[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,

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:

A is for Alex thought that,

and Margaret P. Houston described it as,

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,

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:

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]

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 25 February 2013 at 5:23 pm

Your final sentence sums it up perfectly. The song also makes me feel like I wish I didn’t have breasts, because it would be wonderfully liberating not to have men asserting their dominance over women by objectifying and obsessing over part of our body on a daily basis. But of course getting rid of my breasts isn’t exactly the best solution to the problem of misogyny!

Stella Quinn // Posted 25 February 2013 at 11:08 pm

How difficult would it have been for MacFarlane to change the lyrics to “We Saw You Nude” instead of “We Saw Your Boobs”? Not very, and then it would have allowed for quite a few funny jokes about male actors. Sexism negated. Clever commentary on the exhibitionistic nature of acting achieved. But based on MacFarlane’s body of work, he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the bias of white male privilege. It doesn’t seem malignant or even intentional, but it is there. MacFarlane is talented. I just wish he could be a bit more clever.

Clodia // Posted 26 February 2013 at 8:03 am

Of course rape is never about nudity, it’s about male power over women, and the use of rape scenes in such a “joke song” is offensive. Regarding mere nudity, which harms no one unless womens’ bodies are used as objects of titillation by men, it would be a lot better if we had the same top freedom as men. men can enjoy the sun and air on their tops; why not women. If we could, and topfree women were as ordinary as topfree men, it would be harder to use breasts as objects for titillation.

sianmarie // Posted 26 February 2013 at 9:20 am

Another thing i found sinister was the Scarlett Johannsson line because weren’t personal pictures of her leaked (which is a real violation) and that’s why we ‘saw her boobs on our phones’.

Seth Macfarlane pretends to be all anti establishment and claims to mock everyone but it wasn’t the rich, powerful men in the room who were treated like objects defined by their breasts.

I also thought it was telling that they had ‘humiliated reaction shots’ to the lines from the women – not live but from other events – to me that showed just what this was – bullying. It felt like it was reminding them they should feel embarrassed and ashamed, telling them how they should feel about being mocked like this.

Trying to work out how you could make a reply about men but of course you don’t tend to get erect penises in films do you?

Philippa Willitts // Posted 7 March 2013 at 12:16 pm

Apologies that these last three comments took so long to approve – they were buried deep in my spam folder for some reason!

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