Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jason wades into the Seth MacFarlane Oscar's kerfuffle

Really, I just want to stick my toe in. Normally I'm happy to leave all the commentary to people who actually give a crap, but there's been something missing in all the criticism. On one side, the critics have pointed out that he was sexist, racist, and demeaning. On the other side his defenders want you all to lighten up and learn to take a joke. But what nobody put forward is that--at least in part--he was also trying to make fun of sexism, racism, anti-semitism, etc.

Making a cheap 'all black people look alike to me' joke (as he "confused" Denzel Washington for Eddie Murphy) can be demeaning to black people, but isn't it way more demeaning to the white guy who's too stupid to tell them apart? Maybe...maybe not. Similarly, the "We saw your boobs!" song was demeaning to women, but isn't it also saying men are too stupid and single-minded to look at a woman and care about anything but boobs? (heh, heh, I said "Butt boobs".)

Maybe...maybe not. It depends on what happens next. We can all have a good laugh at "Heh, heh, you have boobs! And I'm so stupid I don't care about anything else!" if afterwards, we walk off into a world where we have equal opportunities and women are valued for much more than their physical appearance. But if the real-life follow-up is more along the lines of "Now I'll go off and dominate the world--especially your chosen industry. You keep being pretty and showing your boobs until I don't care to look at them anymore." Well...that's less appropriate.

Equal opportunity offense is not equally damaging, especially when it's aimed at the exploited. Like the excellent metaphor (and I don't remember where I originally read it) goes, "I offend everyone equally" is a lot like saying, "I punch everyone equally hard, whether they're a prize fighter or a newborn baby." Yeah, but one situation ends with you having a sore fist, the other ends with a dead baby.

Objectively, Hollywood is run by men (even more than it's run by Jews) and so it's absolutely right to be offended by Seth's sexism. So why are so many of my young friends--particularly on Facebook and Twitter--defending him? And why do I know so many young women who defend him? Well, I've twice hinted at it--it's an age thing. Or, I hope, a generational thing--there's a difference.

I think younger people (and I consider myself on the cusp of young) tend to believe that not now, but someday really soon there will be enough equality of the sexes (and races, and religions, etc.) that such jokes will be okay--nobody will get hurt and people will be laughing at the mockery of the neanderthal behavior of yesteryear. Maybe they believe it just because they're naive. They haven't been beaten down by the realities of life--including that sexism, racism, and bigotry of all forms are still alive and well. Maybe it's just an age thing. Or maybe they really know something that the older, uptight generation doesn't know. Maybe the verbal barbs have no power to hurt them because they really are the first generation that has this bigotry thing licked. Maybe it's a generational thing.

And that's my optimistic(-ish) take on it. I have much more pessimistic opinions on the young generation, but I'll keep those to myself for now.
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