Across its near 90-year history, the Oscars have long come under fire for failing to recognize a diverse array of talent, whether it be the stars up for awards or the ones handing them out. Skim down a list of past Oscars hosts and you'll find that it skews heavily toward white men, which shouldn't be all that surprising given the Academy's exclusionary reputation. In fact, of the 20 people that have hosted the Oscars since 2000, only three were women and two were people of color, and that's being generous, because Whoopi Goldberg — who hosted in 2002 — is both a woman and a person of color. Still, it made me wonder: Is there a difference between jokes from male vs. female Oscars hosts? There has to be some reasoning behind it, right?
The obvious conclusion comes down to the deep-seated gender and racial bias that lingers, infuriatingly, far outside awards shows, but I decided to do some investigating anyway. After all, the announcement that Jimmy Kimmel would anchor the 2017 ceremony was unexpected, given all the flack the Academy caught for their lack of diversity last year. He's talented, for sure, but you'd think that after all of that, the Oscars might consider hiring someone who could help dismantle their seemingly problematic background — not reinforce it.
Back in the '70s, the Oscars had actually hit a pretty good stride. From 1972 to 1977, they had four hosts instead of one. And including the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, and Goldie Hawn sent a slightly more diversity-friendly message. But by the '90s, they'd hit a rut, mostly cycling through familiar faces like Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, and Jon Stewart. It's worth noting that, in that time, Whoopi Goldberg has hosted four times since making her 1994 debut, and Ellen DeGenres has helmed the mic twice.
But recent years have made clear that despite impressively self-aware monologues like Chris Rock's scathing #OscarsSoWhite takedown, there still exists a tendency for men to make tone deaf jokes about women while on stage. Take, for example, Seth MacFarlane's cringeworthy 2013 gig, which included a song about how many of the year's films showed women's breasts, a stab at Adele's weight, and a gag about Chris Brown and Rihanna that made light of domestic violence. Even Rock, whose quips were otherwise quite refreshing, let out a flippant one-liner about Carol that unfairly reduced it to a "girl-on-girl" movie. And he totally missed the point of Reese Witherspoon's #AskHerMore campaign.
Overall, though, each host was unabashedly themselves. Neil Patrick Harris rolled out the razzle-dazzle theatrics that make him who he is, DeGeneres' lighthearted sarcasm was in full effect, and MacFarlane flaunted the same sort of raunchy, boundary-crossing humor he's always been known for. The guy did create Family Guy, what else would you expect?
There isn't some overarching comparison between male and female hosts, because their gender doesn't wholly define who they are, and to draw any similarities between the two solely based on what's between their legs would be an unfair generalization. But that doesn't make representation any less important. The more women that male hosts see on-screen, the more they might consider what their jokes say about their female counterparts. Besides, it's about time everyone got over the idea that women can't be funny. I've got news: They're hilarious.