Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Woman Defends The Oscars

I realize that in this day and age, everyone with an opinion has a laptop or a tablet or a smartphone that makes the dissemination of their opinion far too easy.  That's why I have a blog.  I also realize that some people (including, or perhaps especially those being paid by online magazines/journals/blogs) are contrary just to gain more views for their publication.  After all, more views means more ads and more recognition, which means there's a possibility of finally getting that more pay, which will most likely go to upgrading said laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Heck, more often than not in a debate, I play the Devil's Advocate because it starts out as being more fun.  Debates are only fun if there's an opposing, passionate exchange, or maybe that's just me harboring overly-romanticized notions of what constitutes a debate. In case you were wondering, the comments pages of any online article or video that include numerous misspellings, sentiments similar to  the idea that any of our elected politicians are, in fact, the Anti-Christ, or are angrily defending pop-culture tweens DO NOT count as debates.  More often than not my arguments dissolve as I realize that, although it is fun to oppose just for the sake of opposition, I, should have thought my points out a little more, instead of laying out an argument that plays directly into my opponent's hands.  That being said, I enjoy these exchanges of points of view because sometimes it's fun to make others question their own ideas, and it's fun to explore the notion that, maybe, just maybe there's more than one way of looking at something.  In the vein of being a thorn in the Internet's side, I'd like to submit the idea that the 2013 Oscars, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, were NOT, in fact, misogynist.  If all of my arguments fail, I'll simply resort to calling those people with opposing opinions dummies, like all of the other great online debates of our time.
 I was prepared for a backlash against the Oscars telecast, after all, part of the new tradition of the Oscars is complaining about them.  Popular complaints include:  They're boring, they're too predictable, they're not predictable enough, the wrong movie won, the right movie wasn't even nominated, does the Academy even WATCH the movies, they're out of touch, they weren't hosted by Billy Crystal for the twentieth time in a row, etc. etc. All of these are valid points, and worthy of their own debates, and I've even been known to shout some of these things at my television from time to time.  This year, however, the response to Seth MacFarlane's hosting seemed to take an angry and primal turn as cries of "MISOGYNIST!" echoed (quickly) through the webisphere, mostly due to the singing of a song precisely (and accurately) titled "We Saw Your Boobs".  
As a woman with breasts, I will say, I was 100% NOT OFFENDED by this song.  I thought it was hilarious and written in the vein of poking fun at the Hollywood industry who only recognizes performances that are gratuitous in some manner.  By that I mean the roles that are the brass rings of Hollywood are the ones that require, "a bearing of one's soul". That phrase is an "artist's" way of saying, you're either going to have to get uglier or prettier, get fatter or skinnier, or show some skin, most likely in the pursuit of playing someone more famous than yourself, because let's face it, if there's one thing the Academy loves more than a singing prostitute it's a biopic about a famous singing prostitute.
The beauty of the world today is that, if you're a woman taking on one of these roles, you are well compensated.  You are forewarned, usually upon reading the script, that this role will in fact, require any of the above.  You also enter into a contract that agrees "yes, I will show my breasts" or "Yes, I will gain 30 pounds" or "Yes, I will agree to have my hair shaved or cut into a mullet" in exchange for making enough money that will allow me to buy three homes for my parents and two homes for myself.  Or, at the very least, I will agree to do the above in order to make enough money to move out of my parents' garage and fix my Mazda Miata.  This contract isn't misogynistic, it's a business transaction.  If they felt it was misogynistic, do you know what any actress would most likely be allowed to do?  Turn down the role. 
If you want to blame the industry for being misogynistic or sexist, that's one thing, but don't blame MacFarlane (and the Oscar writers) for simply pointing it out and making fun of it.  Blame the people who voted for Anne Hathaway or Helen Hunt, both of which were more "artistically naked roles" over the always fully clothed, but still artistically unstable Mary Todd Lincoln portrayed by Sally Field.  Blame the female producers of such films (Les Miserables had at least 4 female producers/associate producers and The Sessions had at least 3 women) who didn't demand a Puritanical point of view, blame the millions of women who bought tickets to Les Miserables (because that Hugh Jackman is so dreamy) for not standing up for their fellow sisters and demanding more female roles that don't require women to shave their heads and lose 15 pounds or take off their shirts.
