Friday, March 01, 2013

The Crass and the Furious

Today's column for the Daily Banter -- actually it was posted last night but after traveling I was way too tired to write any more about it -- is once again all about our long national nightmare: The Oscars. And our ongoing insane furor over Seth MacFarlane and The Onion.

Here's the opening shot:

"After the Social Media and Politics panel that we participated in last night at East Tennessee State University, Bob Cesca, Feministing’s Vanessa Valenti and I — along with our gracious host, “Comedy Fred” Poag — sat down at a comfortable table in the bar of our hotel for a couple of drinks. The panel discussion had gone well, with each of us making the points I think we wanted to make about where social media is leading us and what effect it’s having on the way we communicate, think and vote. But once we’d retired to our dimly lit spot near the fireplace just off the lobby of the Carnegie hotel and I’d gotten a pint of Gaelic Ale in me, I turned to Vanessa and dropped the question I’d been interested in asking all night but didn’t want to bring up at the panel because the road it would’ve led down would no doubt take us far away from the basic topics we were asked to discuss. That question, again posed to the founder of Feministing, was, 'Okay, so, what do you think of controversy over the Onion tweet?'"

Read the Rest Here

By the way, I also wanted to point out two columns that manage to sum up my feelings about this ridiculous outrage over a couple of jokes and a scathing piece of satire almost perfectly. They put it so damn well that I'm jealous I didn't write them myself.

First, from start to finish, Scott Mendelson over at the Huffington Post nails the necessity of the kind of stuff The Onion does, even the stuff we don't like, and points out why the Quvenzhané Wallis comment, shocking as it was, matters:

"Those decrying The Onion, a satirical newspaper, for running an offensive tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis are possibly missing the point. Obviously this wasn't someone online expressing an honest opinion about how they felt about a nine-year-old actress celebrating her first Oscar nomination. It wasn't Rex Reed calling Melissa McCarthy a hippo or Brett Easton Ellis whining that Kathryn Bigelow wouldn't be considered a great director if she wasn't a hot white woman who made manly war pictures. This was an intentionally offensive, knowingly disruptive statement intended to provoke outrage and offense sent out by a technically 'fictional' twitter avatar. Sadly, it wouldn't have been as shocking if an even slightly older woman had been called a 'cunt.' Because we do that all the time.

Oh, we're fancier about it and we use nicer language. But we call women 'cunts' all the time. We do it when we complain that Anne Hathaway just annoys us for no good reason, or that she earns our ire because she's just too damn energetic or just wants 'it' too badly. We do it when we obsess endlessly about Michelle Obama's new bangs or her bare arms. We do it when we ignore Angelina Jolie's humanitarian work and still see only 'that bitch' who stole Jennifer Aniston's man. We do it whenever we turn any slight disagreement between two females into a 'feud' and/or 'cat fight' or when Jessica Chastain has to publicly declare that she really isn't feuding with Jennifer Lawrence based purely on fabricated gossip. We do it when we obsess more about Jennifer Lawrence's success as a red carpet fashion princess than as a twice-Oscar nominated (and now Oscar-winning) actress. We do it when we express our alleged outrage at The Onion and then immediately click on a slideshow of the various dresses that the actresses wore in order to snark or pointlessly compare.

We do it when we lionize female stupidity and then decry that women made to be vain or stupid are considered role models. We do it when we treat every accomplishment of every would-be successful woman as merely a prelude to the ultimate accomplishment that is childbearing. The message is clear: Women of accomplishment deserve our scorn rather than our admiration, and the only thing that should really be admired about a woman are her looks, her fashion sense, and/or her ability to be a mom. Those decrying the fact that Wallis is a nine-year-old African-American child only open themselves up to the fact that it would apparently be okay to call her a cunt if she were a 21-year old white lady. Those saying that Wallis's feelings may have been hurt are A) missing that she was merely a vessel for satire and not a target of criticism and B) she likely never would have found out about it had the outrage machine not charged in full force putting it to the front pages of the online news all day long...

The Onion arguably took the fall for our national misogyny. Maybe they really are the satire we need, rather than the kind we think want. So belittle and criticize The Onion because it can take it. Because it may have just done a mitzvah. The Onion, by cutting through the niceties, has created what has the potential to be a teachable moment. For the fault lies not in The Onion, but in ourselves."

Then there's Drew Magary in GQ, who cuts through all the bullshit and just spells out the absurdity of the backlash to Seth MacFarlane's stint as host of the Oscars (a job I'm now convinced no one in their right mind would take anymore):

"I'm not a Seth MacFarlane fanboy. I've always been staunchly pro-"Simpsons" and anti-"Family Guy". I never watch any of MacFarlane's other shows, either. And I'd take a bullet to the dome before watching five minutes of "Ted". So I'm not in the tank here when I say that MacFarlane, all things considered, did a perfectly adequate job hosting the Oscars on Sunday night. He took a thankless task and the worst audience in show business and managed to, at the very least, slip in a few subversive wisecracks AND keep his energy level high for four straight, interminable hours. At this point, I don't really know what else you want from an Oscar host. If people aren't bitching about Billy Crystal being too mild, they're bitching about MacFarlane being too harsh on a group of people that DESERVE harshness.

This week, MacFarlane's jokes were subjected to the kind of microscopic analysis reserved for quantum particles. From Gawker to Slate to The Atlantic, there was string of PhD-length discourses about the underlying sexism, racism, homophobia, and whatever-elsephobia of MacFarlane's humor. The scrutiny was enough to obliterate comedy as we know it. Of course MacFarlane made tasteless jokes at the Oscars. That's what he does, and I think it's pretty clear that MacFarlane has no real malice when telling these kinds of jokes. But Jesus Christ, the way people reacted to his "We Saw Your Boobs" song, you would have thought he personally assaulted every actress in Hollywood. Give me a fucking break. We're never gonna shame tasteless comedians out of work, and we shouldn't! Tasteless humor is FUN, and it shouldn't be legislated by people who think certain people have the right to tell a certain joke and certain people don't. Piss off. Seth was fine. If you thought he was unfunny, fine. I get it. But you don't have to exhaust the dictionary explaining why. Quit ruining comedy for everyone."

Spot. Fucking. On.


Anonymous said...

The Macfarlane boobs sketch was funny for 5 seconds. Someone brought this up already, maybe on DXM but somewhere. (I'm reading so much on this I'm forgetting my sources.) If it had ended there, okay. Within the context of ironizing the bit self-reflexively to comment on its awfulness and thereby defuse its awfulness, it works.

But it went on agonizingly long. Way, way, too long. But I guess is a standard trope that you see on shows like Family Guy and South Park (the rake sketch, the anal probe sketch). You play the thing way past the point where it isn't funny anymore and then maybe it becomes funny.

Also, a long long way to go for a joke with the Gay Men's Choir.

Lena Dunham is now commenting on its offensiveness? Really? Wow. In light of some of the stuff that goes on with Girls, that's rich.

At this point, it's all piling on.

JohnF said...

Guh, why did I click on a link to HuffPo?
I now feel dirty. And dumber.

Matt said...

Every time the outrage machine kicks in over something like this I hear Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons screaming "Won't someone think of the children!!!" I can't decide if people can't parse the different points that are being made or if they are selectively blind to the overall meaning of an article, statement, or comedy bit.