#Problematic: Looking Back At The Oscars Edition
How are you, today? Did you know Lady Gaga could sing? Wherever you are I hope your shoes are secretly off under your desk and your water bottle is full of vodka, because it’s been a long ass week on the internet. With the Oscars preemptively hashtagged #OscarsSoWhite, even sorority girls were pressured to keep their love of “The Theory of Everything” in hushed whispers over glasses of Skinny Girl. Despite problematic security being on level orange, I don’t think anyone foresaw the award ceremony drawing the wicked set of metaphorical tarot cards that it did, as if the night fell under a problematic moon in the 7th house of race politics, trine with gender issues and in conjunction with old musicals.
At least we all got to breathe a sigh of relief that not even the biggest red carpet of the year can quell the tension between a mother and daughter. Melanie Griffith tested the true strength of botox with her icy reaction to being asked if she was proud of her daughter, known piece of milk toast and “Fifty Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson. When she defiantly refused to see the film, the milk toast quipped, “Fine you don’t have to see it, mom.” Beyond that I’m just grateful now to always have something to muse upon in the darkest #winemom moments, that being what would be in NPH’s locked box of predictions for my life, and who would be forced to awkwardly guard them. So let’s get into this week’s Oscars-dedicated bag of bullshit.
1. Patricia Arquette’s Feminism
If you’ve seen “True Romance,” you know that Patricia Arquette has been deserving of an Oscar for a long time. Thanks to Richard Linklater seeing in her what everyone should, she no longer has to exist in the dug out of underrated actresses, as she took home the statue for best supporting actress in “Boyhood.” Aside from the street cred garnered from bringing the iconic Alabama Whirly to life, Arquette has a cool of her own. She’s refuses to play to Hollywood’s insistence that women defy age, showing up to the ceremony with a natural elegance, her god-given body weight (not the one a colonic provides), and the balls to bring her glasses. She brought something else too, and that was a whole lot of something to say.
Unnecessarily deemed “the most feminist moment of the night” (it would take there having been other feminist moments of the night for that to be true), Arquette used her acceptance speech as a platform to stand up for equal pay for women. Eloquently pointing out that it is the women who give life to the penises that deny them equal pay, Arquette fired off, “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.”The women in the audience visibly approved of the message, and much like “The Hangover,” that should have been that.
Afterwards in another circle of hell, the press room (I plan on using this column to entirely flesh out the landscape of hell), Arquette went on to explain her ideas in an unfortunate way, much like when you’re winning an argument with a significant other, but you just keep talking. She urged “all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for to fight for us now.” The populous rose up in anger to point out that her sentiment is entirely overlooking the concept of intersectionality, and signifies a very isolating brand of privileged feminism.
What’s problematic here is that the internet put Arquette in a virtual stockade, when she is hinting at a very real point, albeit woefully articulated. She does wrongfully insinuate that not only are all of these movements separate, but also that the fight for equality for people of color and the GLBT community has already been won. What she is right about is that feminism is a fractured movement (see: Twitter), that has enough trouble agreeing within its confines, let alone garnering support outside of itself. I think that she genuinely meant all women when she said “women,” even if she clearly hasn’t done her research on intersectionality. But the fact that her entire sentiment must be destroyed because it was not pristine is indicative of the hostility towards feminism that Arquette was referencing to begin with. Meryl doesn’t point at things that aren’t worthy.
As #Problematic as … whatever NPH was doing to Octavia Spencer:
2. Neil Patrick Harris’ Hosting Style
Not everyone can appeal to the mall-going masses like Ellen. A woman who creates daytime television segments about YouTube videos and memes, she gets America. Neil Patrick Harris is a more nuanced Oscar host however, and his effort to bring wit and a self-referential sense of play to the ceremony was harshly scrutinized. His opening song was a brave move (technically speaking, as NPH isn’t a Lady Gaga of surprise vocal talent), and attempted to stir in us some sentimental reverence for the filmmaking industry that has by in large corrupted itself. There was a self-awareness there though in both Jack Black’s part of storming the stage to sing about said corruptness (even if he was more of a cartoon villain than sage), and the wink in Harris’ eye that we need to return to that kind of movie-making magic. Anna Kendrick, singing milk toast, also was there.
Like many hosts before him, NPH took to poking fun at the attendees and winners (because that’s the only way we can all stomach a night dedicated to honoring unbridled opulence). He altered the Farmer’s Insurance jingle after J.K. Simmons won for best actor in “Whiplash.” He told Robert Duvall to stay awake. He didn’t do anything outside of the realms of a Fey/Poehler routine. People took enormous issue with one joke in particular, that being an improvised moment after Dana Perry won for best documentary short for “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” and dedicated the award to her son who committed suicide. Harris joked, “It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that,” in reference to part of Perry’s dress.
