Philippa asks whether the Oscars opening song, "We saw your boobs" was funny or offensive
[Content note: rape scenes in films]
During the opening of the Oscars last night, Seth MacFarlane sang an irritatingly catchy song called We Saw Your Boobs, listing different actresses and noting which film he saw their boobs in. On a night like the Oscars, where some serious talent is recognised and praised, these women were being reduced to the appearance of their breasts, and it felt really dismissive. It trivialised the work they had put into their careers, and did no such thing to the men. And it’s certainly going to be stuck in my head for a week. But is it offensive or just tasteless?
Claire felt that the song was,
@thefworduk belittling of the incredible roles these women have played in their careers, as if their only contribution is their nude roles
— Claire (@claire_eloise) February 25, 2013
In the video of the song, the reaction of two of the women in the song was shown, and they looked horrified – this was what struck me first. And the second thing was that Jodie Foster was mentioned in relation to her breasts being shown in The Accused. The film where she was portrayed being brutally raped.
Some basic research reassured me on the first point: the responses we were seeing from the actors in the audience were not live responses to the song, they were pre-recorded reactions from other award ceremonies. However, on the second point, it got worse rather than better. Those who had listened to the lyrics more closely than me identified four separate mentions of films where the women whose breasts were mentioned during the song had shown them during a rape scene:
- Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry
- Jodie Foster in The Accused
- Jessica Chastain in Lawless
- Charlize Theron in Monster
It was the trivialisation of these horrific rape scenes that made me see the song in a way that was less forgiveable as merely “childish”, although as Jessica Sage pointed out, even the use of the term childish in these contexts is problematic:
@thefworduk I haven’t seen it but disagree already re ‘childish’ – trivialises and insults our constructions of child.
— Jessica Sage (@Jessisreading80) February 25, 2013
A is for Alex thought that,
@thefworduk Making a joke out of nudity in rape scenes is disrespectful all round. Sexism isn’t edgy, it’s outdated bigotry.
— A is for Alex (@aforaorta) February 25, 2013
and Margaret P. Houston described it as,
— Margaret P. Houston (@HoustonMargaret) February 25, 2013
I was not the only person to find her tolerance of the song lowered considerably by the references to the scenes involving rape. Grayce said,
@thefworduk crossed the line mentioning the boobs bared in rape scenes. Boys Don’t Cry and Monster are both true stories. That’s offensive.
— Grayce (@RaveCat) February 25, 2013
Even without the rape scene references, the song was dehumanising and objectifying. With them, it was unforgiveable. Is it part of a culture of misogyny at the Oscars? Radical Feminist thought so:
@thefworduk Disgusted.Then I remembered the Academy gave an Oscar and standing ovation to child rapist Roman Polanski. They’re consistent.
— Radical Feminist (@RadicalFeminist) February 25, 2013
The song was actually part of a segment supposedly from the future, showing MacFarlane the moments that ruined his career, and this has been used to justify it. It wasn’t a real song, it was a pretend song. A pretend song that was actually sung, making it real. Others have excused it on the grounds of, “Well it’s MacFarlane, what can you expect?”, but the predictability of somebody being offensive does not reduce the amount of offense they cause, or make it ok. It is still offensive, even if it comes from somebody known to be offensive.
In an industry where women are already under much more scrutiny than men, and where women’s careers end at a depressingly young age, the last thing female actresses need is this kind of belittling “joke”, and when rape scenes are drawn into smutty songs, they become downright sinister.
[The photo is an aerial shot of the famous Hollywood hilltop sign. It is in the Public Domain]