The Academy Awards and The Lowest Common Denominator

February 25, 2013

Essay

From the opening, you should have seen it coming.

“Over a billion people will be watching this event worldwide.”  Seth McFarlane delivers this line while licking his chops.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not sure why he believed a billion would be watching.  Here’s the last ten years’ ratings, according to Wikipedia:

Ceremony Date Best Picture winner Length of ceremony Number of viewers Rating Host(s)
76th Academy Awards February 29, 2004 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King
3 hours, 44 minutes 43.56 million 26.68 Billy Crystal
77th Academy Awards February 27, 2005 Million Dollar Baby 3 hours, 14 minutes 42.16 million 25.29 Chris Rock
78th Academy Awards March 5, 2006 Crash 3 hours, 33 minutes 38.64 million 22.91 Jon Stewart
79th Academy Awards February 25, 2007 The Departed 3 hours, 51 minutes 39.92 million 23.65 Ellen DeGeneres
80th Academy Awards February 24, 2008 No Country for Old Men 3 hours, 21 minutes 31.76 million 18.66 Jon Stewart
81st Academy Awards February 22, 2009 Slumdog Millionaire 3 hours, 30 minutes 36.94 million 21.68 Hugh Jackman
82nd Academy Awards March 7, 2010 The Hurt Locker 3 hours, 37 minutes 41.62 million 24.75 Steve Martin,Alec Baldwin
83rd Academy Awards February 27, 2011 The King’s Speech 3 hours, 15 minutes 37.63 million 21.97 James FrancoAnne Hathaway
84th Academy Awards February 26, 2012 The Artist 3 hours, 14 minutes 39.30 million 25.50 Billy Crystal
85th Academy Awards February 24, 2013 Argo 3 hours, 35 minutes Seth MacFarlane

But I will be watching for the ratings when they’re available.  But clearly, this was the gig of a lifetime for McFarlane.  The shameless whore even trotted out his CGI Ted with poor Mark Wahlberg, who looked stricken.

And today, we are discussing whether or not he crossed the line, the incessant misogyny, racism, homophobia — you name it, he said it, went over the line, got the reaction.

 As I said, tonight’s ceremony is being watched by a billion people worldwide. Which is why Jodie Foster will be up here in a bit to ask for her privacy. — Seth McFarlane

I personally do not believe Seth to be a misogynist.  I believe Seth to be a quasi-shrewd businessman who has learned the skill of appealing to the lowest common denominator on the Fox Network — and wants a broader audiences for his own projects.  He doesn’t mind scandalizing us all.  He was an equal opportunity offender, after all.  No single demographic was safe or excluded as a target.  Maybe he wasn’t even trying to scandalize so much as tell his same, tired little jokes.  But hey, they must be working for him somewhere …

It’s the money, honey.  I assume The Oscars was hoping for huge ratings and increased advertising revenues.  Seth’s exposure goes up, too.

The one thing that has been lost in all of this is that films are an art form, and while the Academy has made its penchant for epic known, the awards are less about art, and definitely not about honoring the people who worked so hard for this reward, nor allowing them the time to enjoy their award in those moments it is handed to them, nor thanking the people they feel helped them get to that achievement.

(Cue theme from Jaws here.)

It’s about appealing to the lowest common denominator, the easy joke, getting the reaction, and hoping for ratings.

Am I offended by the tasteless jokes, the rampant sexism?  Not especially, though I likely should be.  I am used to adolescent humor and it pretty much rolls down my back, with one or two exceptions.

But call me an old-fashioned idealist —  what offends me is that this award has very clearly defined its direction in choosing Seth McFarlane:  that it no longer even pretends to have any interest in respecting  the hard work, the craft, the artists themselves, or the art.

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About Melissa Hassard

"I am always doing things I can't do. That's how I get to do them." -- Pablo Picasso

View all posts by Melissa Hassard

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