If he wasn’t insulting me as a woman, he was toying with me as a Jew – suggesting (in his Ted character) that to qualify for Hollywood Mark Wahlberg should convert to Judaism and donate to Israel – or being singularly unfunny about race: conflating Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy. If he wasn’t insulting Adele’s size – Adele for gawd’s sake! – he was giggling with smarmy glee at the women he supposed enjoyed the flu because it caused them to lose some weight. He addressed the evening to the other straight white men – the only audience that counts for him, apparently. [The first Oscars, 1929]
I truly freaked when he referred to a “bum” pissing on the DVD of his own film. What the fuck is a “bum”? A homeless kid thrown out of his house by homophobic parents? an unemployed woman trying to support her child? an addict with no access to rehab? I haven’t heard the word “bum” for a long time and I don’t want it spat into my living room.
So this guy is a comedian? Why does he need to apologize and explain his “jokes?” Because they aren’t working. Because they aren’t funny. Because he’s an asshole and even he knows it. That’s why he so self-referential, commenting on his own routines, critiquing his own schtick as he fails to squeeze any joy from the room. McFarlane is the Academy’s idea of appealing to a "younger" audience, as if through bypassing the Boomers and the legacy of our movements, Hollywood can drag women right back to the 1950s. [31st Oscars 1959]
That Seth McFarlane was chosen for the job of MC, despite being so ill-suited and so idiotic, is just the tip of the iceberg. It goes back even beyond the fact that of the 175 nominees, just 35 were women. It’s not only who is making the choices about nominations and MCs: it’s about who is making the choices about who gets to make and be involved in the movies. But then, you knew that.
The highlight of the evening, besides hangin’ with my cadre of Oscars peeps eating my potato salad, was Shirley Bassey’s astounding performance (see a short clip below). At age 76 she reprised her 1964 version of the James Bond theme song “Goldfinger” with all the gusto and pizzazz needed to truly own the evening, musically. Daniel Day-Lewis, too, rose above the rest with his acceptance speech. Meryl Streep (the presenter of his Oscar for best acting) and he had done a “straight swap,” he claimed: he had been set to play Margaret Thatcher and she was Spielberg’s first choice to play Lincoln.
The best that McFarlane could muster was a less-than-grand finale with the chirpy, squeaky Kristin Chenoweth in a duet about the losers, naming names, that reinforced the sour repulsion he had earned throughout the evening. The producers defended his entire performance as “cutting edge and irreverent,” as if white boys hating women and people of color was the latest thing. Perhaps the best line in the reviews I’ve read of the evening comes from Margaret Lyons in her piece “Why Seth MacFarlane’s Misogyny Matters,” in which she said: “This wasn't an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze.”