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Hollywood appears to have changed its mission from entertaining the public to schooling them on politics. The 2018 Oscars weren’t just an opportunity for the Hollywood elite to celebrate themselves in the usual self-satisfied way, but to promote a whole variety of political and social agendas.
From sexism to the NRA, diversity to the obligatory potshots at Trump, the tone of this year’s award season has been distinctly political and of course, the mother of all award shows, the Oscars, was no different.
TIME’S UP CAMPAIGN
Host Jimmy Kimmel started the show by diving straight into the Weinstein scandal. While many on the outside have questioned the industry’s credibility on the issue of sexual harassment following decades of enabling silence, Kimmel opened his monologue by joking about Weinstein; he wasn’t satisfied to stop there, however, pointing his finger at all men:
“If we can work together to stop sexual harassment is the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time, at every other place they go.”
Prominent Weinstein accusers Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Anabella Sciorra took to the stage to commemorate the Time’s Up campaign, but again went further, calling for a whole social justice agenda of “limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality.”
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the evening was Frances MacDormand calling for all female nominees to stand up, especially Meryl Streep – one of many moments highlighting Hollywood’s strange hero-worship of Streep who, much like Oprah, has come out of the #metoo scandal more revered than ever, despite being a close supporter of Weinstein in the years before the public accusations against him.
RACE AND DIVERSITY
Sexism wasn’t the only hot-button topic of the evening; race and diversity was another crowd favorite. A number of immigrant nominees commented on their presence at the ceremony, with veiled references to DACA “dreamers.” While nobody is denying that celebrities have a right to express their political opinions, some of the comments just seemed bitter. Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan-Mexican actress introduced herself and fellow presenter Kumail Nanjiani thus:
“Good evening, we are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing.”
Meanwhile, Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph decided to treat the audience to unfounded accusations of racial biases. After first suggesting that white people were asking themselves “are the Oscars too black?” they went on to attempt appeasement by saying that white people shouldn’t worry as “there are many more white people to come.”
The pair presented an award to the winners of the short film category, whose movie was about a deaf child. The winners gave a speech in sign language and spoke about the hardships deaf and disabled people – not one of Hollywood’s favored victim groups – in a heartfelt way, proving that you don’t have to demean your audience in order to get a social point across.
The most obvious political call to action was Frances MacDormand’s speech, which left most viewers mystified about the phrase “inclusion rider.” It was eventually explained that actors could include this clause in their contracts to force studios into hiring “diverse” members of cast and crew. A-listers are known for talking the talk, but how many will actually be willing to put their money where their mouth is as MacDormand seems to intend, and will audiences stick around to find out?
TODAY’S MORAL AUTHORITY
After complaints that last year’s post-election Academy Awards were too political, it seems that Hollywood was just getting started. Kimmel admitted on stage that these movies aren’t making money, but, as he said, “that’s not the point.” Entertainment is no longer the purpose of Oscar-worthy films. Hollywood sees themselves as moral arbiters whose job is to guide the rest of us onto the social justice path. The overall tone of the night was more bitter than energizing, however, with too many resentful complaints that are likely to alienate rather than inspire.