COMMENTARY | Sunday night, I didn’t gather snacks. I didn’t get comfy on the sofa and start ogling designer dresses. I didn’t wait for the opening skit, and I didn’t wonder what host Seth MacFarlane had in store for the inevitable slow bits.
Nope, I didn’t watch the Oscars.
Even my inner pop-culture junkie, in attempts to rally enthusiasm, considered the impending extravaganza, shrugged, and figured she could catch the highlights on Monday. Nothing stirred my interest. Not the list of nominees, not the possibility of fashion running the gamut from sublime to slimy, and not this year’s host.
Sorry, Oscars. Maybe next year.
Perhaps it was that, though I know on an intellectual level that MacFarlane is a very talented man, he’s just not my kind of humor. When “Family Guy” had its original run, I found it far too edgy, constantly uncomfortable. In the subsequent years, the humor softened a bit, but when the show returned from cancellation, it drew a line way, way out of sight of the first one.
I expected MacFarlane to take his hosting duties to the Realm of the Uncomfortable, and apparently he did, with a song titled “We Saw Your Boobs,” listing A-List actresses and the films in which they were topless. He made a joke about Adele’s weight.
He joked about Chris Brown allegedly abusing Rihanna. You know, because domestic violence is always hilarious.
Cringe-inducing humor isn’t really my first thought when I think of the Oscars. I want warm, generous humor, like epic host Billy Crystal used to bring, and brought back at the 2012 Academy Awards. I want a Jon Stewart or a Jimmy Fallon or a Tina Fey. Bring back Billy. Bring back Whoopi Goldberg. Please spare us the hosts that might leave us feeling vaguely queasy.
At its heart, the Oscars broadcast should give us a night of glamour cozy enough to out-gloss the self-congratulatory nature of the show. While edgy humor can crack the pat-ourselves-on-the-back cycle, it gives us a glimpse into the hollow, unsatisfying center.
The Academy Awards need illusion. They are the pinnacle of tribute to illusion, and we all have to sit in the same bubble for them to come across as glitzy and fun rather than as a room full of very, very wealthy people who really like themselves and one another.
They also need underdogs, something that was sorely missing in the 2013 list of nominees, and in the choice of host himself. MacFarlane isn’t the kind of person you feel needs you rooting for him to succeed. On some level, the hope that a celebrity we like will do well is one of the draws for the show. Waiting to see how he or she will pull it off, or in some cases, not pull it off, is all part of the anticipation.
MacFarlane evokes no mystery. We know what he does and how he was likely to handle the show. He brought his trademark crudity, his edginess that kind of passes the edge and plunges right over, as was expected.
And that’s not my idea of the Oscars.