Change, Entertainment, Fake Feminism, Media, Movies, Patriarchal Society, Racism, Rebel With A Cause, Shannon Jeanna, Television

Oscars 2015: Best and Worst Moments

Oscar season always makes me super excited and I normally make it a point to see most of the movies in the running so I can speculate as much as I can about who should win what, and rant over who should and shouldn’t have won. But this year was different. This year, the extreme lack of diversity turned me off and instead got me side eyeing the Academy like crazy. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one

Therefore, I will not rant over who should have and should not have won. I may not have seen half the movies nominated this year, but I did check out the acceptance speeches and I have to say that there were some pretty awesome moments, and some awful ones too. I often like to start with the bad news and end on a positive note, so let’s start with the worst Oscar moments.

Oscar fail #1: Sean Penn and his green card

Sean Penn presented the award for best picture to Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman. Right before mentioning his name, for some reason, Sean felt the need to preface by saying “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?

fran

I have to say that when I heard that, it pretty much broke my heart, because I love Sean Penn. I find that he is a very gifted character actor as well as one of the rare celebs who seems to be truly passionate about quietly helping people without cameras in his face. So when I heard that racist joke come out of his mouth, it appalled me. Now I do get that both Sean and Alejandro are good friends and that it probably is some kind of lame ass inside joke, and if Alejandro is okay with that kind of “humour” then so be it; but I think that it really is the whole context that makes it inappropriate. A context in which Mexicans (and Latinos in general) are marginalized, under-represented and grossly stereotyped by media, which in turn has the most awful of repercussions on their daily struggles. So when someone jokes like that about one of the biggest stereotypes attached to Latinos, in a context where millions are watching, especially in a room filled – even more so than normal (#OscarsSoWhite) – with white people, it gives the illusion that, once again, there is nothing wrong with marginalized groups always being the butt end of white people’s jokes. For a second, it even felt like I was reliving Margaret Cho’s cheap impersonation of Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, alongside Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes

The moral of the story is: if you really really want to make a borderline joke, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!!! And that goes for everyone: white people and POC alike. If you’re standing before a largely white audience (aka a privileged group) who has very little knowledge about the history, stereotypes, daily struggles, and overall difficulties marginalized groups go through, HOLD YOUR DAMN TONGUE!!! Because it is doing more harm than good! It may well be a good joke to you, but to the rest of the audience that sniggers away with you, or rather AT said marginalized group, it only encourages them to Other the rest of us and continue seeing us merely as walking-talking stereotypes that aren’t to be taken seriously. Knowing Sean Penn’s pretty progressive political beliefs, I don’t think that he meant any harm (at least I hope not), but it surely doesn’t give him a free pass. He really ought to have thought long and hard about it before blurting that stuff out like that. I mean Sean, seriously, in what world is a televised green card joke about a Mexican ever a good idea?

Oscar fail #2: Patricia Arquette’s pseudo feminist speech

A lot of “feminists” have been raving about Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech. On receiving the golden statue for best supporting actress, she read off of a white sheet of paper something that she clearly should have given way more thought to:

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!

I will be honest, I didn’t quite know how to react when I heard those words. I certainly wasn’t jumping up and down on my seat the way Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez were, nor was I shaking my fist in anger. I was more confused than anything else. First of all because part of Arquette’s speech sounded extremely ignorant and self righteous: “(…) To my friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who’ve helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world.” What does that even mean? You mean to say she “helped” the entire “developing world”? And what does it even have to do with winning an Oscar? That clumsy wording reminded me of what I call the white hero complex which touches a certain category of white people; the kind who get so insulted when they’re called racist, yet do not want to know what racism really entails. The kind who goes to Africa to “save” what they think are “poor, illiterate, ignorant people who can’t even save themselves”. The kind that does charity work only to pat themselves on the back and feel superior to the people they’re supposedly helping.

saving africa

That got me thinking: in her acceptance speech, was Patricia referring to all women or just white women? Since I wasn’t sure, I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. But then I saw her backstage interview and this is what she had to say:

The truth is: Even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

Say what??! Patricia, in what world do you live in? Apparently the fight for gay people and people of color is won! Someone please enlighten me on where the hell in the world that fight is even close to being over.

Secondly, since when have straight white women fought for us? Please note that I’m saying straight white women because clearly, Arquette seems to feel like people of color and LGBT people are entirely separate groups standing on the sidelines, waiting for white feminists in shining armor to come and save them; and that women of color, Lesbians, Bi women, Trans women (both white and of color) do not count for anything. Because if straight white women did fight for us, well they did a pretty lousy job. I hate to be the one to have to say it, but we ARE STILL FIGHTING not only for equal pay, but also not to get gunned down in the street for being black, beaten up for being homosexual/bi/trans, forgotten for being First Nation, ridiculed for being Indian/Chinese/Latino, etc., and overall victims of racism and sexism in all its despicable aspects.

Thirdly, even if white women had in fact fought for the rights of others, are you saying that fighting for human rights is a I-scratch-your-back-and-you-scratch-mine thing? No, because standing up for equal rights means fighting for the recognition of something that is inherent to all human beings whether men, women, white, black, brown, straight, gay, trans, bi, rich or poor. So the I-supposedly-fought-for-you-so-you-should-fight-for-me thing doesn’t even make sense and only reveals Arquette’s sense of entitlement when “fighting” for a given cause. Beware, people of the so-called developing world, because based on what Patricia said, her “supplying ecological sanitation” to you comes with a price: fighting so her pay check can equal Sean Penn’s!

Feminism is inclusive. It isn’t about pitting marginalized groups against each other. It’s about uniting against our common enemy: the patriarchal society ruled by straight rich old white men. So when Arquette says that gay people and people of color should fight for white women because white women supposedly fought for them, it is not only extremely ignorant, but also counter-productive. If anything, Patricia Arquette’s speech has proven one thing: feminism and celebrities really don’t mix! I really hope that she learns from this mistake and informs herself on the matter, because that distorted notion of feminism (which is unfortunately widely popular) really isn’t helping.

Now for the good part of the night, those who actually had something important and encouraging to say. Here’s Rebels’ top 3 speeches (in no particular order of preference):

 

#1: Laura Poitras’ ode to Edward Snowden

The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made, affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and to the many other whistleblowers and I share this with (…) other journalists who are exposing truth.

I was pleasantly surprised that Citizenfour won best documentary given just how conservative the Academy tends to be. The fact that director Laura Poitras was even allowed to give such a controversial speech is to be applauded.

#2: Alejandro González Iñárritu sets the record straight

I want to dedicate this award [to] my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build a 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 respect [as] the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant Nation.

I thought that it was very responsible of Alejandro to address this with such eloquence and sincerity, especially in front of a largely white audience. Whether he meant for it or not, I feel like Mexican viewers needed some kind of damage control after Sean Penn’s clumsy green card comment. Kudos to you Alejandro for handling it with class!

#3: Graham Moore’s inspirational tirade

 

I love that speech because it is so real. Graham seems to be speaking from the heart, and is so honest about something that we all struggle with at least once in our lives. We are so often told that being different is bad. That it’s something we ought to be ashamed of, that it keeps us from fitting in. But the truth is that the more we try to conform to these insane, rigid and dumb unwritten rules, the more we alienate ourselves from everything good around us. Be yourself and as weird, quirky and different as that means because that is how you will truly find where it is that you belong and truly make a difference in this world.Stay weird, stay different”. Graham, you hit the nail on the head!

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