February 22nd, 2015 marked the 87th Oscars Awards ceremony. This year’s Oscars Awards were met with much controversy due to its glaring lack of diversity and almost all-white nominee list, prompting the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Every single person nominated in the acting categories was white, and this did not go unnoticed by critics. Though it did pick up two nominations for Best Original Song and and Best Picture, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, was one of the most talked about snubs on the list of grievances, as DuVernay was not nominated for Best Director for the film. She would have been the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category, and one of only five women ever nominated. David Oyelowo, who gave a stirring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. also was passed over for a nomination. Amidst the unrest, the Oscars went on.
Unsurprisingly, more controversy came from it, but there were notable bright spots as well.
John Legend and Common both took home an Oscar for the Best Original Song category, delivering poignant and heartfelt speeches about paralleling the struggles of the Civil Rights movement to the battle surrounding civil rights around the world today. Legend went on to speak about discriminatory voting rights legislation and mass incarceration in the United States today, which disproportionately affects African-Americans. Common and Legend’s performance of their winning song, “Glory,” was one of the most talked about musical performances of the night, receiving a standing ovation at its close. Along with incredible musical performances, Lady Gaga’s 50th anniversary Sound of Music tribute was also praised as one of the best performances of her career. Julie Andrews, the original Maria, thanked Gaga for her performance, saying it “really warmed her heart”.
One of the most side-eye inducing moments of the Oscars was Patricia Arquette’s speech after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the film Boyhood. On the stage, her speech about women’s rights for equal pay was cheered on by fans and celebrities alike, but her elaboration of the speech backstage in the press room was what turned many heads.
“It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. 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!”
Arquette’s assertion that gay people and people of color owe white women their support, is in one word- ludicrous. Her words completely erased queer women and women of color who have been instrumental in the construction of feminist theory and thought, separating them from the category of “woman” by demanding that they fight for white women. White feminism has a long history of ignoring intersectionality and excluding any women of marginalized identities concerns from the conversation. Unfortunately, Arquette did not realize the incongruity of her demanding support from groups that are continuously kept out of the winner’s circle she stands in herself. Predictively, Twitter blew up when Arquette’s words circulated the web. A quote from a recent article of The Grio written by Blue Telusma summed up thoughts surrounding Arquette’s statements succinctly, “Who does she think nursed and looked after all of those white children during the slave era? Did she somehow miss the last 400 years of race relations? Does she not notice who the nannies are when she takes her kids to the park? Society has made it all too clear that not all women are created equal. So to ask the women who are below you on the food chain to once again lift you up is fifty shades of ‘You got some nerve.’”
Keeping up with the theme of head shaking moments of the Oscars, Sean Penn delivered a joke to Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu after handing him an Oscar for Best Picture, saying “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch a green card?” The joke caught immediate ire from Twitter users and written articles alike. Penn may have thought the joke benign due to his decade long friendship with Iñárritu, but many others saw it as “racist,” “out of line,” and “absolutely disgusting.” Seeing what was likely one of the most memorable accomplishments of Iñárritu’s life reduced to an incredibly insensitive joke, trivializing the harsh realities many face while fighting for immigration justice was disheartening.
Though opinions surrounding this year’s Oscars awards certainly differ, there is one thing most parties can agree on. The real winner of the night was Lupita Nyong’o in her pearl-lined Calvin Klein dress. She slayed the red carpet, along with our hearts.