Hollywood had a clear message that they wanted to express during the Oscars. They beat every viewer over the head with it for three hours.
Diversity emboldens us. Empathy and tolerance bring us together. Fear only serves to divide us. And that we must resist.
Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the rise of President Trump set the stage for tonight’s award choices. A concerted effort was made to nominate diverse people and films. A record-setting number of black people won an Academy Award. The winner of Best Picture was not the heavily-favored and heavily-white La La Land, but the queer and black, Moonlight.
The same message was echoed in the speeches made by the Academy Award winners.
“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves, we are trying to show you, you and us, so thank you, thank you, this is for you.” said Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of Moonlight.
The director of The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, chose not to attend the Oscars due to the travel ban but left a statement to be read from him:
“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.”
Strong words that no reasonable person could find fault with. Not could they find fault with the message. But in some brief moments last night, Hollywood’s true smug elitist nature bubbled to the surface.
The first such moment came during actor Mark Rylance’s introduction for the Best Supporting Actress category.
“Opposition is really good in society… Sometimes, the most supportive thing is to oppose. Something women seem to be better at than men, is opposing without hatred.”
This was a sexist blanket statement. If the roles were reversed, people would be up in arms. The purpose here was to empower women which made it a good lead for the award, but he bashed men too. This statement was contrary to the message of the night.
Another brief lapse came during Viola Davis’s acceptance speech.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say,’“Exhume those bodies.’ Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. ”
The speech was impassioned, raw, and inspirational. But she also essentially that only she and her artist friends celebrated the human condition. She set herself above the common person. Struck me the wrong way.
And finally, during a long horrendously unfunny bit, Jimmy Kimmel brought out unsuspecting tourists to meet celebrities sitting in the front row. All the stars were laughing at the normal people showing up during their big award show. As if the average person was something worth laughing at. The skit had no punchline to it other than that.
As the tourists awkwardly made their way past the celebrities, Kimmel asked a young Asian tourist what her name was. She had to tell him twice as he struggled to pronounce it.
He then joked that it wasn’t a real name like her husband’s name, Patrick.
On a night when diversity was being celebrated.