Award night advocacy has been an ongoing trend for some time, however, political speechifying reached a dizzying height at this year's Academy Awards. The award ceremony served as the bully pulpit to address several important issues that are plaguing not only the American society and Hollywood but also the rest of the world.
From the #MeToo and Time's Up movements to the immigration ban, to gun violence and children's education, to racism, every issue had few seconds’ worth of limelight at the Oscars. In fact, so many issues were covered in the duration of a few hours that it felt like a glitzy version of a newscast, where news presenters in gorgeous designer gowns and tailored tuxedos spoke eloquently and passionately about the current political climate.
When award show activism first picked up momentum a few years ago, it seemed like the best thing Hollywood has ever done. Whenever an actor/actress or a popular media figure took the stage and delivered an intense speech on an issue he/she deeply cared about, their fans sat up and took notice, it reached millions of people, sparked conversations, and compelled vast media coverage.
However, now with each and every person from the film industry taking up a new cause to rally behind, the public and media interests are getting divided and none of the issues is getting the attention that they deserve. In fact, post-show research reveals that a large part of the audience even dislikes listening to political statements and the majority of viewers watch award shows to admire the latest fashion and see their favourite stars.
Under such circumstances, it takes a lot of fine-tuning for an award show such as the Academy Awards to strike the right balance between entertainment and political activism. Thankfully, this year's host, Jimmy Kimmel, was aware of this, which is what prevented the Oscar ceremony from becoming a dreadfully boring event. While Kimmel began his monologue with #MeToo and addressed the gender pay disparity, he also added many light-hearted fun-filled moments throughout the show, which had nothing to do with politics.
However, Kimmel happened to be the only one trying to maintain a balance. Most recipients and presenters were efficiently advancing the causes they believed in. The right to deliver political speeches at an Academy Award ceremony is a hard-earned legacy of the members of Hollywood community and it is only fair they would want to hold on to it with all their might. However, in trying to do so, it seems like they went overboard and speechifying took centre-stage which, to be honest, was a bit of an overkill. However, the fact that Gary Oldman won an Oscar defeated Academy Award's endorsement of the Time's Up movement, given that the actor was charged for domestic violence for hitting his wife in 2001.
While several actresses wore famous labels, Hollywood displayed its liberal tag at Oscars with pride. However, in doing so, it failed to do what it does best otherwise -- tell stories that move us. Lupita Nyongo' and Kumail Ninjiani pledged their support to immigrant dreamers in an eloquent speech which addressed the political subtext of the immigration ban. However, it was the speech of Gary Oldman (who won the Best Actor award) which described the immigrant experience without politicizing it. In his speech, he thanked America for giving him a home, helping him make a living and find love, friendship, and happiness. He did not call himself an immigrant, but he simply described his experiences in a foreign country, and somehow than resonate at a much deeper level with the audiences (some of whom were moved to tears) than Nyongo'o and Ninjiani's speech.
The Golden Globes this year had set a much better example than Oscars as far as addressing the current political and social climate is concerned. During and after the award show, neither the media nor the public could stop talking about the all black fashion statement that Hollywood made to show solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse in the wake of Harvey Weinstein scandal, which in turn gave a good push to the MeToo movement. However, with Oscar this year, Hollywood tried to address too many issues and failed miserably. The only highlight that sticks from tonight's ceremony is when Frances McDormand, who won the Best Actress Award, asked all the female nominees and winners to stand. As the camera took a full view of all these women standing as little colourful dots in a big audience, it makes you realize how few women actually get any recognition in Hollywood. McDormand went on to say, "I have two words to leave with you tonight, inclusion rider." -- Another very important message, which got lost in a sea of messages.