There was a lot of talk about the diversity, or lack thereof, of many of this year’s Oscar nominees. After watching the awards on February 22nd, I’m pleased to say that people continued to talk about this issue. The night was full of moments that highlighted the role race and gender play within the film industry. Some were inspirational and impactful, while others moments could have been handled better. Then there were the times that were just plain offensive.
Let’s start by getting arguably the most cringe-worthy moment of the night out of the way: Sean Penn’s announcement of the year’s best picture. First of all, I was pretty angry about the fact that someone who is a known abuser was given the privilege to announce such a high honor. When he was married to Madonna, he broke into her house, tied her to a chair and beat her for hours and yet people seem to forgive him for it. This is such a huge issue to me because I feel that moments like this just solidify the idea that abusers can do what they will and won’t suffer from the repercussions of it. On top of that, he made the incredibly racist “who gave this guy his green card” joke when referring to Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Mexican director of Birdman. When I first heard this “joke” I really questioned what I heard. I must have misheard because there’s no way anyone would actually make such a comment on national TV, right? I then consulted the Internet and discovered that unfortunately, I heard everything right. The fact that any of this happened is just plain offensive.
I applaud Iñárritu for the way he dealt with the racist remark. He dedicated his win to his fellow Mexicans and took the time to speak about immigrant justice saying, “I just pray they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.” He really saved the Oscars from ending on a horribly racist note.
Now I’m going to move on to what was hailed by many as “the most feminist moment of the night”. During Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech, she dedicated her award to all women, condemning the wage gap and calling for equal rights. Influential women, such as Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, were getting excited about her words at the ceremony, while feminists like my roommates and myself were applauding from our couches. Finally! Someone using her moment in the spotlight in such a great way!
However, reports of Arquette’s backstage commentary demonstrate that her idea of feminism ignores some crucial points, such as intersectionality. Her comments imply that LGBT people, people of color, and other marginalized groups have achieved equality, even though we all know that simply is not the case. It’s definitely problematic since white feminists, particularly straight white feminists, tend to forget that feminism is not exclusive. Looking at the wage gap, white women are still paid less than men, but they’ll make more for every man’s dollar than say, a black or Hispanic woman. We need feminism to encompass women of color, LBGT folks, transgender women, and anyone else I may have forgotten to mention. There’s lot of debate going on about whether or not we can still consider this moment a major moment in feminism if it erases so many of our marginalized sisters.
I think that, despite the flawed comments Arquette made after the show, we should still consider this an important moment in feminism. We have to keep in mind that marginalized women more than likely wouldn’t have the chance to call for equal rights and equal pay. Her speech got people talking. Don’t get me wrong; we do need to have more conversations that highlight the importance of intersectionality and inclusive feminism. However, I don’t think we should wholly discredit this moment because it is a start.
One moment I think we can all agree was done right is the performance of “Glory” from the movie Selma. On top of the inspirational performance by John Legend and Common, “Glory” won Best Original Song, the acceptance speech allowed the two artists to share some history about the real-life events in Selma, as well as to call attention to the fact that “Selma is now”. True racial equality still hasn’t been reached, despite the facts that the events that inspired the film took place 50 years ago. John Legend even brought up institutionalized racism and the incarceration rates of black men in America. I loved everything about this part of the Oscars, as Selma was snubbed in so many ways. It was nominated for best picture, though it didn’t win, and not a single black actor was nominated. That’s pretty insulting, especially when there are plenty of talented actors of color in this and other films. I was happy to see this movie get at least some of the recognition it deserves.
These are just a few of the major topics that I could discuss when looking at this years Oscars. Some other interesting topics I came across in my research were the debate about whether or not films like, Still Alice and The Theory of Everything are nothing more than “inspiration porn”, the general improvements in red carpet questions for women, and more.
What were some moments that got you thinking during this year’s Oscars?