Since I’m OUT ON THE ROAD and SLEEPING LITTLE, and everyone else seems to have tackled the discussion from nearly all angles, I’m going to try to be concise and unique with mine.
These jokes could have contributed positively to discourse: you just have to look at all the people attempting to defend their satirical component to see that. But discourse is not just the words and the ideas behind them, it’s the context/execution as well. (I know you know this but this is a term paper so bear with me).
MacFarlane’s song was built upon a very real lens that men take to film. I have a running gag with Mike where every once in awhile, a movie or an actress will come up in conversation and I’ll just rattle off a statistic: “Ah, yes, of course, ‘Prozac Nation,’ directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, based on the memoirs of Elizabeth Wurtzel, and featuring Cristina Ricci mostly full-frontal for approximately ten seconds.” That’s not a fact that I searched out for the sake of performance, it’s information about the world that I picked up in the process of living (the patriarchy affects us all in different ways!), and I bet Seth found the inspiration for the song in a very similar headspace.
The difference is that I’m staging my bit for Mike in our home, alone, the same exact place where I ramble on at him about progressive topics on a regular basis. I’m not taking this out to bars to try and make new friends, I’m not even busting it out for people who know me well, and I’m certainly not saying it on a stage at the opening of an international celebration. I’m also going out of my way to create a character who is objectionable and creepy (which would be my same approach if I took the idea to an open mic), rather than MacFarlane’s swaggering, glistening-in-charisma everyman. Satire needs to be angry at heart, but he reveled in this shit without any sort of suggestion at what he _really_ thinks, if anything. It kinda pisses me off because he found a well of content and then poisoned it with the easiest take possible. (waaah now i cant do my dum joeks)
And I think that does a good job of framing the next topic: The Onion. If they had written an article in typical Onion format about the exact same joke, featuring fake quotes with producers, agents, citizens on the street, then it would have been commentary on the how much we expect from our celebrities and how violent the language and relationships of show business are; even this precocious adorable girl is not spared from being treated the same way as, well, every other human being in showbiz who deserves decency.
But it was a one-liner, likely thought up in a writers’ room full of drunk folks who are a little bit miserable that they’re stuck live-tweeting the Oscars rather than making their way down the red carpet. (fuckin writers, man) After someone suggested it, the whole round table may have hashed it out, loved the idea, knew that it did have a point— but that point couldn’t be made in 140 characters, and writers have to remember that we’re not inside their heads, extracting the other 6000 characters necessary to go “ohhhhh, I get it.”
In both cases, there are the intellectuals who will defend the jokes by pointing out the nuance that “was there for anyone who looked hard enough!” But c’mon. I can barely even look at MacFarlane in the first place, so I don’t have high hopes for everyone else.
Context is everything. A comedian must be crystal clear about his point, but not so analytical that he bores the audience. Oh, and funny too. wait that’s really hard