The Oscars got political again this year, though clearly not in the way many viewers may have preferred. Social media hummed with a cacophony of righteous clicks, but it was a drumbeat of outrage against the night’s master of ceremonies, Seth MacFarlane. Discontent, expressed in 140 characters or less, made a mad cadence down many a timeline before MacFarlane could even get through his performance of “The Boob Song”.
“Can someone kill seth macfarlane on stage that would be nice,” was typical of some of the more hardcore tweets. Even NPR weighed in this morning about how the reviews of MacFarlane were less than stellar in some parts.
But anyone familiar with Seth MacFarlane’s work expected him to teeter over the knife’s edge of good taste. This is the dude who created “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show.” Someone with more power than MacFarlane even gave him the opportunity to hit The Big Screen, and Seth gave us “Ted.”
And last night was just as fresh. I don’t want waving peace signs. I don’t want an explicit request for greater diversity in the industry that purports to show us, bigger than life and in HD. I don’t want seductive yet vaguely paternalistic expressions of respect for women actresses. You want that? Dig in the crates. You’re gonna have to go back in the Academy Awards days to get that display of political correctness.
Me? I want exactly what I got last night. I want a 9-year-old black girl flexing muscles for millions of other 9-year-old black girls to see. (Beast it, Quvenzhane!) I want Robin Roberts bald and beautiful. I want Octavia Spencer just a little bit cocky on the mic. And I want a host willing to push buttons that will keep the audience awake, engaged, clicking about more than smoky eyes and body size.
Give me whole songs that are questionable, even outrageous, almost offensive. Comedy is the brutal art. It is supposed to hurt. So give me more of Oscar Night 2013, please.
And all the talk the day after.
So let’s offer a counter-narrative to all the negative talk about last night’s show. What does The Boob Song really mean? That Seth McFarland is a sexist, well, boob? Or, does the lyrical accuracy of Seth’s song and dance mean that we need to examine this truth - that Hollywood demands full-frontal female nudity? That nearly every actress that town produces, each a woman of incredible talent, must, at some point in her career, even sometimes at the pinnacle of her career, reveal her breasts? That Hollywood hates its women? That America hates its women?
I dug how Seth walked the racial line, too. The Denzel-played-in-the-Nutty-Professor-movies joke? That could have been a line from the seminal, ground-breaking, biting satire of Black life in Tinsel Town, Hollywood Shuffle. Yeah, that was a good line. Give it to me.
Give me McFarland’s perfectly-pitched awkwardness with just a pinch of diffidence. And with all that, give me the best news of all: At least this year, the show was memorable.
A few years after Hollywood Shuffle was produced, Phife Dog swore he’d “Never let a statue tell me how nice I am” on A Tribe Called Qwest’s “Award Tour”. In the defiant spirit of Golden Age hip hop, in celebration of the sheer numbers of black folk in the house last night, and (finally!) pushing past the Django juggernaut, here is a list of awards and shouts for folk from the red carpet to the last category called:
- Shout to Roshumba Williams for saying Quvenzhane Wallis’s name and not calling her “Little Q” on the red carpet.
- Tie for Best Keep it Real Moment: Kerry Washington on the red carpet for joking about how she poured a little out for the brothers upstate, and Queen Latifah just before the show for throwing up real hood peace signs and a smile.
- Two extra, unrelated shouts to The Queen: One for rescuing Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger last night, and another for never insisting that we call her Miss Dana Owens. I see you, East Orange!
- Shout to Quevenzhane’s mamma for dressing that child like a child should be dressed
- Shout to Octavia Spencer for working that dress: Make Way for the Big Girrrrls!
- Shout to Chris Tucker. You still look good, Smokey.
- Award for Most Beautiful Human Who Ever Played an Alien who Kinda Sometimes Looks like an Alien in a Really Beautiful Way: Zoe Saldana.
- Award for Best Sisters in Spirit Moment: Halle Berry and Robin Roberts. Said Halle: “So glad you’re here.” Said Robin: “I am. I am here.”
- Shout to Adele for channeling her Inner Black Girl on the red carpet (“I feel like Beyonce.”) and on stage (“And my man. I love you, baby!”)
- Awkward Award: Jamie Foxx. Don’t hit on the Destiny’s Child interviewing you while your college-aged daughter is standing right next to you, brother.
- Award for Best Re-Enactment of a Film using a Brown Sock Puppet: Seth McFarland
- Award for Best Crushed Velvet: Sam L.
- Shout to Shirley Bassey. I didn’t need to Google you to know you belong to us, sis.
- Award for Biggest Surprise of the Night: Michelle O.
- Award for the Biggest Winner who Lost Last Night: Quvenzhane takes it again. She the man.
- Award for Turn. Ing. It. Out.: J Hud. Say, word. Cuz I ain’t goin nowhere neither, chile.
Eisa Nefertari Ulen is author of the novel Crystelle Mourning. She lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.
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