Commentary By Lisa Respers France
(CNN) — Funny. Sexist. Sassy. Awkward.
Seth MacFarlane was referred to with all these adjectives and more after his gig as host of the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday night.
The “Family Guy” and “American Dad” creator received mixed reviews for his singing, dancing and jokes, with Time TV critic James Poniewozik dubbing MacFarlane “American Dud.”
“In the run up to Sunday’s Oscars, ABC promoted the broadcast as: ‘Finally! An Oscars the guys can enjoy!’ What did that mean, exactly?” Poniewozik wrote. “Time for me to turn in my Guy Card, I guess.”
MacFarlane is known for his male-centric humor. He is the creator of Ted, a profane stuffed bear who, during his appearance as an Oscars presenter, begged to be let in on the post-ceremony celebrity orgies he had heard so much about.
So was there much surprise that one of MacFarlane’s opening numbers was a little ditty titled “We Saw Your Boobs”?
“I’ll limit my discussion of ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ to noting how, um, nakedly it put into relief a recurring theme in last night’s ceremony: A defensive anxiety about the ascendant power of women (emblematized, later on, by the pairing of the statuesque [Charlize] Theron with the wee Dustin Hoffman as awards presenters),” wrote Slate’s Dana Stevens.
There were a few uncomfortable moments, such as a date night/domestic violence reference to singer Chris Brown and Rihanna that earned some groans.
And you could feel the audience wince when MacFarlane tossed off, “This is interesting. Daniel Day-Lewis not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940’s ‘Abe Lincoln In Illinois.’ This is true. I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”
After a couple hundred years, can a joke still be too soon?
USA Today’s review called MacFarlane’s hosting performance “self-indulgent,” noting that “Oscars fans have seen a lot over the years, but this may be the first time they’ve ever seen a host use the awards to audition for his own variety show.”
The Atlantic headlined its story “The Banality of Seth MacFarlane’s Sexism and Racism at the Oscars” and opened with a vignette of the host’s brief introduction of Meryl Streep: “Our next presenter needs no introduction” before walking away.
“If only he’d kept his shut more frequently,” they said.
But Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter praised the Academy’s choice and pointed out that it clearly knew MacFarlane would be a “polarizing choice.”
“In fact, MacFarlane was relatively tame if you know anything at all about his canon, and he was respectful through and through,” Goodman wrote. “As a guy who can actually sing and has recorded a successful album (fueling more jealousy and backlash from his detractors), his pick was more spot-on than anyone gave the Academy credit for.”
Even Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her turn in “Silver Linings Playbook” and was name-checked in the boob song, found the humor in it.
“I loved the boob song. I thought he was great. I thought he was hilarious,” she said backstage.
But the critics always seem to have the loudest voices, especially the one place you can hear them shriek the loudest: Twitter.
Salon pulled some of MacFarlane critiques from the micro-blogging site, including comic Michael Ian Black’s take:
“Well, WE thought you were great!” — Seth McFarlane’s family in about four hours,” Black tweeted.
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