Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Saluting And Cheerleading MacFarlane's America
Preemptive strikes of comedic self-inoculation, and the U.S. we live in

Charlize Theron, perhaps not exactly in on the "joke" during that infamous opening number Sunday night at the Oscars.  Instagram via ©A.M.P.A.S.

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Despite the title above, none of this began with Seth MacFarlane.  He's just the easiest target at the moment.  None of this is really about The Academy, which, once again, in recruiting someone niche and risqué to host its biggest night, has succeeded, even now, 72 hours after Sunday's awards, in getting people (like yours truly) to complain, on this occasion about Mr. MacFarlane's misogyny.  (Ratings for Sunday's show, by the way, were up from last year's telecast, which had Billy Crystal as host.) 

That "boobs" number went over about as well as Liza Minnelli's hideous song-and-dance in that nightmare known as "Sex And The City 2".  Both were offensive.  And offensive is exactly what The Academy wanted.  Oscars producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan replied "no" in a telephone interview with The New York Times when asked if they regretted including the infamous "boobs" routine, which was pre-recorded.  Would the routine would have received boos if it were live?  Does it matter?  Ratings are all that The Academy cares about.

The late Laura Ziskin may have turned in her grave at some of the garbage on display on Sunday.  Ms. Ziskin produced the Oscars on two occasions, the only woman to do so by herself.  The Academy knows how to manufacture ratings bonanzas, employing a "Producers" or "Bamboozled" strategy: orchestrate an offensive show, become a ratings hit.  Get people talking, ranting, raving . . . until next year.

The telecast on Sunday mirrored the way America is right now.  We know "salacious" sells and stays in our hearts most.  It's what we care for or are curious about deep down.  You know, the copious amounts of K-Y used by Jodi Arias as revealed during her murder trial (for which she faces the death penalty); what took place on the "Argentine" Appalachian trail in true Sonnets of Sanford style; what Eliot Spitzer did while his wife wasn't watching.  Or the Anthony Weiner-izing of his Twitter photo in 2011, with his "Eddie Murphy Raw" response: "it wasn't me", or, more precisely, "it wasn't mine."  Mr. Weiner later did an about face.

Mr. Murphy, who once talked about black people riding the caboose at the Oscars, was tapped to host the telecast last year.  Would-be Oscars producer Brett Ratner's anti-gay comments snuffed out that chance, as Mr. Murphy, an actor-comedian known earlier in his career for bashing gays on stage, exited stage left in 2012 after Mr. Ratner was canned by the Academy.

Mr. MacFarlane's sexist statements, border-line racist remarks about Don Cheadle as a slave to be freed by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln , and the ugly comment about President Lincoln's assassination -- all, surprise, surprise, fall squarely within today's America.  An America in which many so-called respected politicians disrespect the current president.  Where women are concerned just last year Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock respectively exhibited their own hatred of women with their comments about "legitimate rape" and pregnancy from rape as something "God intended to happen".  (Did I mention Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" moment and opining on women rushing home from work to cook dinner, during an October 2012 debate?) 

Only last week, some 148 years after the end of enslavement of blacks in America, Mississippi became the last state in America to ratify the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery but only because of Steven Spielberg's film, not out of a sense of moral conscience.  On Sunday, the same Academy which expressed shock at Mr. MacFarlane's Mel Gibson voicemail jokes didn't blink an eye as they saluted Quentin Tarantino for his "Django Unchained" screenplay, even as he frequently uttered that offensive word in press conferences promoting his film.  Mr. Cheadle semi-joked about it himself as he had to follow the director in a press gaggle after an awards show earlier this year.  Samuel L. Jackson even dared a white reporter to say the word.

Another thing: has anybody noted President Obama's lack of women in prominent second-term cabinet positions lately?  John Kerry, a nonetheless well-deserving candidate, was ushered in quickly for Secretary of State, while Susan Rice, also highly-qualified, was pilloried even before Mr. Obama officially named his pick.  Ms. Rice, it turns out, was never in the equation. 

