Fat people, thin people, women, black people, assassinated presidents, even innocent little girls – it's hard to think of anyone master of ceremonies Seth MacFarlane left out in his excruciating patter, The Oscars, sundry channels, on Monday.
Viewers didn't have to go out of their way to be offended by the writer, actor and animation guru. There was a slight for everyone, the most gobsmackingly awful being the borderline sexualisation of the child star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Qvenzhane Wallis.
But while much of the television-watching world was left righteously tut-tutting, it's only fair to ask the question: what did we expect? Shock jockery and all-purpose bullying is served up, and rates its smelly socks off, on most channels. It comes chiefly in the form of reality TV, but often in the guise of current affairs. Paul Henry's blithe offensiveness divided this country more enduringly than any election campaign. While TVNZ is tying itself in semantical knots to justify the audience haemorrhage from the post-news slot since the advent of Seven Sharp, which sometimes substitutes information with smart aleckry, it will almost certainly stick with the format. Rude Is Good, apparently.
And only someone who managed not to snigger along with Ricky Gervais as he disembowelled the pretensions of two successive Golden Globe awards could deny that rudeness can be extremely funny and timely. Satire, parody, celebrity roasts, the sheer anarchic naughtiness of TV3's superb Seven Days – this sort of rudeness is vital to a healthy society. While we need to be respectful of our fellow humans, respect can be sincerely maintained only if it's allowed to kick its shoes off regularly and give life a mischievous prod.
But despite its bloated pomp, the Oscars didn't deserve such a puerile serve. When MacFarlane came out with the "We saw your boobs!" ditty, the Botox-defying glares from the audience – who knew Jennifer Aniston could channel Lady MacBeth like that? – were blood-chilling.
You could see MacFarlane's schtick as a clever, post-modern dig at our concurrent obsession with stars' bodies and sex lives, and our insistence that we take movies seriously as art. Actually, though ... it was just crass. And as for bringing a child into the risque roast, he was lucky Charlton Heston died, or he might have copped a round of buckshot.
Not to say that MacFarlane wasn't very funny between atrocities. But the most telling moment was when he joshed with that wonderful old-stager William Shatner about how well the show was going.
"No, it's not!" Shatner protested, gemmying more gorgeously humoured inflection into those three little words than MacFarlane managed all night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Have you read Kiwi author Eleanor Catton's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries?Related story: What now for Eleanor Catton?