When Seth MacFarlane, creator of Fox’s over-the-top animated comedy “Family Guy,” was announced as the host of the 2013 Oscars ceremony, everyone knew that there was a good chance the animator and voice actor would offend a lot of people.
But it appears MacFarlane may have gone further than some expected on Sunday night.
Among MacFarlane’s antics at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday, the most poorly received one was a joke about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which came right after he praised Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in the title role of “Lincoln.”
“I’d argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth,” MacFarlane said, provoking a chorus of shocked responses.
“Really? One hundred fifty years, and it’s still too soon?” he asked the audience. For a lot of people, it was. So many Twitter users took offense to the joke that “John Wilkes Booth” became a trending topic.
“That John Wilkes Booth joke appalling. Don't think any jokes around Lincoln's death unfathomable, but that one was ugly,” tweeted NPR host Scott Simon.
Interestingly enough, MacFarlane began the night knowing that he would be offending more than a few Oscar viewers, and his introductory speech seemed designed to address those concerns. Before he started, MacFarlane had William Shatner appear as his “Star Trek” character Capt. James T. Kirk to warn MacFarlane that he was about to become “the worst Oscar host ever.”
Sadly, not only was Kirk’s in-character joke correct, but it proved to be the funniest bit of the night. At least when Shatner was talking. For years, Shatner has been a master of self-deprecating comedy, and his bit as Kirk oozed self-awareness. Unfortunately, MacFarlane opted to feign Shatner’s brand of self-deprecation to promote his vanity talents.
Instead of making the opening scene an attempt to legitimately poke fun at himself, MacFarlane used the opportunity to launch into not one, but three self-indulgent song-and-dance numbers. One of them simply recounted the actresses who’ve bared their breasts on camera. It's a perfect example of "Family Guy's" brand of humor, which loves attacking anyone who isn't a straight white male. And no, Seth, simply acknowledging that you know it’s offensive doesn’t make it OK.
Only one of MacFarlane’s jokes landed the way it was intended. In a surprisingly inspired move, he announced that the Von Trapp family would be singing a number from “The Sound of Music.” He motioned toward the door twice, but the family never appeared. Finally, a man in a Nazi uniform bolted through the door yelling, “They’re gone!” It was a clever, smart joke that didn’t rely on bashing anyone. MacFarlane was a bit too light on those kinds of things Sunday night.
Ultimately, MacFarlane may not have been the worst Oscars host ever, but he was certainly close. But, hey, at least he had the good sense to know that “Ted” was a train wreck.