trying to save the awards. Then there’s a song about boobs and a sock puppet version of Flight (which is up there with the funniest thing I’ve ever seen at the Oscars). The only slightly mean thing said was towards a guy who beat up his girlfriend. No cruelty just silliness and I don’t mean silly in a dismissive way, anyone who things what he does is easy doesn’t know what creating comedy is like. That guy works harder than almost anyone in show business and has since the start (he drew the entire Family Guy pilot himself). You can pull things out of context but when it’s all assembled the way it was at the awards it balances out, at least as much as it can in the world of showbiz. As for being funny, I agree with Ricky Gervais who says, ” “If someone thinks something is funny, they are right. If someone thinks that same thing is not funny, they are right. There is no argument.”

  24. Lots of people here saying they don’t see how MacFarlane was undermining women or being sexist… all those people happen to be men. What a coincidence!

    In an industry that is rife with sexism, in an award show that is historically sexist, and with a host known for his sexism… perhaps people could just listen when women point out that, hey, this is pretty sexist and dismissive and, yes, undermining?

    Heidi has written a great post here, and plenty of other women (and men) have written great articles on the same subject pointing out why this was such a depressing (if not surprising) show for women watching. If you really want to understand more, go google ’em up and have a read. If not… well, keep commenting I guess.

  25. While I don’t claim to be a McFarlane fan, I think people are making way too much out of this. And while I’ll agree his humor is a bit too crude and over-the-top for my taste, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say his jokes “undermined womens’ acheivements”. And as for all women being offended, speak for yourself. I’m a woman and I think this is much ado about nothing.

  26. @Laura – I don’t doubt that you feel like the “undermining” was going on, however I’ve yet to have that explained to me in a way that I understand. These women showed their boobs. McFarlane pointed that fact out.

  27. I have to say I think that this whole issue has been blown out of all proportion. If Macfarlane was demeaning anyone it was himself. I watched the whole thing twice through, once on the night and then again a day or so later after all the dust had been kicked up in the press. Macfarlane was obviously sticking pins into the whole show, but that’s always been the job of the host. To prove that Hollywood can take a joke. If anything is sexist it’s Hollwood as a whole and the Oscar show is a big part of that. Why on earth are we all sitting watching a parade of rich and successful women wearing painful, restrictive clothes, some of whom have barely eaten in days. There was enough Botox going on there to kill every trophy wife in Dallas.
    I’m not a fan of Macfarlane’s other work , but frankly Clooney needs taken down a peg or two and that Losers song was funny and brilliantly constructed under enormous pressure. The guy did the old school song and dance numbers pretty well, cut him some slack.

  28. “it’s just a matter of pointing out how humor is used to undermine women’s achievements.”

    If you’ve ever wondered where the “humorless feminist” stereotype comes from, just keep this blog post in mind.


  29. I think everyone is being a bit harsh. They gave Seth the hosting opportunity. They should’ve known that he was going to use family guy like humor. Everyone need to chill out, some people find his humor funny, and that’s fine with me. You can bash him for his bad taste in humor, but he’s still making great money off of his comedy so it’s working!

  30. MacFarlane gave us exactly what we were expecting. His jokes were crude and lascivious and I laughed at some and groaned at others. But mostly I laughed. As Heidi wrote, this is his schtick.

    I don’t believe Seth MacFarlane is a raging woman-hater. I think he’s an opportunist and anything taboo is money for him. But as others have stated above, lets not give him too much credit. He’s not crossing any “new” lines; his brand of edginess is not ground-breaking. He’s standing on the shoulders of actual edgy comedians like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. There will always be an audience for dick and fart jokes (and apparently boob jokes, too).

  31. Okay those of your who say the boob song was a satire on hHollywood itself — then why were all the cutaways of pained reactions to WOMEN? Shouldn’t they have been to studio heads?

    As for those who don’t see how being reduced to a body part is demeaning to women…humor is traditionally used as much to mask hostility as to gain acceptance.

    Ian, I don’t deny MacFarlane’s talent and hard work, and I really do admire the way he’s made himself a renaissance man. And of course there is no right or wrong in humor.

