Seth MacFarlane hosted the 85th Annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2013. His opening was a series of song and dance numbers, including a performance of “We Saw Your Boobs,” in which he mentions various actresses who have gone topless in their films. Because of some additional tasteless jokes made, Seth MacFarlane is now being condemned as a misogynist. In The New Yorker, Amy Davidson said, “…the ceremony engaged in a political fight involving women, and took the dumber side.” In Vulture, Margaret Lyons noted that the song gave the impression that females “matter only insofar as they are beautiful or naked, or preferably both. This wasn’t an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze.”
MacFarlane notes quite a bit of leading ladies in his melody: Meryl Streep, Naomi Watts, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Marisa Tomei, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Helen Hunt, Jessica Chastain, Jodie Foster, Hillary Swank, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, and Kate Winslet. Barring Kristen Stewart and Scarlett Johansson, the rest have won or been nominated for an Oscar. Consequently, many of the women acknowledged are considered to be talented actresses and not just transient starlets who are famous for being famous. One has to wonder then, why they made the decision to bare all in the first place. Kate Winslet, who can be seen nude in plenty of her films, has reasoned, “I do believe that it’s right for the character and it’s right for the story.” However, when asked whether she enjoys getting undressed for the camera, she has said, “I hate it! Listen make no mistake, I just get on it… It’s a profoundly bizarre thing to do.” Therefore, Winslet does not like doing nudity, but has felt it a necessity based on the circumstances of the script.
Yet, who has created this feeling of necessity? Is it Winslet herself? Or has she been lead to believe that the only way to create a real, gritty, truthful film is for the camera to see underneath her clothes? Perhaps, Winslet has been brought to this conclusion by the script, director, teachers, fellow actors, and other movies, without her even realizing it. There seems to be an opinion floating around that refusing nudity would mean that the actress is not willing to rise to the occasion, and therefore, the actress does not take her work seriously and can never be truly great. However, these are unfair conclusions. In fact, almost any film with a sex scene would not have lost quality if the scene was omitted.
In The New Yorker, Amy Davidson also says, “Movies, and what women do in and to them, are better than the Academy seemed to realize. “ Davidson makes a valid point. Women working in film are certainly outnumbered by men and have been since the founding of the industry. Women’s roles in advancing cinema have been notoriously underappreciated for decades. However, women are not helping their images by readily agreeing to pull their shirts off when asked. Actresses must stand together and build the courage to say, “No.” Though the actresses do not deserve to be objectified, they also need to take some responsibility. Was Seth MacFarlane outlandish? Absolutely. However, his song was less demeaning than it was ironic and facetious, pointing out the absurdity that the public has seen these actresses completely naked. Respect for females and the female body must start with and among females, then radiate outwards. Although nudity in film is not exclusive to women, they do show themselves more often than men. Yet, it will not be until the dialect and thought process about nudity in films changes that women will be able to assert a more equal stance. MacFarlane is not to be blamed for pointing out the obvious.