Too Soon, Too Late
Seth MacFarlane gave us something to argue about instead of shootings, frackings, pipelines, sequesters, the erosion of the middle class and climate change. So naturally he should be shot.
“It is offensive, even though comedians have great latitude,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, speaking of a skit in which Mr. MacFarlane, in character as the trash-talking teddy bear from his movie “Ted,” counseled Mark Wahlberg that it’s best to become Jewish and donate to Israel if you want to work in Hollywood. Rabbi Hier, an Academy member and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, was seconding an opinion offered earlier in a statement by Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Speaking by telephone Mr. Foxman said he was particularly troubled by the “duration and intensity” of a skit that was likely, in his opinion, to be seen as reinforcing anti-Jewish stereotypes among Oscar viewers around the world.
“It wasn’t funny,” Mr. Foxman said. “It was ugly.”
I only tuned in between 9PM and 10PM, so I missed that sketch, but I enjoy the discomfiture that has resulted.
I caught the Lincoln joke, but it wasn’t entirely new to me. A few days before, in his monologue, Conan O’Brien said something about presidents attending theatre and joked that Lincoln wasn’t known for staying for the whole show. The audience groaned and Conan complained, “150 years and it’s too soon for that joke?” MacFarlane went farther, alluding to Lincoln being shot in the head. Also getting a groan, he asked the same question. For people my age it was too soon, but I suspect that for a generation that has grown up mostly seeing Lincoln and Washington dancing in February car commercials, the Presidency isn’t exactly shrouded in dignity and reverence.
Last night I found a video clip of the Shatner bit, which included, “We saw your boobs,” the Radcliffe/Gordon-Levitt soft shoe, the LA gay men’s choir, the Tatum/Theron dance, the sock puppet version of Flight and Be Our Guest. MacFarlane is a more talented singer and dancer than I would have expected, but he is just as irreverent as I would expect from The Family Guy, which my daughter loves, but which I often find too reliant on puerile humor.
Frankly, Hollywood has been playing peek-a-boob for a century, so it was funny to see someone call them on it. It would be even more interesting to see someone get up there and call the industry on defending Roman Polanski and the casting couch culture – but that’s not gonna happen.
As the dominant culture, the Mandarins as Megan McArdle now calls them, become ever more remote and clueless, expect a younger generation of comedians to tap ever richer and more sensitive mines of humor in skewering them.