    That said, I did not like “We Saw your boobs.”

    And anyone who thinks Im humorless can suck my crank.

  32. The scenes showing the actresses’ being upset were, from what I understand, staged. They were done beforehand meaning the women were in on the joke.

  33. “Okay those of your who say the boob song was a satire on hHollywood itself — then why were all the cutaways of pained reactions to WOMEN? Shouldn’t they have been to studio heads?”

    Thanks for another great example of the “humorless feminist” stereotype.

    Since roughly 99.9% of the folks watching the Oscars wouldn’t know what any of the studio heads look like, cutting away to reaction shots from them would be stupid because…wait for it…IT WOULDN’T BE FUNNY.

    It’s one thing to say MacFarlane’s not funny because his jokes suck. I’ve seen plenty of examples where it’s painfully clear that he and his writers have just mailed it in on episodes of Family Guy.

    It’s another thing to say he’s not funny because his jokes don’t conform to your political/ideological agenda.


  34. MBunge: Actually the target demo of the Academy Awards — other people in Hollywood — would have known exactly WHO those studio heads were. By your own admission then, the target of the ridicule was NOT the studio heads.

    Why can’t you fellows just admit it is funny to say boobs over and over again — and make women uncomfortable in the process? I’m not arguing that this is not funny to many people, I’m just arguing that trying to defend it as cutting edge satire is clueless.

  35. I don’t think you’re humourless at all. The reason they cut to the actresses in the boob number were they were in on the bit. The first movie mentioned was Silkwood. The Jolie film was Gia. Monster, Monster’s Ball, The Wrestler, The Sessions, all stunning dramatic performances in heavy films. That Seth was smiling like an idiot while singing about seeing their boobs didn’t take any of the actresses down a notch. The premise is people thought Seth would be sexist and that he’d do something that horrible. But the sketch isn’t sexist. All of the performances mentioned are amazing and beyond reproach which is why they were used. It’s a childish song balanced by a 1940s dance number and then the gay men’s choir who clearly aren’t titillated. It’s faux sexist not sexist with the joke on people’s worries about Seth and what he’d do.

  36. Laura,

    I think you miss the point…sure…all of the people pointing out the “undermining” may be men, but it doesn’t make us wrong in pointing it out. How did his comments or jokes undermine woman in the industry and woman watching around the world? I say again, it can be construed as offensive and boorish, but how does it undermine?

    Did he undermine George Clooney when he made the joke about Clooney only dating young woman? Did George go home and cry himself to sleep because a few hundred million people got a laugh at his benefit?

    Its very simple….how does it undermine any woman? Piss them off, embarrass them, enrage them, make them laugh, whatever….but to say that he undermined them is way off base.

  37. And to be fair to the premise of the editorial. Which Oscar host has ever been a good satirist? Is the Oscars even a place for satire? Johnny Carson’s most famous Oscar joke while hosting is, “It’s great to see so many new faces, especially on the old faces.” I guess you could call that satire on the vanity of Hollywood.

  38. “MBunge: Actually the target demo of the Academy Awards — other people in Hollywood”

    Stop validating the stereotype. I’m not 100% sure what the target demo of the Academy Awards actually is, but I am 100% sure that…

    A. It’s just a tiny bit larger than “other people in Hollywood”.

    B. Whatever the target demo is, MacFarlane was brought in specifically to appeal beyond it.


  39. @Heidi M.
    Who was pissed off and embarrassed ?

    And yeah the demo the academy is aiming for is definitely not other people in Hollywood who know the faces of studio execs.

  40. Thomas Wayne – really not missing the point, though continually saying “explain, explain, explain!” is not terribly constructive either. Like I said, there is google. If you can’t understand how sexism undermines women I suggest you maybe go search… Especially if you think George Clooney was the one being disrespected in that gag o_O

    Ian Boothby – pretty much! Anytime I see a guy calling a woman a “humourless feminist” just because he disagrees with her or is shockingly blind to sexism, he’s putting himself in a far worse category than someone who wants equal rights and doesn’t find the lack of them amusing.

