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Seth MacFarlane's Oscar jokes were bad, but they're just part of a bigger problem

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ABC promoted Sunday’s awards ceremony as a bro-show: “Finally, An Oscars the guys can enjoy!” But you have to wonder which “guys” are ok with a joking inference to an alleged rape at a Hollywood home or about the ability of Latina and Latino actors to speak clearly. I wouldn’t insult the men in my life like that.

True, the ceremony pulled 11 percent higher ratings than the ones most recently before it, including in that all-important demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49. But people also slow down to look at a car accident.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition, the words and numbers involved with how Hollywood portrays and treats women and minorities. Language that belittles or objectifies comes as little surprise considering how few women or people of color have strong, leading roles. For instance, consider these statistics from a 2012 survey of the Academy by the Los Angeles Times: 94 percent of members are Caucasian, 77 percent are male, and the median age is 62. About 2 percent are African-American, and less than 2 percent are Latino.

The only way to fight the so-called jokes we saw on Sunday night, the only way to change the words of Hollywood, is to change the numbers. Seth MacFarlane has said he won’t be hosting the Oscars again, but the Academy should still think about its future. If they call Jane’s people, I’m sure she can get the Academy a copy of the 2013 Women’s Media Center report. 

Katherine Lanpher is a senior seminar leader at The OpEd Project and a freelance journalist in New York.

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