Episode 400: Part of the Problem is That You Didn’t Invite Vin Diesel

On the podcast, we tackle the 88th Academy Awards, Chris Rock, Oscar winners, Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the unconscionable Furious 7 snub.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee and Matthew Wrather overthink the 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock.

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9 Comments on “Episode 400: Part of the Problem is That You Didn’t Invite Vin Diesel”

  1. yellojkt Member #

    My favorite moment of the Oscars telecast was the presentation of Stacey Dash as the Academy Minority Outreach Director. The joke died in the crowd but it really struck at what was wrong with the the whole diversity push. Dash is a noted African-American conservative who finds set asides patronizing. So she was a good sport to show up for a joke that was really aimed at the ineffective handwringing of the Powers That Be.


    • Three Act Destructure #

      I don’t know. Rock’s whole set was filled with weird, borderline-racist dodges like this.

      Assuming that all pushes for diversity are just about grabbing literally any black person and shoving them into a job regardless of their qualifications is a pretty unfair characterization at best.

      It’s a strange joke then, because the only way it would make sense would be if Stacey Dash literally had been hired on. Her or someone just as clearly incompetent.


      • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

        Oh, hold on a minute—that’s a pretty ungenerous construction to put on that joke… at least as ungenerous as you think the joke itself is. I read it as a bit more wry, more along the lines of “Careful what you wish for,” which is not a bad thing to have in mind when you embark on a(ny) program of social improvement.


        • Three Act Destructure #

          It seems mostly like throwing a wrench into the works just to be throwing wrenches, which is pretty classic obstructionist behavior. Which is the aim of both a certain streak of comedy and a certain streak of conservative politics that often bumps up pretty closely with traditionally racist rhetoric. Telling them apart relies entirely on context and as pure humor, that is to say as “only” a joke, this gag didn’t have any. Which would explain why it died in the room and hasn’t been mentioned much since the Oscars.

          So, best case, the joke is basically indecipherable?


          • Peter Fenzel OTI Staff #

            I think the best case scenario is the joke was delivered poorly, for two reasons:

            – Stacy Dash isn’t just “any person.” Who she is matters to the joke, but most of the audience doesn’t really know or care who she is. They know she’s conservative, maybe, or that she doesn’t like black history month, but she’s not a famous enough person outside of, say, Clueless to just assume everybody is going to get the reference.

            – Stacy Dash botched her side of the joke. Her timing was way off, and her tone was confusing. Maybe she was nervous, maybe she didn’t get what the joke was or she wasn’t on board with it (it was kind of being made at her expense).

            I think there’s a way to write and deliver that joke with much the same content and to have it be funny, but they didn’t nail it.

            In particular they broke one of the most important rules of comedy, which is the audience needs to have faith that you, the comedian, aren’t actually in trouble. Stacy Dash looked really nervous, scared and awkward to me, like she was going to botch her lines, and that’s going to make the audience concerned, which will drain the joke of any funniness.

  2. Lucas #

    You say that you aren’t sure how to process the idea that the individual members of the film industry are progressives (‘down to a one’) and yet the Oscars are failing to live up to those ideals. Some might suggest that this is the story of the 20th-21st centuries writ small. The narrative of Liberalism (not merely in the political sense, but there too) says that we are becoming better and better, and yet WW1, WW2, Oscars 2016, et al prove otherwise. Conservatism’s counter-claim that we are getting worse and worse the more we leave behind some idealised golden age seems just as unlikely (as Chris Rock says there were ‘real problems’ for black people in the 60s). But if both ideologies fail to explain why we are where we are and how we got here, isn’t some sort of third-way necessary? Does not the concept of Sin explain how we can seem to make such progress as people and yet remain ensnared by and implicit in so much corruption? If so, could it be that a spiritual myopia has deprived The Overthinkers of the critical tools necessary to come to terms with #oscarssowhite? Your monolithic panel of lapsed Catholics and Protestant, failed to grasp that the Academy had already seen the darkness (metaphorical obviously, not melanin-related) of its own soul and – in a way – confessed its own guilt at the moment Spotlight was given best picture. The confession now complete, with mortifying penance imposed through Chris Rock’s hosting, now we can only wait and see if next year, by God’s grace, brings new life to this valley of dry bones.


    • jmasoncooper #

      I like your comment @Lucas. It is very interesting. I am just not sure how sincere it is. The internet is a dangerous place for theology. It is a fairly easy target for ridicule. Sometimes satire is built around an easy target. Just see “The Hogwats School of Prayers and Miracles” for one example (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10644439/1/Hogwarts-School-of-Prayer-and-Miracles) Would you mind responding to the “realness” of your claims?


      • Lucas #

        Well I was trying to fit my comment in to the genre of Overthinking It – so it was a serious point wrapped in some humorous pop cultural eisegesis. I do genuinely think that the phenomenon that Wrather refers to is best explained by the theological category of sin; perhaps even an illustration of ‘total depravity’ (whereby even the anti-racist progressives cannot escape racism by sheer will/intentions alone). Do I think that ‘the Academy’ was self-consciously engaged in public confession and penance? No. But I think that their awareness of their own failings and their need to account for them before a higher authority (even if only the general public) does explain some of the self-flagellating humour. What remains to be seen is if their repentance leads to life (a new way of thinking, acting, & nominating in future) or death (mere sorrow without transformation).


        • jmasoncooper #

          That is awesome. I love the notion of theological constructs as useful pop culture critique. I also totally agree with the idea of repentance as a meaningful structure by which change can be measured over time. We do not only need literary theorists or marxists (or any of 0ver 100 different schools of thought) to understand our pop culture.


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