Its been four days since the Academy Awards and I’ve just read another feminist blog post talking about Seth Macfarlane’s overly sexist performance as this year’s emcee. The “I Saw Your Boobs” song and a joke about George Clooney eventually having sex with Quvenzhané Wallis, who is currently 9 years old, tend to get the most attention. While this hasn’t exploded quite like the Daniel Tosh rape-joke debacle last year, its really touched a nerve and, for no good reason, I’d like to chime in.
Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the Academy Awards (see previous blog post). I did watch the “Boobs” song to see what the fuss was about (its pretty bad), and I don’t really need to hear the Quvenzhane Wallis joke to know its just wrong. I’ve also read or watched all the questionable jokes/comments at this point. In general it sounds like Macfarlane was given a slew of frat-boy humor to tell with the curious goal of expanding the Academy Awards demographic to attract more male viewers in all the wrong ways. So lets talk about demographics and their relationship to this show.
I should start by stating that yes, Seth Macfarlane’s performance contained a lot of sexism. Unlike Ricky Gervais’ hilarious roasting at the two Golden Globes awards, which included really hard jabs at lead male actors and the Hollywood establishment in general, Macfarlane’s bits tend to revolve around how women are vacant and annoying. This is questionable for a telecast that skews 62% FEMALE (link), and is referenced as the “Super Bowl For Women“. And while some people might think that title is sexist, too, (see link) its a really important way to think about the Oscars relative to female demographics.
You see, in TV and movies you have to have a target demographic. Its primarily a tool for advertisers; if your show’s demographic targets men ages 18 – 30 (see Family Guy) then the companies who buy advertising space on that show are going to be different than the companies who buy ads during Glee. Demographics can include lots of things: income, race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation. Documentaries and political programs, for example, can get pretty narrow. Generally if you can expand your demographics its seen as a good thing because you attract more advertisers. Now this isn’t always true. Sometimes you nail your demographic so hard other TV stations don’t even try to fucking compete, they just counter program in a completely different demo and accept the loss (See “Glee” at 9pm vs 1600 Penn and 2 dramas that started at 8:30. Guess who’s getting the young female audience ad revenue?). The Oscars are way, way bigger than Glee, tho, and has the potential for way more $ in advertising dollars so it makes sense for them to expand. But the way they did it further proves my suspicion that Hollywood has no idea what its doing, and when they do something right its completely by accident.
How to fuck up a race your winning that has no other participants
In recent years, the Oscars seemed to have embraced its demo. They play up the red carpet show as much as the ceremony itself. The show is produced by two men who specialize in musicals. This year in particular the awards show was compared to the Tony awards because of its numerous musical numbers and paying tribute to recent musical films like Chicago (having been the last musical to win Best Picture). These are what I call GOOD DECISIONS. Women make up the majority of the demographics for musicals and fashion shows. The Oscars have a huge female audience. GIVE YOUR AUDIENCE WHAT IT WANTS. Now yes, gay men watch these shows too (I can already hear people wanting to point that out) but if we’re talking about a 62% female viewership that’s where the advertising dollars are going. Plus this blog is about women so that’s what were focusing on.
So you are winning your demographic hand over fist, but you think you could get some more male viewers. What do you do? A reverse half-time show. The Super-Bowl has a million-dollar-half-time show every year that nobody who watches the game wants to see. Its for their weakest demographic, young women. Everybody knows this and accepts it (more on the NFL later). Now, the Oscars have a host whom everyone usually hates unless its Billy Crystal. I don’t know why this is. Once Hugh Jackman hosted in 2009 I thought that was it, he’d be the host forever. He’s a handsome guy who can sing and dance. He hasn’t hosted since. Bob Hope, Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson have been the most endearing emcees. So if you are an older, self-deprecating comedian who can sing and dance, you’re safe. If only Jon Stewart could hold a tune.
