It’s expected, of course, to complain about the Oscar ceremony the day after – it happens, after all, every year. Even Hugh Jackman’s 2009 stint, which we look back to now with a kind of desperate nostalgia, got decidedly mixed reviews at the time. But I have to say it, anyway: last night’s Oscars sucked.
This was partially due, of course, to the fact that I disagreed with most of the actual awards. I didn’t realize how much I’d wanted Emmanuelle Riva to win for Amour until Jennifer Lawrence beat her, and I let out a sound that would have been more appropriate coming from a mortally wounded animal. All of the sudden it didn’t matter that I love Jennifer Lawrence, that I loved the movie she won for, or that her speech was earnest and charming. “This is terrible,” I wailed to my Oscar party. "This Oscars is terrible. This is the worst."
So while I may not be able to blame the Powers that Be for last night’s winners, I am more than happy to blame them for the train-wreck that made up the actual telecast.
The decision to invite Seth MacFarlane to host the show was not particularly shocking, given their recent track record, and he was, indeed, predictably horrible. I’m struggling to think of more than one or two “jokes” he told that didn’t depend on sexism, racism, or homophobia, and failing. They weren’t even funny offensive jokes: they were boring and puerile, and had everybody in my Oscar party gaping at the TV more out of confused disbelief than righteous outrage (though there was some of that, too). There was just nothing funny about him, unless, I guess, you find sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and bulimia funny.
MacFarlane bears the brunt of responsibility for his material, of course, but here’s the thing: nothing about his performance last night should come as a surprise to anybody who has any familiarity whatsoever with his other work and his public persona. I’ve never even watched an episode of Family Guy, and still know that this is what he does. So the producers of this telecast should have known that, too — they must have, at least to some degree — and they still picked him.
They picked him because the Academy is having an identity crisis and has been for the past several years. They picked him because they’re trying desperately to appeal to the “young people” – which was also the rationale, let me remind you, behind James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s thankless hosting stint of two years ago. But as always, middle-aged guys don’t really have much of a clue what the “young people” actually like — or, I should say, what the young people who are remotely likely to watch their show actually like. Lots of young guys watch Family Guy, sure. But do those same guys watch the Oscars? No, they really do not.
The Academy likes to believe that everybody cares about its awards, that everybody might tune in if only they pick the right host. But let’s be real, here: the people who are going to watch the Oscars are going to watch the Oscars regardless of who’s hosting, because we actually like them, for God only knows what reason.
And the two biggest groups who will consistently tune in are a). women, and b). gay men. In light of this, picking MacFarlane seems almost perverse. But I don’t think the Academy likes to think that it should try playing to girls. Hollywood, after all, is the ultimate boys club, as MacFarlane proved last night. And they really, really do not want to let the rest of us in.