In fact, if you really want to talk about sexism and misogyny, let's talk about Zero Dark Thirty, a film made by a woman, and by many accounts a good to great film made by a woman.  At the beginning of November, this film was practically an Oscar frontrunner.  And then a couple of senators said to the American public "oh no, there are torture scenes in this movie, YOU shouldn't go see it".  And you know what?  The Academy began to distance itself away like the movie was a celluloid version of the black plague.  This film, one of the few, if not THE ONLY, films to feature an incredibly strong, non-sexulized female lead character, who is in no way reliant on her looks, and the Academy decides that it's basically expendable. I'm not saying that it's conspiracy against women in film, but I'm saying, it is a bit, shall we say, "suspicious".
I find the evidence of MacFarlane's misogyny, severely lacking.  While "We Saw Your Boobs" may have been funnier if it had also included references to any of the male cast members of Magic Mike (or in fact, any movie featuring a man de-shirting, almost strictly to appeal to the female audience) it was more a song of observation than judgment.  There seems to be more tossing around of the word "misogyny" now than there ever was with any of the adaptations of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", which I think, we can all agree, crossed the line far more than a 2 minute song in a 3 hour long telecast.
It's also interesting to me that another joke of the night that has been vilified in the media is a joke taking a swipe at a convicted misogynist, Chris Brown.  Rhianna's inability to stay away from her ex-boyfriend who was sentenced to jail time for beating her, is why this situation still continues to assert itself in pop culture.  You know what would make those easy-target jokes go away?  If you didn't continue going to clubs with a man who bruised your face beyond recognition.  Although perhaps a cheap shot, I think MacFarlane's swipe also points out more how necessary a dialogue about returning to abusers is needed in our society.  The fact that women still feel the need to be defined by a less-than-acceptable man is something that I perhaps will never understand.
Let's not act as if we're all blameless in society either.  You know what else denigrates women far more than any Oscar telecast? Standing in line at the grocery store being told about the newest way to lose 10 pounds in 5 days or how you can keep your home organized or make the perfect Valentine's dinner for your man.  So unless you're a woman who has never bought a magazine, who has never gone to see a movie or who has never, ever judged that person on the stairmaster next to you at the gym, I'm pretty sure you're just as guilty as Seth MacFarlane was on Sunday's telecast.  The difference was he willingly made himself an easy target.  All of the complainers do realize they're playing into his hands right?  His monologue set up the idea that he was going to get a backlash.  He sang a song named "We Saw Your Boobs".  It's not like he was hiding behind anything.  But it's always easier to point out the obvious and rail against the simplistic than it is to actually tackle the subject in real life.  So again, the Internet has taken the easy way out and again, I've fallen for it.  I'm such a sucker.
Well, whether I enjoyed the Oscars because of the bounty of musical numbers (another big complaint of the night) or because I find Mr. MacFarlane a little bit dreamy especially while singing and looking dapper in a tux  (yup I'm not above objectifying an attractive man with a sense of humor) one thing is certain: one telecast will not make a gender problem that has existed since the beginning of time disappear.  How are we all so AWARE that there are issues with race, sexuality, weight and gender differences, but so few are willing to change anything about them in our real life and only when they're pointed out in a manner that makes us uncomfortable is there a 24 hour backlash?
Don't worry Seth, tomorrow, someone else will say something stupid and you'll be off the hook. I mean look at it this way.  The year James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted, everyone said it bombed.  Franco's now the Wizard of Oz and Hathaway's an Oscar winner.  If you're willing to take that musical adaptation of Midnight Cowboy that's been floating around Hollywood, you might be an Oscar winner in 2015.

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