    And whoever said, what does it matter that it’s all men commenting here – it matters, very much. The sexism in the movie industry is not a million miles away from the sexism in the gaming and comic industries. That (many) men are constantly telling women they are humourless feminists, yeah, that’s the actual problem.

  41. Seth did basically the same joke about Selma Hayak that Tina Fey did on the last episode of 30 Rock. Does the messenger of the joke matter or just the bit? If Sarah Silverman was host did the same opening as Seth would that matter? She’s a comedian known for shock and musical numbers as well.

  42. @ Laura Sneddon
    “Especially if you think George Clooney was the one being disrespected in that gag o_O”
    Then who was Seth poking fun at ? He was making a crack about Clooney’s tendency to date women 20 years younger than himself. How was Wallis ever insulted ?

  43. It’s insulting to her if you see her as just an object in the joke. But if you see her as an amazing strong young person whose work is being honored that night and someone everyone in the room admires then the joke is on Clooney since the premise that someone like that would be arm candy for him in the future is ridiculous. The joke is about him only dating very young women. He’s the clear target.

  44. You know I’m not going to go over everything from a stupid awards show that should already be forgotten, butMcFarlane’s humorwas all about women as skeletal, arm candy, dating objects who like to show their boobs.

    “So what! That’s classic humor!” you say. Yes it is, and it’s also why as a FEMINIST I object to this extremely limiting form of humor that views women only as objects of outmoded social roles. I prefer humor that comes from the unexpected and not the shopworn.

    I suggest everyone who is reading this go watch the classic South Park episode “Eat, Pray, Queef” for actual commentary on humor and gender. No kidding!

  45. If you think it’s not worth talking about then that’s fine. You wrote an editorial piece about it and I think your premise is flawed. He wasn’t doing satire he was doing parody. There’s a difference. The Flight skit was a parody, it didn’t reveal a great truth it just mocked in an over the top silly way something that was taken very seriously, addiction. The boobs song was a parody of what a sexist sketch would have been. It wasn’t a commentary, it took the over the top Oscar style musical numbers of the past and used a silly premise to make a parody. None of the women mentioned were insulted. Many were actually in the sketch. If you want to just mock Angelina Jolie as being just a sex object there are many films you can mention. Gia isn’t one of them. None of the films mentioned are. If you want to slam Halley Berry for a nude scene you go for Swordfish not Monster’s Ball.
    Saying “McFarlane’s humor was all about women as skeletal, arm candy, dating objects who like to show their boobs.” This is where you lose me. When he was joking that Tina and Amy would be much better hosts than himself that was all about women as objects? Aside from the boob song and the slam on Clooney where were these jokes? Most of it was out and out silly. The Von Trapp sketch? Flight as sock puppets? Captain Kirk and time travel? Some was shocking like calling out Chris Brown for his abuse. There was a wide variety of humour on the show. None of it satire as far as I can see but that’s not what he does or what he was hired to do. The Oscars themselves, sexist as Hell! I’ll give you that. The red carpet is a throwback of at least fifty years where it’s all about men’s thoughts about the event and what the women are wearing. That’s where the objectification really lives. If you don’t want to talk about this anymore that’s okay. But it mattered enough to write about and it’s worth discussing.

  46. “The red carpet is a throwback of at least fifty years where it’s all about men’s thoughts…”

    So not at all like this comments thread then? >_< As someone who has written about sexism in the past, this shit is tiring to go over and over when men demand ever increasing explanations. Heidi's argument is all there in the article, any comments are a bonus.

    I just wish that more of the woman who read this site (for there are many!) felt comfortable to comment here rather than discussing it privately. Not that I blame them.

  47. Thanks for the thought provoking piece. Some of this stuff is so ingrained in our society it takes someone else, like you, pointing it out to me for me to even see it. But once it’s pointed out it’s hard to un-see, so thanks.

  48. Ian,

    I take what you say seriously because you’re an actual humorist. I think I just disagree though. But now we are approaching the “is it funny or not” escape velocity where all argument becomes useless.