Anyway, the Oscars host is their halftime show, at least this year. Inserting a guy who makes TV shows primarily for adolescent boys is their version of Beyonce singing “Single Ladies” in-between giant supermen trying to kill each other. On paper, it kind of makes sense. Young men don’t watch the Oscars. They like Family Guy. Get the guy who makes Family Guy to host the Oscars. New advertising dollars.
The problem is, young men also like farts, boobs & vaginas, hitting things and thinking women are stupid, especially the ones that are pretty and don’t sleep with them. Its too much of a polar opposite. If you really want to get men to watch the host but without the adolescent baggage, have Deon Sanders do it. He’s charismatic and entertaining. I don’t know if he can sing but we all know he can dance as evidenced by numerous pick-six celebrations. He’s also a family man with a wife and five children. I know this probably sounds crazy but if we are really going to use the host as a bridge for expanding demographics, this would be the most reasonable way to do it outside of comedians like Chris Rock or Jon Stewart, whom everyone seems to hate hosting the Oscars.
In the end we can’t quite blame Seth Macfarlane completely. Lets not forget that the host doesn’t write his own shit. Someone else wrote those jokes and musical numbers because they were “Seth Macfarlane-like” and worked to its demographic ploy. Unfortunately, these people were too stupid to realize they were insulting their main demographic over and over again in the process.
Which brings me back to the NFL. In general, female audiences are a more attractive demographic. Men don’t buy stuff other than beer and fast food. If they didn’t have to wear pants, they would go to work naked. That’s why male-dominated programming like sports always has two types of commercials: beer and fast food. In the end, it makes you wonder why the Oscars would try to attract more male viewers at all. Now, the advertising for shows with female audiences? Well, there’s commercials for makeup, home repair, cooking, clothes, shoes, children’s needs, house cleaning supplies, weight-loss solutions etc etc etc. Are some of these choices stereotypical? YES. Do advertisers care? NO.
So the NFL knows this. They aren’t fools when it comes to making money. So they have made a very well-thought out and well executed push to attract female viewers. And they are the only major sport to really try and do so. They have female sideline reporters now at almost every game and. they are actually knowledgeable and passionate about the sport instead of just pretty faces. In fact, they are more qualified that some (ok, many) of the former players that do reporting. They also keep trying to make the aforementioned half-time show an event in and of itself that is meant a female audience without being pandering. I personally think the Beyonce show was the best they’ve done. They fucking brought Destiny’s Child back. They’ve also acknowledged the popularity of Super Bowl commercials with women. Think about Super Bowl commercials of years past. Budweiser used to have girls in bikini’s busting open sudsy beers by a pool. Last year? A sentimental story about a man and his pet horse. GOOD DECISIONS. The NFL even has a line of clothing just for women and they actively give a shit about it. I remember when women’s NFL jerseys first came out. They were all pink. It was the dumbest thing. Girls who were into football hated them, and rightfully so. How naive and condescending can you be? “Girls want a football jersey to wear? Make it pink!” It failed and they changed the clothes to have team colors and now have celebrity designers. The only pink you see is in October, when the NFL celebrates breast-cancer awareness month by selling pink merchandise that funds breast cancer research. MORE GOOD DECISIONS.
All of this stuff has good intentions, it works (the NFL is bigger than ever and has more female fans than ever) and NONE of it detracts from the game itself. Football is still football. Guys still hit each other with the intent to injure them, and badly. Sometimes they wear pink when they do it, but its for a good cause.
The Academy Awards either needs to figure out the reverse of this or just stop. Having sexist 14-year-old-boy humor in your awards show is so fucking stupid I can’t begin to comprehend how nobody in the production food chain opposed it. And for the record, not all men think sexism is funny. I thought the “Boob Song” and the Quvenzhané Wallis joke were both bad and uncomfortable to watch. Its such a monumental fail on all levels.
If I were The Academy Awards I would call Hugh Jackman right now and check his avails for February 2014. If he’s booked, call Billy Crystal.
Either way, I’m probably still not going to watch. Unless you get Deon Sanders.