Oscar presentation offers bad examples for young people

Give Dawn Hudson and the Academy Awards for which she ultimately is responsible, an “F” for the recently telecast award program.

Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and her colleagues gave young people and viewers around the world exactly the wrong messages about women, religion and African Americans. Educators are expected to promote respect.

Disrespect dominated Oscar host Seth MacFarlane’s  comments from beginning to end.

The Academy of Motion Pictures had a number of terrific movies to recognize.  But from beginning to end, the Academy’s recent “Oscar” night was, as former St. Paul Mayor Jim Scheibel told me, “the worst Academy Awards program I can remember.”

Stupid, silly, shortsighted jokes, songs and skits detracted from the movies and performances that the Oscars are supposed to feature. As Judy Berglund, a journalist/education advocate wrote: “The jokes were horrible.”

How do you suppose Hudson would have felt if host MacFarlane, referring to the male sex organ, led a song that proclaimed,  “We saw your p….”? In the first few minutes of the program, the host gleefully led something similar – a song that referring to a woman’s breasts, proclaimed, “We saw your bo…!”

Later he announced it was the time of the program when an attractive woman would make a presentation, “We don’t care what she says,” he explained, because she’s so nice to look at.  Great respect, right?  What an attractive woman says doesn’t matter?

Then there were lousy jokes about Lincoln.  MacFarlane  told viewers that the man “who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth!” (the man who shot Lincoln.).  Really funny.  MacFarlane tried to tease Best Actor winner Daniel Day Lewis, who is known for staying “in character” on a set.  MacFarlane wondered if Lewis, who won for his portrayal of Lincoln, would have “freed Don Cheadle (an African American actor) if he had seen him on the set.” Very clever.

An extended skit suggested that a person has to be Jewish to be successful in Hollywood.  After naming several “partially Jewish” actors, the host asked actor Mark Walberg if he was Jewish? “No,” an apparently irritated Walberg responded.  “I’m Catholic.”  Who cares what about Wahlberg’s religion?

Does Ms. Hudson wants youngsters to think this is funny, inspiring or enriching (like the best movies)? You can tell her what you think:  Her email is dhudson@oscars.com

Movies can inspire, entertain, encourage and enrich our lives.  Many movies, actors, actresses, producers, and specialized staff did that this year.

Youngsters who viewed some of the “Best Picture” nominees learned
•    About the courage, wisdom and skill of Abraham Lincoln.
•    How Canada and the U.S. collaborated in courageous, creative ways to get some diplomats out of a very hostile country, via the movie “Argo.”
•     “State of the art” technology and imagination in “The Life of Pi.”

Unfortunately, people across the political spectrum were offended and disappointed.  The Oscars made respect more difficult for educators and families to promote.

Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change.  Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.