“I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time,” DeGeneres said in a statement; she also had the job in 2007. “You know what they say — the third time’s the charm.”
Known for her cheery demeanor and love of practical jokes, DeGeneres has a style that sharply contrasts with MacFarlane’s often controversial frat-boy shtick. During this spring’s ceremony, MacFarlane described “Django Unchained” as “the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unspeakable violence — or, as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.” He also put on an elaborate chorus number about actresses in nude scenes, titled “We Saw Your Boobs.”
DeGeneres also breaks the cycle of three years of headline-making host choices, starting with the unfortunate pairing in 2011 of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. The next year, producer Brett Ratner stepped down after a fury over homophobic comments he made, with his host, Eddie Murphy, abruptly quitting, as well.
“I think this year there really may have been a desire not to make an inflammatory choice and to let the news about the Oscars be the movies,” said Mark Harris, author of “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood,” who covers the Oscars for Grantland.com.
Plus, having a female host could make up for the thrashing that MacFarlane received for his jokes about women in Hollywood (“Lot of beautiful women here tonight. And for those of you who gave themselves the flu two weeks ago to ‘get there,’ it paid off.”), which many derided as misogynistic.
“I would really not underestimate the degree to which the academy took seriously the backlash to MacFarlane from women last year,” Harris said. “It wasn’t just bloggers or journalists, it was a number of women in the industry who publicly said, ‘I have a problem with the movie year being represented by this tone.’. . . [The academy] really listens to that kind of stuff.”
The MacFarlane-led broadcast didn’t hurt for ratings despite (or perhaps because of) the controversy: About 40 million people tuned in to that ceremony, in which “Argo” won best picture, making it the most-watched entertainment program in almost three years. When DeGeneres hosted, the same number watched “The Departed” take home the top prize.
Given the viewers, some don’t think the academy, or ABC, which broadcasts the show, would deem MacFarlane a “failure.” But the executives are probably eager for the “comfortable but fun” choice of DeGeneres, said Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango, because the show can easily capitalize on her huge following on TV and Twitter.
And the diversity factor is always crucial. “I think the fact that you have an openly gay host this year, it’s really keeping with what is shaping up to be a very diverse list of potential nominees this year,” said Karger, pointing to an “unprecedented” number of African American potential best actor nominees, including Forest Whitaker in “The Butler” and Michael B. Jordan in “Fruitvale Station.”
The Oscars, airing March 2 on ABC, will be produced for the second year in a row by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the minds behind NBC’s “Smash”), who will have to brainstorm new ways to make headlines with a much safer host.
“It’s safe to say Ellen DeGeneres won’t be singing, ‘We Saw Your Boobs,’ ” Karger said.