This year is the first year I woke up with regret for missing The Oscars (thank you Internet for easy access to post-show reconnaissance).
I’m usually that person who rolls her eyes at the first mention of award shows. The predominantly superficial nature of these Holy Hollywood Sacraments has always convinced me to avoid them.
I don’t mean to say that the talent required to create a film or a movie’s ability to portray relevant histories (real or imagined) is not admirable. Writers, actors, directors and musicians are incredibly talented, impassioned artists who certainly deserve to be recognized.
Rather, the inception of my eye-rolling surrounds the asinine pomp and circumstance of these perfunctory parades of pretty people (Dr. Seuss would dig that alliteration).
That very same brand of pomp and circumstance is largely emblematic of a heteromasculine, majority Caucasian regime of beautiful, rich folks who are good at pretending to be other people and who wear red-carpet costumes expensive enough to feed entire nations.
In a long overdue turn of events, however, I think those acceptance speeches from yesterday’s Oscars have earned their celebrity, not only for craft but also for cause.
Before the Oscar cameras even started rolling and Neil Patrick Harris still thought he was going to be the darling of Network television, Oscar nominee Reese Witherspoon championed #AskHerMore via Twitter; Witherspoon believes that women have a brain worth picking.
Don’t think women get perpetually diminished in red-carpet interviews? Consider a recent press conference during which Robert Downey Jr. was asked questions like, “How do you approach this role, bearing in mind that kind of maturity as a human being when it comes to the…character?”.
The rest of the interview went like this:
Reporter to Scarlett Johansson: “To get in shape…did you have anything special to do in terms of the diet…specific food, or that sort of thing?”
To which Scarlett promptly retorted: “How come you get the really interesting existential question, and I get the ‘rabbit food’ question?”
Effectively reduced to the maintenance of her body shape, Scarlett did what any self-respecting actor would do: demanded the agency afforded to her male counterpart for herself (thus legitimizing initiatives like Reese’s #AskHerMore).
Keeping in step with the radical “women are people” theme, I now turn to Patricia Arquette at last night’s awards show. Arquette went from looking just vaguely familiar to me to a bonafide star in exactly as long as it took her to support equal pay and rights for women during her rousing acceptance speech.
And Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of that bird movie, casually served up some tasty sociopolitical justice in his Best Screenplay/Motion Picture acceptance speech:
“I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and the respect of the ones who came before and (built) this incredible immigrant nation.”
While the United States doesn’t necessarily boast a history of treating immigrants with respect and dignity, his intentions were pure and well-received.
Next up is John Legend and his award speech for Best Music in Selma, a civil-rights inspired film. Legend brings it home with a hearty dose of reality (institutionalized discrimination isn’t over, people!) where he compares the number of 19th Century slaves to modern-day African Americans effectively tied-up in the criminal justice system.
And then there was Graham Moore and his moving acceptance speech during which he seamlessly broaches the topic of suicide and depression awareness with an inspirational grace.
Of course there are some who will say these notable moments were filled with empty rhetoric and are void of promise. While that certainly may be the case for many, we cannot ignore that, for once, themes of human rights, political justice, emotional inspiration and social progress finally took center stage.
Maybe we’re not far off from a cultural future where celebrities will be formative role models and the vapid materialism of people famous just for being famous will be cast stage-left where they ought to live forever. In a cultural climate where idolizing movie stars is so unavoidably mainstream, why not utilize that celebrity status to advance on the tough questions so we can all start to dig for the next answers?
Cheers to you guys and gals for rockin’ it a little more than award shows usually do. I think Meryl Streep agrees.
Author: Alli Sarazen
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Google Image for Reuse