    As I think I stated, my intent was not to say this isn’t funny but to say it isn’t satire. I actually thought the Christopher Plummer/Nazi/Von Trapp bit was very very funny. It was in no way satire or parody. it was a joke. And Christopher Plummer actuallY hated it since he hates the Sound of Music (which is weird, I admit). That was the kind of humor which I enjoy the most — absurdism and the unexpected. And it was not at anyone’s expense.

    At any rate I think perhaps this discussion has changed some kinds and left others untouched and maybe sparked an analysis of humor and its workings.

    Where we part ways is arguing that MacFarlane’s humor is not, if not demeaning to women, backing up the oldest stereotypes of women’s societal roles. MacFarlane’s humor is very much based on the interests and viewpoint of while New England males, as is the humor of The Simpsons with its Harvard-trained writing staff. I don’t think either show raises the bar for female characters in cartoons, but at least Lisa and Maggie get to be the viewpoint characters from time to time.

    The one person who no one has claimed is the butt of the humor here is MacFarlane himself, and that was the point of my critique of the “We Saw Your Boobs” and subsequent sketches. The alleged point was that he was a terribly offensive host, but he got away with the offensive material without price or blame, coasting on a self-absorbed cloud of tooth whitener. In MacFarlane’s humor there is no looking back or self reflection.

    And I will give MacFarlane one huge kudo: he is obviously smart enough to know that this was a one off and he will not host the Oscars again.

    BTW, I have been reminded separately that MacFarlane went to RISD at the same time as the Fort Thunder guys — now THAT would be a reunion.

  49. Did I mention earlier that I’m a woman and I’m not offended? But please, just continue ignoring commenters like me and pretend that you speak for me even though you don’t.

  50. Did I mention earlier that I’m a woman and I’m not offended? But please, ignore me and keep pretending you speak for me even though you don’t.

    Apologize in advance for possible double post. Having trouble submitting comments.

  51. i’m not a fan of macfarlane’s humor, i don’t find it offensive, my attitute towards his brand of humor is more “meh” than anything else. if other folks like his humor, more power to them , to each is own. now if it was macfarlane’s goal (and i’m not saying for certain that it was) to undermine the women he mentioned in his song, he failed. most of the women in the song are academy award winners, women that are considered great artist in their field, so mcfarlane comes along with a song titled “i saw your boobs”, sounds like something a ten year old would think up, and these great actresses did indeed show off their assets. without reservation, proudly, in the name of artistic expresstion. these are women of great confidence and with no regrets. cool. eventually the song will be forgotten or if remembered, remembered as being stupid silly dreck, while the actresses eventually become film legends.
    now if ya wanna talk about the red carpet portion of the show and how that objectifies women, yeah, that sure as shit goes on, but i don’t know if men are completely to blame for that. maybe i’m wrong but i think most guys out there could give a rat’s ass what an actress is wearing to the oscars or who designed it (most will either think the actress is a hottie or not and that will be the extent of it). if all the actresses showed up to the show wearing jeans and t-shirts most guys wouldn’t think twice about it. but women, that’s another story. last year i was in a bar in the village that happened to have the oscars on a really big big screen tv, surrounded by women, all commenting on the gowns, shoes, hair, make-up, did they look good, did they not look good, etc. , of the ladies showing up to the show and at times the comments were not kind. then there’s those fashion shows like the one hosted by joan rivers that have oscar specials that do the same thing. maybe there are guys that watch that show to check out the hot actresses and what they are wearing to the oscars, but i’m betting probably not. hey, maybe one year all the actresses and actors should show up in jeans and t-shirts, to knock the objectifying aspect of the ocsars down a peg or two and so we could all watch joan river’s head explode.

  52. Correct me if I’m wrong, but was really all his jokes about women? Because that’s what is claimed in a previous comment here. AFAIK, this is false. He made jokes about a lot of things.

    I’ve now read several reviews of MacFarlane’s show, and it seems to me, that he just can’t win. When he made jokes about George Clooney never dating actresses older than 25 he was accused of making jokes about having sex with 9 year olds. When he made jokes about Abraham Lincoln, he was tasteless. When he made jokes about himself and his movies, he was a self hater. And when he made jokes about other people in Hollywood he was a bigot and/or anti Semite.

