The Oscars in retrospect

Everyone was thinking this, and a few said it at the time, but this year the Academy Award show really crossed the line.

It’s always been an irreverent affair – poking fun at egotistical celebrities and, by extension, an overly commercialized industry. So, off-color jokes are nothing new. But this is a program that boasts a global audienceimgres

of one-billion viewers, many of whom watch in prime time. And this time it was frequently patently offensive. While the blame is currently being dumped on host and front-man Kevin MacFarlane, one can hardly conceive that one person is permitted to write the lines for such a heavily hyped spectacle. This is an industry putting its ugliest misogyny and racism on display, with bits of antisemitism thrown in for good measure. The New York times today summed up what people inside and outside of Hollywood have been saying

“Jewish, women’s and family organizations on Monday publicly flung knives at Seth MacFarlane’s off-color Oscar show. Hollywood for the most part stayed true to form and aimed its cutlery at his back.

“Post-Oscar Monday found the movie capital coming to grips with a 3-hour-35- minute ceremony that climbed in the ratings but at its best seemed to hide a great year for film behind a flurry of musical numbers, TV memories and Michelle Obama. At its worst, members of the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said, the ceremony trafficked in offensive humor.

“I think I’m a very liberal guy, but I actually winced,” said Lawrence Turman, an Academy member who is chairman of the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

“He echoed criticism that a number of people in Hollywood voiced privately, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid complicating relations with the Academy and the show’s producers.Mr. Turman, who described the producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, as longtime friends, referred specifically to a joke by Mr. MacFarlane about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

“Cathy Schulman, a producer who won a best picture Oscar in the past for “Crash” and is the president of the industry group Women in Film, took aim at a song-and-dance routine about female nudity in film. “Among the women I’ve talked to today I would say I haven’t heard from any who thought it was in good taste,” said Ms. Schulman. She expressed particular chagrin that the dance number poked fun at nudity, which is generally a difficult issue for actresses, in connection with performances that were often “wrenching and moving in many ways.”

“But the ratings were good, and almost nothing counts for more where the Oscar enterprise is concerned. The show drew an average audience of 40.3 million viewers, up about 3 percent from 39.3 million viewers last year, according to the Nielsen ratings service. The audience among those between the ages of 18 and 34 grew 20 percent, to post an 11.3 rating, compared to 9.4 last year, when Billy Crystal was the host.”

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