The internet’s inability to handle the joke [http://news.yahoo.com/we-should-talk-about-suicide-out-loud-oscars-neil-patrick-harris-joke-033123444.html] is evidence of our inability to decide whether or not we want to Oscars to be a somber attempt to give meaning to Hollywood’s elitism, or a night to poke enough fun at it that we can feel a part of it. When Perry was told of the joke afterwards, she herself said [http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/dana-perry-reacts-neil-patrick-harris-balls-joke-article-1.2125598] that it was “adorable” and invited anyone to “feel my furry balls.” She went on to say part of why she loved wearing the garment, a family heirloom, is because it was fodder for dirty jokes. What’s problematic is that we use the red carpet as a sort of gate of judgement for the night’s fashion, but reference to it during the actual ceremony is disrespectful. I think NPH paid for the comment in full with whatever horrible things were probably said about him by everyone who hadn’t seen “Birdman” and wanted to know why the singing gay man was in his underwear on stage (insert a different kind of furry ball joke).
As #Problematic as Eddie Redmayne’s little acceptance dance:
3. Sean Penn’s Joke
Sean Penn has been under the radar for quite some time, likely because you stop caring about the world when you get to have sex with Charlize Theron whenever you want. We all miss you Sean, especially Madonna. Anyways, Penn presented the holy grail award of the night, that of best picture, which went to “Birdman.” When giving the award to Mexican writer/director/producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Penn joked, “Who gave this son of a bitch a green card.”
You guessed it, the internet was as upset as most people were when “House Of Cards” didn’t really leak early. A whole slew of accusations of xenophobia and racism spewed forth. Think pieces might have to retire after all the work they did to shame Sean Penn (“Or How They Shamed Sean Penn” will be Inarritu’s next film). What everyone seemed to miss is that presenters are often linked in some way to the person they’re giving the award to. In this case Penn was directed by Inarritu in “21 Grams,” and the two are reportedly good friends. When asked backstage Inarritu revealed, “Sean and I had that kind of brutal relationship where only true friendship can survive. When I was directing him in ’21 Grams,’ he was always making jokes … I made a lot of very tough jokes (to him) that I will not tell you.” In short, the director didn’t find it offensive, and even if he did, I would hope someone who just took home the holy trinity of Oscars would be able to (if I may borrow a likely trademarked phrase) “shake it off.”
What’s problematic here is that Penn was satirizing the exact kind of xenophobia that he’s been accused of. The joke was a direct jab at the political bullying Republicans have been doing to undermine immigration reform. Apparently America can’t read dead pan anymore, nor understand the sarcastic art form of calling someone a “son of a bitch,” most notably refined by Robin Williams (RIP).
As #Problematic as the Joan Rivers snub:
4. Graham Moore’s Acceptance Speech
There were a lot of accusations of the films this year being emotional porn meant exclusively as Oscar bait (which just makes me wonder if anyone has ever seen the Oscars before). One of those said films this year was “The Imitation Game,” a film about Alan Turing, the man who altered the trajectory of World War II, only to be prosecuted for being gay afterwards, chemically castrated, and ultimately killing himself. With a synopsis like that, it does beg the question if it’s even possible to make that kind of movie without tugging at the heart strings of even the most stern, white-haired, white-balled Oscar voter. They even got Keira Knightley to be poignant through her teeth.
Graham Moore, an unknown before last Sunday, took home the award for best adapted screenplay for said film. As evidenced by Patricia Arquette, those few moments accepting your Oscar are yours to own. They are the redemptive seconds dreamt of by everyone, enjoyed by few, where you look into the camera with a triumphant stare obliterating anyone who has ever been mean to you, had sex with you and not called you back, stood you up for ice cream etc. Moore took the platform to a confusing level though when he made what seemed to be an “it gets better” type of pro gay rights speech.
Moore spoke about being inspired by Turing’s story, as he personally struggled with depression as a teen and ultimately tried to kill himself. He went on to add, “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And then, when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
Snaps for the sentiment, but it’s about as emotionally manipulative as the screenplay he adapted. Moore has received a great deal of praise for taking a stand to discuss depression and suicide, but that didn’t necessarily come across as the issue he was referencing. In aligning himself with Turing, Moore seemed to have been suggesting that their kindredness was because of homosexuality (especially since the first person he thanked was Oprah, COME ON). What’s incredibly problematic is that Moore, a straight, white male, attempted to liken his own struggle to that of a man who was tortured because of his sexuality. I don’t think that homosexuality trumps depression as a cause, but Moore’s speech was stirringly misleading, and all it’s amounted to in the media was ~Oops, we thought he was gay. Great speech though.
As #Problematic as whatever John Travolta did to Idina Menzel’s face:
5. Boyhood Didn’t Win
It took 12 years to make.
As #Problematic as “Boyhood” not winning: