Seth MacFarlane speaks at the 85th Academy Awards. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
At Jezebel, Lindy West writes about what a lot of us have been feeling this week in the fallout from Seth MacFarlane’s Oscars hosting gig. I found this particularly apt:
I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school. Asking people to think critically about some hacky jokes from a dancing cartoonist? You might as well wear a sandwich board that says, “Yell at Me With Bad Grammar.”
All week I have been having trouble focusing on one subject to write about here because of this particular factor. It is not that the culture doesn’t, on a regular basis, offer up some new thing to complain about and criticize. Just this week alone we had MacFarlane and friends, who were quickly joined by the non-exclusive list of: the growing furor over Sheryl Sandberg’s apparent audacity in wearing expensive shoes while being feminist in public; some bizarre new fixation the media has on hating Anne Hathaway; a weird Philip Roth graphic that implies that Philip Roth should win a Nobel—which, by the way, is an international prize—because American writers, overwhelmingly male in this sample, think so; Mike White mentioning that his wonderful, amazing HBO series Enlightened is about to be cancelled, in part because “men aren’t interested in the woman’s story. They just aren’t.”
Every once in awhile someone writes a frustrated post about how some particular incident of this ilk is not important enough to require commentary. Which always misses what seems to me the clearer point: each time something happens in culture that reminds us of what a sexist, racist, heteronormative, classist world we live in, the pieces complaining about it are never really about just that one incident. They are motivated by an accumulated frustration because these things happen over and over again, and very little ever changes about it. At a certain point, it feels like you’re just presenting evidence to an empty courtroom.
Come to think of it, Americans just seem to be at a point—call it a legacy of Bush, but it probably has roots in earlier eras—where evidence and proof are beyond the point. Which explains why, if you like Seth MacFarlane, you must defend his “Boobs” song to the death as light-hearted satire, even in the face of people pointing out that said “boobs” were often seen in the context of rape scenes. If you think Sheryl Sandberg is incorrect as to what will properly advance women in the workplace, the only thing to do is write a column accusing her of beginning “the war on moms,” even though she is herself a mother, which likely means something else is going on.