Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Defense of "We Saw Your Boobs"

Whoo! People are quite upset about the Oscars!!!! I have to say, the two comments about the show I found about the show were in support of it. One was in the Washington Post, and the other was by a feminist writing on the blog Flick Filosopher. Both are great reads but this post is about the second one. Read it, it's refreshingly thoughtful and smart.

I commented on her post by saying: "This is so well written and refreshing. Thank you. The only question I have is how can you (rightly) say that the Onion's tweet points out sexism, but Seth MacFarlane's boob song does not? We can't just pick and choose based on our preconceived notions."

MaryAnne Johanson (the writer) replied: "If you can give me a reasonable defense of the boob song as satire, I'll consider the possibility that it was intended as satire."

I took the time to explain where I was coming from. Below is my answer.

"First – I want to say how cool it is that you’re engaging in a discussion with your readers. I feel this kind of discourse is largely missing in society today, and we are all the worse for it. So thank you.

I feel that the boob song’s intention as satire is proved by a couple of things. One, satire is expected of Seth MacFarlane. It’s what he does on all three of his network shows, whether we enjoy those shows or not. That expectation is why he (or any Oscar host, for that matter) was hired. He only gets to be as naughty as he is because we expect him to work in satire. Since we are all well aware of that, we’re all supposed to bring that knowledge and expectation with us while we watch the show.

Two – I felt the song is ironic in a couple of ways. I will admit, we’re used to performers and writers pointing out rather loudly that they’re being ironic just to make sure we get what they’re intending. Seth wasn’t being loud in the way we’re used to. But by being so outrageous – singing about boobs at the Academy Awards – he utilized a type of verbal irony. Him venturing into extremely naughty
territory is what points out to the audience that he’s being ironic.

His performance style also betrayed the song’s intention. He didn’t coldly and flatly sing about boobs. If he had, it would be difficult to perceive it as something other than gross. But he didn’t do that, he sang gleefully, as if he were a 12 year old discovering something he likes. That cheekiness was intended as a clue to the song’s intention. And the fact that some people got it immediately (it sure played well in the house of the Dolby Theater) tells me that the intention came through loud and clear. (neither here nor there, but this also might be a good moment to point out that the reactions of the actresses he sung about that they cut away to during the song were pre-recorded.)

I also feel the sheer accuracy of the lyrics was intended to point out that we need to examine the truthfulness of the problem the song addresses.

I also want to say that for me, it was so clearly using what I mentioned above as tools of expression for it’s intention that I was
surprised that there was backlash. I also can’t think of any event in recent history that has compelled so many people to think about sexism, racism, and homophobia and also make us all question our own subconscious thoughts about them all. And that, to me, makes it art."

Then I got a reply from another commenter:

"What is the problem the boob song addressed?"

I replied:

"Well I think the boob song addressed a couple of problems. First and foremost, Seth’s excitement brings to mind the idea there’s no male equivalent to a woman showing her breasts. I’m reminded of an early episode of “Friends” where Chandler accidentally sees Rachel’s breasts and she demands to see his penis. I understood her character’s embarrassment and frustration, but it never sat well with me that we were supposed to agree that showing breasts is the same as showing a penis.

More importantly, the song points out it’s pretty clear that Hollywood (and maybe audiences as well) demand female nudity far more than male nudity. That actresses, many while at the top of their game, feel it necessary to bare their breasts in order to stay relevant. Halle Berry, Charlize TherĂ²n and Kate Winslet all went topless in the roles that won them their Oscars. Even Meryl Streep did it. Meryl Streep!

I think that’s why Seth used the Los Angeles Gay Males Chorus (which was awesome!) – to add a level of absurdity to help drive his point home.

What’s also disconcerting to me is I can’t even remember the last time I saw male nudity in a movie. But I can remember a couple of years ago when Jennifer Aniston got press for shooting a topless scene for her movie “Wanderlust,” and the scene itself was omitted in the final cut! What does this say about Hollywood? What does this say about its audience/ourselves?

That’s what I was thinking about when Seth was singing so gleefully. I was smiling, laughing, and nodding my head while saying “He’s so right.”

Just something to think about. I think it's important to examine other perspectives, and not hold on to what we assume.

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