Family Guy’s coming to life: Misogyny or retrograde?

What’s a little boob humor before an audience of millions? The debate raging loudest over Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance is whether it was unabashedly misogynistic or just pleasingly retrograde, like an old Playboy cartoon come to life.
For insiders it was probably a little of both. The cutaways featuring the actresses named in the opening song were prerecorded, meaning the women were likely in on the joke at the expense of their anatomy. But they probably weren’t privy to the script for the rest of the show, with repeated references to their appearance, weight, supposed sexual history (and future) and digs about professional tenacity being tantamount to nagging. A lot of the provocative topics were actually typical award show fodder, so maybe it’s hard to come up with a way to make that stuff seem fresh. Oh, wait: no. (Andy Samberg, as host of the Spirit Awards for IFC on Saturday, did some nudity stuff too, only he took the male stars to task for not showing enough. See? Easy.)
Naming Mr. MacFarlane as a host, a choice designed by the Academy and the show’s producers to appeal to young men, may have come at the expense of the broadcast’s biggest audience, women. Margaret Lyons breaks down why the patter that Mr. MacFarlane and his writing team came up with wasn’t innocuous. “This wasn’t an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze,” she writes in the New York Times. Yes, they were just a collection of one-liners, “but after 30 or so years, this stuff doesn’t feel like joking,” she adds. “It’s dehumanizing and humiliating, and as if every single one of those jokes is an ostensibly gentler way of saying, ‘I don’t think you belong here.’” Nine women and 30 men won Oscars on Sunday, she notes. “Actual gender equality is a ways away, but I’d settle for one four-hour ceremony where women aren’t being actively degraded.” In The New Yorker, Amy Davidson writes that “the ceremony engaged in a political fight involving women, and took the dumber side. Movies, and what women do in and to them, are better than the Academy seemed to realize.”