Will Oscar host Seth MacFarlane be asked back? Probably not.
Seth MacFarlane's Oscar hosting gig, full of low-brow and sexist jokes, received mixed reviews. The Academy struggles to reach a younger audience and remain a family-friendly show.
As Oscar host Seth MacFarlane is surely learning Monday, helming the annual awards ceremony dwarfs all other challenges. Rescue hostages from under the nose of armed revolutionaries? Piece of cake! Free American slaves amidst a young nationâs bloody civil war? In my sleep!
But host a three-hour industry telecast to the satisfaction of a global audience of a billion and counting? The faint-hearted need not apply.
Mr. MacFarlane, the creator of Foxâs âFamily Guy,â has been criticized for making sexist, racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic jokes (does this miss any groups?) as well as general bad taste and lousy clock control (the show ran until midnight EST, a half hour over schedule).
But pop culture audiences seem to be as divided as political ones. According to Fizziology, a social media research firm, 13 percent of Facebook and Twitter users discussing the show ranked MacFarlane as âthe best host ever.â And early Nielsen ratings show the broadcast up nearly 20 percent over the 2012 show with some 37 million US viewers.
But there is one question that all Oscar viewers are asking: Will he be back?
Not if the Academy is a tad more careful next time, suggests Thelma Adams, Yahoo! Movies contributing editor. The âcentral conundrumâ is having a show that remains true to its film industry audience.
âWatch an episode of âFamily Guyâ and youâll know itâs not a good match for Hollywood honchos sitting in stiff chairs in tuxes and tiaras,â she says. The first thing to acknowledge is that the audience inside the Dolby Theater, where the show is held in Hollywood, âis a tough and tense crowd.â
There are several groups on whom MacFarlaneâs humor was wasted.
Gwendolyn Foster, a film professor at University of Nebraska at Lincoln, says her female students were âappalledâ at what they consider MacFarlaneâs outdated and sexist routines.
âEveryone agrees it was like watching an old sexist 'Dating Game' episode,â she says via e-mail. âSeth McFarlane was as smarmy as the host of the 'Dating Game,' which is perfect because the Dating Game, if memory serves me, was on during the Vietnam War, when many Americans preferred to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the war was not happening, or pretend the war was a good thing.â
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued its own rebuke of MacFarlaneâs bit in the guise of his animated Teddy Bear persona, the main character in his 2012 film, âTed.âÂ A computer-animated Ted, presenting with actor Mark Wahlberg, made the joke that Jews controlled Hollywood, and that being Jewish was required to work in the industry. "I was born Theodore Shapiro and I would like to donate to Israel and continue to work in Hollywood forever," he said.
"While we have come to expect inappropriate 'Jews control Hollywood' jokes from Seth MacFarlane, what he did at the Oscars was offensive and not remotely funny,â said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement. âIt only reinforces stereotypes which legitimize anti-Semitism. It is sad and disheartening that the Oscars awards show sought to use anti-Jewish stereotypes for laughs.
Others argue that the flap around MacFarlaneâs performance is exaggerated.
âSeth MacFarlane is getting a bad rap from critics who can't take a joke,â says Carole Lieberman, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist who specializes in the media.
âHe was risky, risquĂŠ and riotous,â she says via e-mail. And while he stepped a bit over the line, âhe was a breath of fresh air to an otherwise safe awards show. The audience needed to sit back and relax and laugh at themselves and their colleagues a bit, instead of hiding behind their own press releases touting their perfection.â
Dr. Lieberman says MacFarlane wonât be asked back, because the Academy will âkeep looking for an impossible combination of someone new who's funny enough, but doesn't offend anyone.â
âWhether or not Seth MacFarlane is the answer to the Academy's dilemma about maintaining their older more traditional audience while capturing the hearts and minds of the younger generation remains to be seen,â she says via e-mail. What is certain, she adds, is that the days of the show being hosted by Billy Crystal, Whoopie Goldberg, âor fill in your favorite over-50 star â are long gone.âÂ Â
âThe Academy can appeal to younger audiences, with edgier content, while maintaining its broad demographic appeal as a family show,â he notes in an e-mail, adding that itâs a question, as always, of finding the right hosts.