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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MacFarlane performs as expected

Published: March 21, 2013
Section: Opinions

It seems as if most viewers of this year’s 85th Academy Awards left the broadcast with the same attitude that they had going into it. Those that were fans of the Academy, Grammy and Emmy nominated host Seth MacFarlane believed that he put on a successful show and those that tended to not support him previously, disapproved of his performance afterword. I am a part of the former group, being a big fan of my fellow Nutmegger (Connecticut native) Seth MacFarlane after having seen every episode of his show’s “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show.”

Before hearing, seeing and reading all of the negative comments that MacFarlane was bombarded with after the show, my first reaction was one of surprise.

I was surprised that MacFarlane’s jokes were not more offensive and inappropriate. Any of the more than 400 episodes that MacFarlane has created of his three current shows includes material that many would deem as more unsuitable than his jokes during the Academy Awards. He performed in the manner that he should have been expected to perform. The nearly four million people that follow him on Twitter can see instances of this sort of comedy every day. While I am saying that his material can be seen as inappropriate by others, I do not believe it to be inappropriate myself.

The main source of criticism of the Academy Awards was MacFarlane’s early performance which many thought was misogynistic. While not the most empowering and enlightening song, it was not meant to be sexist. It was meant to be funny, and many thought that it was. It was pre-taped so that current and previous award nominees Naomi Watts, Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron were all in on the act and thus not likely offended by it. The early usage of the vulgar song was used by MacFarlane to poke fun at himself as he would be doing with others throughout the night. He identified and admitted what sort of humor he produces and did not try to hide or change himself.

A widespread disparagement of this song and MacFarlane’s entire performance was that it was immature for the sake of being immature, without putting forward a more profound point. It is true that jokes and acts were done for the sake of laughter, and nothing else, but that is what the host is supposed to do. They are supposed to entertain the viewers; not only the few celebrities that are in the crowd, but the millions that are watching around the world. If the host was meant to solely entertain and comfort the ceremony’s attendees, there would be no need to air it on television. Even using this criterion, it appeared as if many of the subjects of MacFarlane’s jokes were amused, including Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Affleck.

Much blame has been put on MacFarlane for his joke about domestic violence between Chris Brown and Rihanna. This was not meant to downplay the severity of domestic violence but only to make a comparison between a well-known celebrity incident and a nominated film. His usage of the joke emphasizes that abuse should not be accepted or promoted. Combining humor with any topic can be helpful to understanding the subject and approaching it from a subjective and logical perspective. Bringing a topic into the public eye starts conversations about the controversial theme and allows people to think for themselves about it.

Further flak was placed on the host’s apparent homophobic comments. To say that these statements indict MacFarlane as a homophobe is ridiculous. In addition to joking about rumors of his own homosexuality, he is well known as a supporter of gay rights, which has brought him recognition from institutions like Harvard University, who named him the Humanist of the Year in 2011 for his support of marriage rights as well as other social justice issues.

Another disapproval of the ceremony was that MacFarlane’s performances were self-serving and self-indulgent. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The entire idea and purpose of the Academy Awards and award shows as a whole is to promote, recognize, and focus on those that have already completed their job and have received their fair share of attention and compensation for their work. To say that MacFarlane was self-promoting during the awards is similar to accusing an employee of an international conglomerate of working only for the money. The individual is only doing what the larger group has emphasized.

Each one of us has a different opinion of humor and what should be deemed appropriate and inappropriate. MacFarlane’s jokes were not meant to be taken seriously; they were meant to amuse. Comedy groups and individuals over the years have battled with how far to take things by challenging or disregarding rules and expectations. This is the only way to advance the creative field.