Do you know who Virginia Messick is?
The New York Times

Hillary Clinton was shredded by men on the right wing aisle who thought she was sidestepping the Benghazi matter when she took ill in January -- and, as it turned out, had a blood clot in her brain.  There were few, perhaps no discernable apologies after news of Ms. Clinton's plight.  The future president (if she wants to be) would fight back however, in a hearing last month on Capitol Hill.  As for gun violence there weren't any apologies from the boisterous Ted Nugent or NRA gasoline artist Wayne LaPierre, whose insensitive rhetoric days after Sandy Hook in December was designed to keep the focus off gun manufacturers and the heat on him.  Mr. LaPierre's strategy largely worked.  Now pizza owners in some places in America are granting discounts to customers who come to their pizzeria armed with a gun

Welcome to America, MacFarlane's America. 

The saltiness of Mr. MacFarlane's "Family Guy" -- an animated TV series on Fox that continues to get solid ratings every week as protests of it continue -- can still be found in the halls of the U.S. Congress.  It wasn't long ago that Dick Cheney told Senator Pat Leahy to "go fuck yourself", this true-to-form from the man who once shot his shooting partner in the face and cowardly concocted a needless, phony war that killed hundreds of thousands of people who should be alive today.  These days House speaker John Boehner exhorts the Senate to "get off their ass" and do something about the imminent sequester, using language you can hear on "Family Guy".  Mr. Boehner is probably too busy playing golf to watch Mr. MacFarlane's show. 

On Sunday Mr. MacFarlane tried to preempt any likely outrage about his Oscar antics with a self-inoculating skit featuring William Shatner that was supposed to be funny.  The skit mostly fell flatter than a pancake at IHOP.  The line between humor and hatred was far wider than Mr. MacFarlane may have believed.  The intended security blanket is that something offensive is "just a joke" is meant to somehow pacify those who have been historically aggrieved parties in America.  Typically those claiming no intent to offend are of the historically favored parties and beneficiaries of America. 

Some of the same rationales were used by some when defending The Onion, which posted a disgusting, misogynist tweet about nine-year-old best actress Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, for which the CEO of Onion apologized.  Some reacted to the apology favorably, others with outrage.

For decades in Hollywood movie culture films, including the recent "Safe Haven" and this Friday's "21 & Over" have perpetuated in either a "benign" or extremely hostile way the wholesale debasing of women -- especially the latter film.  In one scene in "21 & Over", a comedy written and directed by "Hangover" scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, a drunk, unconscious male character is naked except for wearing a woman's bra, among other things, and has the words "RESPECT ME" written on his torso. 

The scene described above from "21 & Over" is more disturbing than even Mr. MacFarlane's offenses.  For a film making light of the very real attacks on and violence against women isn't a joke.  Trivializing a woman's call for respect as a human being, all in the name of "humor".  At a recent screening of "21 & Over" many young women as well as men were howling with laughter at the scene and many others. 

It's worth remembering that on the night of Mr. MacFarlane's Oscar offenses "The Invisible War" was up for best documentary feature.  One of the best, most incisive and powerful films I saw last year, "The Invisible War" details the epidemic of rape of women in the U.S. military by their male counterparts.  "Searching For Sugarman" won the Oscar, but one thing that cannot be ignored are the continuing horrors of rape. 

This week House Republicans are expected to finally pass the Violence Against Women Act, which will offer a great many resources for women who are at the mercy of violent men.  Yet some of those Republicans are objecting to provisions in the Act that would protect Native American women raped on "reservations", which, last time I checked were part of America.  And while you were watching "Family Guy", the sex -- or rather, rape -- scandal at Lackland Air Force Base has, as one observer has described it, become one of the largest rape scandals in U.S. military history, with at least 62 (mostly female) Air Force members raped or assaulted by 31 male training instructors in a four-year span from 2009 to 2012.

"It's really not as bad as it gets," Mr. MacFarlane said of his routine during his Oscar stand-up on Sunday.

The show, as they say, must go on.

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