Apparently we are supposed to excuse Seth McFarlane’s misogyny and racism on the grounds that he was being funny, and sending up Hollywood stereotypes, and it was edgy and really we should admire him for being so transgressive.
I think MacFarlane wanted to shock. That’s why the built-in false-angry reactions by a few of the women mentioned in the song. We are supposed to admire his gall at shocking those famous actors and being naughty while doing so. Except that jokes about boobs or talking about boobs or pictures about boobs are not shocking. They are boringly universal and impossible to avoid on the Internet. There’s nothing subversive about such jokes. Indeed, they are as traditional as white sliced bread and Miracle Whip.
So what would something really subversive and transgressive look like at the Oscars? Something that really set out to subvert the dominant structures, and speak truth to power?
There is so much material. Here’s a suggestion. What about a song based on the Bechdel test? As it turns out, just three of the nine pictures nominated for best picture at the 2013 Oscars pass the Bechdel test, and even then, some of those three movies only scrape in by meeting the technical requirements of the test. And those standards aren’t even very high: all a movie needs to do to pass the test is to have two or more female characters, who have names, who have a conversation, that is not about a man.
I can imagine a great routine based on parodying movies that don’t pass the Bechdel test. And I can imagine senior movie makers squirming in their seats as they are called out for their on-going insistence that women don’t matter, or that they only matter as accessories to men. That would be speaking truth to power.
And you could run a similar routine with respect to people of colour in Hollywood movies. That would be very telling indeed. How many mainstream Hollywood films have characters played by people of colour, with names, who have a conversation, that is not about a white person. Even The Help struggles to pass this one.
Of course, you would have to do a bit of thinking, and a bit of research, to carry these routines off. And you would be in danger of offending people who have power in the industry you work in. But that would be truly subversive and edgy humour.
Also, before you say, “Can’t you take a joke?”, the answer is, as I said to my lovely friend Megan, “Yes. I can. But this wasn’t a joke.” There’s a reason why “Can’t you take a joke?” is the centre block in anti-feminist bingo.