Hosting an awards ceremony is always fraught. No matter how talented the host is, such night-of-nights are always boring and, as I’ve written previously, scarcely entertaining enough to sustain a multi-hour telecast.
I watched the ceremony yesterday - each gruelling hour of it – and, truth be told, I thought it was passable. There was some truly cringe-worthy bits - what the hell was the Paul Rudd/Melissa McCarthy sketch about? - but host Seth MacFarlane made a routinely unbearable production tolerable. No laughs from me, but hey, I’m a tough crowd.
Blind Freddy of course, would have realised that The Boob Song in the opening was going to be the belaboured bit in the post-ceremony autopsy. For American audiences, the mere mention of the mammaries is guaranteed to cause a fuss. A day on and people – in Australia as readily as the US - are still going on about the song. In this piece I’m going to tell them why they’re wrong.
The boobs in these films are a fact. That fact might be regrettable, it might be something feminists abhor and it might well be a damning indictment of what female actors need to do to “make it” in Hollywood, but this was not what the song was about and nor do I think it was a state of play that MacFarlane was endorsing.
I’ve written almost ad nauseum about the double standard that exists in showing lady bits compared to gent bits on screen. Equally, I’ve written many a time about my feminist discomfort with seeing boobs and vulvas in non-pornographic films purely for the sake of titillating an audience and reaping a more adult classification. But MacFarlane’s song wasn’t about the politics of a breast display nor was it an endorsement of showing breasts in rape scenes, rather, was simply about the fact that Hollywood’s leading ladies have exposed their breasts over and over and over and over and over again.
Hell, one might even go so far as to read the song as very light-hearted commentary on how long the journey to gender equality in Hollywood really is.
Like his humour or, as in my case, dismiss it as puerile garbage, MacFarlane’s song was a simple and whimsical homage to the fact that seeing breasts can be fun, fascinating and arousing for audiences.
Where’s the egregiousness there? Where’s the controversy?
Criticism of the song lies is discomfort about female breasts. Criticism lies in the politics that bare breasts continue to stir. Criticism of the song lies in the trap that each of us who’ve bothered to comment on it has fallen into: the ditty was orchestrated controversy and nothing more.
I often find myself arguing that feminists need to pick our battles more carefully. Sure, I could say the same thing on this occasion. More so however, I think we need to ask ourselves whether complaining about singing about breast displays is missing a much bigger picture.