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We Saw Your SatireChris Pizzello / Invision / AP
Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP

We Saw Your Satire

Feb 28 2013
Why the Oscars' boob song made us laugh.

Certainly, what proves to be distracting—whether because it is "obscene" or "spectacular" and so on— is culturally determined. Bare breasts in some cultures are the norm, but in a culture in which female breasts are as fetishized as they are in this one, their exposure works "against the scene" as MacFarlane's version of "The Emperor Has No Clothes On" demonstrates, even if supposedly in jest.

On the other hand, it's a Hollywood truism (which may or may not be actually true) that nudity for nudity's sake draws more dollars, and that's why directors often—though not always—insist upon it. Boobs distract, apparently, in lucrative ways.

It's understandable to feel dismay at having one's work or one's self reduced to merely an exposed breast, as some have said in the Oscars' aftermath. I understand the frustration of a reductionist reading of a work. I've experienced, for example, having something I've written dismissed entirely because of one ill-chosen word, and, conversely, have had entire treatises written about a polemical 140-character tweet. Such distortions are frustrating. Yet, I know that if I want to reach my audience—and if I fail to do so by distracting them with something that "goes against the scene"—I must strive to learn and do better. As tempting as it can be to blame the counter blogger or claim victimhood by the commenter, I must take responsibility for my actions and my art.

The same is true for the talented, smart, and successful female actors named in the song for showing their breasts in their films. The Women's Media Center tweeted that doing so likely wasn't their preference. Perhaps not. But it was certainly by their permission. While the working conditions of the film industry are undoubtedly patriarchal and sexist, one doesn't change a sexist industry by giving into its sexism. Nor does one change it by insisting that these actors are victims rather than moral agents in their art. What is shown is seen, after all. And that's what the song made explicit—and made mockery of.

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