Pete Hammond

The debate rages on about this year’s Oscars. Not about the movies that won or lost, but the host. Poor Seth MacFarlane just can’t seem to catch a break. If you believe what you read he is either a misogynist, a gay basher, an anti-Semite hiding behind a stuffed teddy bear, or someone who is just downright disrespectful to Abraham Lincoln. And you thought hosting the Oscars was going to be all fun and glamour?

Somewhere along the way we seem to be losing our sense of humor. It’s just an awards show, folks.  Even if you don’t think he was funny — and apparently many don’t — it’s no reason to completely eviscerate the guy. For fronting a show that was alternately class (Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, musical numbers) and crass, he has been getting bashed from the right and the left for his Oscar-night performance where his routines, among  many other charges, have been blasted as sexist (particularly for the musical number, “We Saw Your Boobs” which was meant to be a tasteless parody of a bad Oscar song number). For MacFarlane, who is known for edgy humor, this was relatively mild material. Yet critics like Amy Davidson in the New Yorker called it  his “ugly, sexist, racist Oscars” and his performance, “a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane”. Ouch. The Anti-Defamation League joined the chorus earlier this week protesting the appearance of MacFarlane’s Ted and what they said was anti-Semitic humor. Yesterday a couple of California female legislators even filed a formal protest with the Academy over what they saw as offensive treatment of women.

It’s ironic that several women are now coming to MacFarlane’s defense, including Victoria A. Brownworth today at the Advocate.com, who said his humor was pointing out Hollywood hypocrisy against women and in fact gave his performance a ringing endorsement. The Academy itself got pro-active in sending press members positive statements about MacFarlane’s Oscar gig, offering a strong defense. All of this brings up the point that perhaps a “double standard” was at work here when compared to the media’s effusive praise for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the two female hosts of this year’s rival show the Golden Globes — even though some of their comedy bits dealt with some of the same subject matter as MacFarlane’s including women’s difficulties with issues of weight. So is there a real double standard at work? Fey and Poehler gets raves, MacFarlane gets vilified.

There’s no question MacFarlane’s performance was hit and miss and he doesn’t have the spot-on comic timing of a Bob Hope or Johnny Carson (two role models he singled out as inspiration in taking on this gig) but is it really worth this national debate? It’s no wonder he’s sworn off hosting the Oscars again even though ratings were up and, with the younger demo so coveted by the Academy significantly up.

Ultimately it just proves again that hosting the Oscars in a day and age where you are being reviewed, tweeted, discussed and dissected in real time as the show progresses is a different gig than when Hope and Carson made it seem so effortless and well, funny. It reminds me though that it might not even be so easy for Hope if he were around in this very PC era of Oscar watching. A few years ago I was seated at a table with Steven Spielberg who was a nominee for the Broadcast Critics Award that year. The awards were held at the Santa Monica Civic, site of several Oscar shows in the 1960s. Making small talk, I mentioned that correlation to Spielberg and even repeated a quip Hope made when he opened the 1962 Oscar show there with a reference to that year’s Best Picture nominee about the Nazi trials, Judgment At Nuremberg. “Welcome to Judgment at Santa Monica,” I told the director of Schindler’s List that Hope had joked. He cooly dismissed it saying, “It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now.”

Everyone’s a critic when you’re hosting the Oscars.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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