Monday, February 25, 2013

That's the Way You Do It

So you’re hosting the Oscars, and you want to get away with singing an opening number called We Saw Your Boobs addressed to a number of women in the audience. Well, one way to do that is to embed it in a sequence in which Captain James Kirk comes back from the future to tell you how badly your hosting performance was received, in part because of that song. It’s a rhetorical technique called apophasis, from the Greek for “I’m not saying”. (Okay, actually, from the Greek for “to say no”, if you want to be so everlastingly picky.)

That works to an extent, but you don’t want to have to embed every tasteless joke, like the one about John Wilkes Booth, in that one opening sequence, and William Shatner is demanding some outrageous coin to stick around for the whole show for the has-been actor he is.

So what do you do? You have a surprise presenter give out the final award, the one for Best Picture. Somebody well-known to the public, but not associated with the movie industry. Somebody attractive and articulate, but at the same time controversial. Someone who is all dressed up anyway, in a Naeem Khan creation, because she and her husband are hosting a black-tie dinner for 100 or so people at the White House.

Who do we know who fits that description? Yes, it’s first lady Michelle Obama.

And the trick works. The outrage over Mrs. Obama’s appearance is instantaneous and, to me at least, hilarious. Never mind that she is not the only first lady to make an appearance at the Oscar ceremony. Laura Bush appeared at the 74th Academy Award show in a short film showing 100 people discussing movies. Of course, Mrs. Bush’s appearance could easily be overlooked in the controversy over whether it was too soon after the attacks on the WTC to hold a big Oscar extravaganza at all, not to mention she was one of 100 people shown in 3 minutes of film. Michelle Obama got a whole three minutes or so all to herself, live.

It’s amazing how many of her critics managed to overlook the fact that Mrs. Obama was not physically present at the ceremony, just shown on a screen from the White House. 

Some typical comments from Facebook:

I'm more concerned about the taxpayer money used to get her there and back. I'm tired if them spending my money to party.

That one drew a reaction:

On the other hand,[name], it's nice to know that transporter technology is working so well. Just think of all the military applications it will have.

which apparently went over more than a few subsequent commenter’s heads, because then we got:

The First Lady should not be at the oscars! She should be out trying to help make a difference in the world!



The funny thing is, the article these people were responding to made it clear that the FLOTUS was in Washington, hosting the governors' dinner.

That fact also did not stop at least one person from believing that Mrs. Obama got dressed up and summoned up a military guard purely for her three minutes of fame on TV:

We were all waiting to see who was going to win for Best Picture and then all of a sudden, cut to Michele Obama from Jack Nicholson? She's wearing a gown at the White House for the Oscars with military guard? What is the purpose of this?? Why didn't she just go to L.A. and present then? None of this makes sense, because it's totally contrived and self serving.

So why didn’t she just go to LA, so that people could criticize her for not staying home? By now I’m seeing boobs, but not the kind Seth MacFarlane sang about. (See, I bet you forgot about that already.)

I also loved this comment:

She's definitely no Hillary, that's for sure...

Yes, because when Hillary was first lady, everybody loved her and no one ever criticized her.

The after several people made the predictable accusation that Mrs. Obama is a communist, there were these comments:

She had NO business there!!!

I thought Michele Obama had no right being on The Oscars,

She had there

Because if there is one thing the free enterprise system means, it’s that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can’t invite just anyone they want to be a presenter. We the people will decide who they can ask, through our special Who Can Be a Presenter Commissar. 


  1. It is really about tradition. She hasn't won an Oscar or been in any films. I think that having her present the award of the evening was totally inappropriate and perhaps a little self serving. If she had given it any thought she would have realized how she ruined the evening for longtime movie goers like myself.

    1. Actually, she didn't present the award. She read out the name of the winner, then Jack Nicholson presented the awards, because he was there physically and she wasn't.

      But the tradition you are talking about is the Academy's own tradition, and they were apparently okay with not following it in this situation, or they never would have invited Mrs. Obama to participate.

    2. Three minutes of Michelle Obama managed to ruin your entire evening? The POWER!