A Twitlonger note about last night:
Seth MacFarlane's hosting stint at the Oscars. Yeesh. Where to begin?
The cavalcade of "lighten up, you politically correct robots, all humor is sacred" lectures has already begun, from the well-meaning and the viciously reactionary alike.
But here's the thing... just because many subversive and worthwhile comedy routines over the years have worn an "offensive" patina does not mean that offensive bullshit is, by default, subversive or worthwhile. MacFarlane's flat, awkward, smirk-haunted performance last night had no added layers of meaning or hidden virtue.
Using a nine-year-old girl as a creepy prop for a George Clooney sex joke?
The bit about a CIA analyst's 12-year pursuit of Osama bin Laden being an example of a woman's inability to "ever, ever, ever, ever let anything go?"
Offensive humor has real power to shock people out of complacency, to frame the sins of the powerful in appropriate terms. I'm all in favor of it. The question, the crucial question, which every artist needs to live or die by, is: "Who is in my crosshairs? Am I taking a shot at the powerful, the comfortable, the deserving? Or am I taking a shot at someone who can't hit back?"
MacFarlane didn't say anything that afflicted the comfortable or comforted the afflicted. Making Hollywood royalty squirm because his jokes were uncomfortably awkward is NOT THE SAME as making them squirm because his jokes hit them where they deserved it. His jokes hit NOBODY where they deserved it.
He 'joked' about insane body image standards for women in Hollywood, but he pinned the joke on the women themselves.
He 'joked' about the proclivity of older male actors to date much younger women, but he made a fricking nine-year-old girl party to the 'joke.'
He 'joked' about a decade-long pursuit of an international mass murderer by turning it into a "Bitches! They're so crazy!" routine.
He 'joked' about bringing out the cast of a muscial because of concerns that "the show isn't gay enough yet." Oh, the hilarity! A joke about gay people and show tunes. Cutting-edge stuff. Those gay people are funny just because they exist!
Given total control of the setting, in something like, say, an animated cartoon, I don't doubt that he could have framed some of the shtick he unreeled last night in a subversive manner, on the side of the angels. But that framing was self-evidently impossible from a guy in a tux, onstage live at the heart of Hollywood's self-congratulatory power.
There was no rebellious subtext. There was no secret code. It was just smarmy cruelty.