In response to Klavan Defends Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Boobs’:
I strongly disagree with John’s and Andrew Klaven’s defense of MacFarlane’s Ambush Mortification of actresses at the Oscars.
Let me make a general observation about political thinking: I think it’s a dangerous thing for any person to set aside his basic code of good behavior in favor of an ideologically-motivated one. Although it’s probably going far too far to make a general rule against such “Greater Good” thinking, I think it’s an all-too-common phenomenon that people set aside their basic moral sense in favor of what would otherwise be considered malicious behavior but which they rationalize, through whatever politicized thinking, as actually serving the Greater Political Good and therefore being morally acceptable.
I am extremely suspicious of this sort of thinking. I think people have a general tendency towards justification of and rationalization of bad behaviors they nevertheless wish to undertake, and such justifications and rationalizations generally take the form of politicized thinking. I can set aside the general rule against dishonesty because I’m pursuing an environmental agenda that represents an even higher good…
I didn’t like MacFarlane’s “Boobs” sketch because it was born of the pleasure of malice — a genuine pleasure, I have to confess, as I take pleasure in malice all the time. But to claim that malice becomes sanctified simply because it tracks with one of our most tertiary political goals (if it makes the list at all) substitutes political thinking for moral sense and I reject it.
Looking at this at a more details-oriented, specific level (which is not a very interesting level in this case, but just the same): Most actresses do not want to appear nude and only do so because a producer or director negotiates it with them. Either they do it, or the part will go to another; or, if they already have the part, they’re told how inferior the work will be if they don’t do this critical scene. How can they let down the entire team of 100 over such personal objections?
I wouldn’t go so far as to call them victims, but few actresses are initiating the process here. It seems strange to justify mortification of the actresses themselves without casting any shame (given that shaming is our purpose here) towards the producers and directors who did in fact initiate the onscreen nudity, and lobby for it; or the audience itself. Klavan notes he’s a bit of a fan of onscreen nudity; I suppose I am too.
So the women should be publicly while we escape any of this supposedly-hygeinic shaming?
Furthermore, I do not believe it’s any sort of a tenet of conservatism that nudity in art, no matter what the context or what the goal, is by definition a moral evil we should thwart through shaming.
Lastly: Come on. MacFarlane’s intent was not to advance some kind of modesty-of-the-body agenda. His intent was to build up his Bad Boy of TV credibility and demonstrate he could be awful to celebrities’ faces as he’s awful to them on his TV show. His mission was one of self. If we’re talking about morality, that should enter into it at some point.
I reject the entire idea — which I imagine has wide currency among partisans of both sides — that a political mission can render what would otherwise be shabby behavior into exalted acts. Good behavior shouldn’t be treated as a shackles we seek to escape on the thinnest “political” pretext.
The best politics will be found by adhering to the rules of good behavior in all cases, not selectively choosing where and when we will trouble ourselves to act according to our code.