    I’m sure if MacFarlane had made the same joke Ricky Gervais did about Charlie Sheen, drugs and hookers, he would be accused of making fun of prostitution.

  53. When women feel belittled, condescended, oppressed and men tell them that they don’t get the joke; in reality they get the joke all too well

  54. McFarlane’s “Family Guy” is said to be the top-rated TV show with teenage boys. His sexist humor and boob jokes at the Oscars were no surprise. He was playing to his core audience.

  55. Ian said:

    “I don’t think you’re humourless at all. The reason they cut to the actresses in the boob number were they were in on the bit. The first movie mentioned was Silkwood. The Jolie film was Gia. Monster, Monster’s Ball, The Wrestler, The Sessions, all stunning dramatic performances in heavy films. That Seth was smiling like an idiot while singing about seeing their boobs didn’t take any of the actresses down a notch. The premise is people thought Seth would be sexist and that he’d do something that horrible. But the sketch isn’t sexist. All of the performances mentioned are amazing and beyond reproach which is why they were used. It’s a childish song balanced by a 1940s dance number and then the gay men’s choir who clearly aren’t titillated. It’s faux sexist not sexist with the joke on people’s worries about Seth and what he’d do.”

    I would agree with all of this except to add that it is a bit of a joke (not a satire) on the male gender’s obsession with boobs; that a lot of hetero men will think of GIA or MONSTER’S BALL in terms of getting to see the tatas of famous actresses, not whatever the “high drama” was about.

    It’s not so much that feminist statements here have been humorless; rather they’re not honest about admitting that what bugs them is that any women who show their stuff, even in art movies, SEEM to put themselves in a subservient position (call it “commodification” if you must get into the barren terrain of Marxspeak). I emphasize SEEM because I don’t think that these actresses are in a subservient position, though I understand the false logic that gets people to that conclusion. For that matter, I don’t think Jenna Jameson is subservient for showing her stuff, nor does the principle apply any male actor who does the same. Do the people who buy this argument also view nude Greek statuary as “commodification?”

  56. I seem to recall Heidi making plenty of dick jokes on this site in the past. So those are OK, but boob jokes are offensive?

  57. http://www.salon.com/2013/03/02/ill_tell_you_whats_funny/

    Essay by Salon’s Andrew O’Heir. He feels the context and setting of McFarlane’s performance made it offensive:

    “He was a white guy in a nice suit doing old-fashioned song-and-dance numbers on the Oscars, and fairly or not he came across to many viewers as smugly reinforcing the male-centric power structures of Hollywood and society. (You can accuse those other comedians I mentioned of many things, but not of kissing up to power.) ”

    The others he mentions include Lenny Bruce, Sarah Silverman and Sacha Baron Cohen.

  58. I love all the apologists for Seth on here, and all those speaking out of their own privilege dismissing the concerns of those who might actually make a valid point. No, actually I don’t. People who make a living on putting others down, and on toilet humor, are far from geniuses. Those people are stereotypes of cisgendered heterosexual males in their early teens who get excited at saying “boobs,” pick their noses, and laugh at their own farts. Those who make a living only to further their own ego and the perpetuation of stereotypes of gender, who make light of pedophilia and sexual assault, and bash people of various faiths, do nothing to help further the world. This man makes billions on being a crass bigoted man-child and there are those who would defend him and wish they were him, wow, this is just scary.
    For those on here who dare slut shame those actors who bare their breasts in movies is disturbing, and is very telling of the sad state women must still endure despite being in the 21st Century. Aside from getting into the debate on how equally erotic bare chests can be across genders, these women do this not for cheap thrills but for their craft, and it takes courage to be vulnerable to tell the character’s story. I would also question if these commentor’s feel threatened by having women “strip” on screen; do they feel guilty of being aroused by such theatre, or if they simply think that a woman expressing any form of powerful expression with their body should be reserved for their “man,” or the kitchen where the working woman should be. The loud dismissal that someone may have a valid reason for being offended by what occurred at The Oscar’s highlights how scary this society is becoming; what is vulgar and crass is what is praised, what may be hateful and bigoted is praised, and anything that is based on hatred or the idea of making someone else look bad is praised and accepted.

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