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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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Domestic Violence, Misogyny, and the Sexualization of Children — or as Hollywood Sees It, Oscar Humor

Domestic Violence, Misogyny, and the Sexualization of Children — or as Hollywood Sees It, Oscar Humor

The Academy Awards have never really been about truly celebrating the excellence of film. From the beginning, as Peter Bogdanavich recalls Cary Grant describing it:

“Well, it used to be fun. It wasn’t this big thing. It was a party. We’d all just sit around and get drunk and then we’d get up and say, ‘All right, Freddie March, we know you’re making a million dollars, come on up and get your little award.’ “

And Jimmy Stewart echoed that. It was like the Golden Globes today; everybody sat around and got bombed.

The Oscars are about the Hollywood elite rewarding the rest of the Hollywood elite. Only very recently, starting in the late 1980′s actually, did the television broadcast of the Oscars become more mainstream entertainment for the masses than a private party for Hollywood. As a result, we tend to forget the fact that at the end of the day, the Academy Awards are meaningless as a symbol of talent or merit, and all about the political nature of film making.

Of course, with the development of mainstream interest in the awards comes the need to make the ceremony into a show in and of itself. To that end, the presentation is designed in an effort to appeal to viewers at home. That is the only explanation for the baffling decision to choose Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and writer-director-star of the raunchy and offensive film Ted, to host last night’s show.

While the Academy Awards themselves have never actually been little more than a joke in terms of rewarding talent or celebrating those who deserve it, there is nevertheless a certain level of decorum and class that the Oscars should have. If Hollywood wants to see the award as legitimate, the show itself must be treated with the respect that the Oscar represents.

Which is why the choice of MacFarlane, whose only contribution to cinema is an R-rated “comedy” about a foul-mouthed teddy bear devoid of actual comedy, had me scratching my head and refusing to watch the broadcast. But I didn’t actually believe that he would go as far as he did last night.

As the Internet liveblogged the Oscars, I was treated to the endless stream of horribly offensive “jokes” that MacFarlane told. While making fun of celebrities at the Oscars is nothing new, MacFarlane took it to a whole new level and targeted more than just individual actors and actresses. He made women on the whole the target of his most brutal jabs. Here are just some of the things he said:

-      “We have finally reached the point in the show where Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, or Selma Hayek comes on stage, and we have no idea what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive. Please welcome Selma Hayek!”

-      “This [Django Unchained] is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”

We Saw Your Boobs

-      He sang what is now being dubbed “The Boobs Song.” It included the lyrics “We saw your boobs, we saw your boobs. In that movie that we saw, we saw your boobs” and called out Meryl Streep, Naomi Watts, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Marisa Tomei, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Chastain, Jodie Foster, Hilary Swank, Penelope Cruz, and Kate Winslet all by name.

-      He insinuated that women attending the ceremony mysteriously got the flu in the weeks leading up to the show, allowing them to fit into their dresses.

-      He said, “Of our next two presenters, at least one of them is honest about being a former exotic dancer” to introduce Jennifer Aniston and Channing Tatum.

-      “To give you an idea of just how young she [Quvenzhanè Wallis] is, it’ll be sixteen years before she’s too old for Clooney.” Wallis was the 9-year-old Best Actress nominee.

But MacFarlane wasn’t the only offender of misogyny last night. Kristen Stewart, already the victim of slut-shaming for her tryst with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, arrived at the ceremony on crutches after sustaining a foot injury. Every time she is on the red carpet, people point out that she doesn’t smile, as if actors must perform the role of the happy star or starlet even off the big screen. This article rightly points out that actors like Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, among others, don’t tend to smile in red carpet photos, but they don’t get called out for refusing to smile like Stewart is every time she walks the same red carpet.

Add to this the fact that Stewart was not permitted to bring her crutches on stage with her, or pose for official red carpet photographs last night using them. While posing for the photographers on the carpet, she tripped and shook her leg in nervousness and obvious pain. She had a great deal of difficulty walking on the stage at the Awards. And the Internet, of course, began to crack jokes about how she must have been on drugs.

After the highly inappropriate remark McFarlane made about Quvenzhanè Wallis, The Onion took it upon themselves to tweet the most offensive comment of the entire evening, which has since been deleted due to backlash:

Onion Joke

It is still a mystery as to what the comment itself was supposed to accomplish. What 9-year-old girl has done something to warrant being called the most offensive of gendered insults? Why can 16-year-old Chloe Grace Mortez use the word in a film, while Quvenzhanè Wallis must suffer the indignity of being called that same word?

The Academy Awards will never be a safe place for women to shine. For every Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscar that is presented, there will always be the Best Actor Oscar that is seen as more prestigious. The women attending the ceremony will be discussed only in the context of what outfit they were wearing that evening. And jokes about female breasts and the sexualization of a 9-year-old girl will garner laughter and applause.

The issue is much bigger than Seth MacFarlane: There were producers who approved the Boob Song and the joke about Quvenzhanè Wallis. And the misogyny that exists within Hollywood legitimized it.

Written by Taylor Morgan