Movies, Pop Culture

Here’s to the #OscarsSoWhite

Oscars so white: two steps forward, many steps backwards.

Nashwa Khan’s other work for Coming of Faith can be found here.

Before the Oscars, many came out about the warranted white centric nature of the Oscar nominees. The most egregious snub was arguably no racialized actors having any nominations and Selma not receiving nominations for best actress and actor. There was a great hashtag discussion that can be found on the hastag  #oscarssowhite, created by April Reign, that continued to gain momentum throughout the night. I actually kept this bingo card handy while watching, hoping I won’t have to recycle it next year.

[bctt tweet=”April Reign’s #oscarssowhite gained momentum throughout the night.” username=”wearethetempest”]

 

From the opening where we had an obnoxious moment of racial joke gentrification:

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This was just obnoxious coming from a white man about white people; it almost destroys the inverted fun and slight justice. Jazmine Hughes, contributing editor at The Hairpin eloquently writes, racialized humor is an instrument that people of color can use to placate themselves in the face of the overwhelming reality: It’s just better to be Caucasian. By making fun of white people, people of color can, in a small way, push back against stereotypes, opposing racial humor by inverting it.

Moving forward, we had a very mundane lineup but my stress induced wrinkles as a result of American Sniper’s six nominations slowly filled in as it lost everything but best sound editing (and to be honest that doesn’t co-sign the content).

Partway through, Neil Patrick Harris continued to be ridiculous by making assertions that Octavia Spencer should watch his suitcase.  It was all honestly really weird, watching this white man tell what he seemed to think was a funny joke to a black woman who obviously wasn’t into it and couldn’t be left alone to enjoy the show. Janet Mock poignantly tweeted about the skewed feeling as around the ongoing “joke.”

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Roxanne Gay, author of the internationally revered novel Bad Feminist, also noted the microagressions Octavia faces as a black woman.

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Janet Mock made a similar observation at the last Emmy’s, this casual typecasting of Octavia truly highlights that the Oscars is catered to a default audience. It is a show that is definitely not meant for people of color.

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The night seemed to pick up whenever Neil Patrick Harris stopped speaking and we had thought provoking messages come up about calling our parents, Alzheimer’s, suicide, democracy and the prison industrial complex. There was a joke with loaded subtext about why there shouldn’t be a black Annie, Neil Patrick Harris essentially forced David Oyelowo to mock it. Because you know, that isn’t pulling a “my black friend” or making it an attempt to look less casually racist because a black man has been forced to say it. The young and talented Quvenzhane Wallis keeps getting trashed by white people and comes out as the punch line of award show jokes that go too far. I really doubt her white peers face this scrutiny.

I’m just going to put it out there, Neil Patrick Harris lost me as a fan yesterday, I was grinding my teeth every time he spoke waiting for it to be over. He held us hostage for the night.

[bctt tweet=”Neil Patrick Harris lost me as a fan.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It was refreshing for a show where speeches seem to be less political, if political is even a way to describe these very basic and fundamental stances being voiced. Last year we were blessed with Lupita Nyong’o’s speech with the riveting line “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.”

I started to feel okay, even impressed with the winners until Patricia Arquette came and issued what could be the speech to divide feminists across the nation. She opened up discussed equal wages, fair. She didn’t have nuance but I understood the spirit. Then it just became obnoxious. She went on to say women had fought for LGBTQ people and people of color so it was time they fought for women. Obnoxious is one of many tragic words I have for this woman’s very flawed view of the world. Often people want to have trappings of marginalization or believe they are most oppressed and say violent things loaded with erasure. Patricia, although approved by both Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez’s reactions during her speech, lauded by others for her words backstage crossed multiple lines. Looking at affirmative action, we can deduce and understand that white women have been the largest beneficiaries. We also know that the wage gap is not simply determined by gender, and men of color are not paid the amount wage many white folks are paid. At the same time, to demand groups more oppressed than her now support an embodiment like hers is egregious. I don’t know what she has done for any movement but what I can confidently assert is that allyship and solidarity are not a bargaining chip. Patricia seems to have the wrong idea as to what solidarity looks like. Similarly, she missed including people like me who live on the access of being both racialized and a woman, and the identity I am most oppressed by in Western society is not my gender, it is my racialization.  Employers have made comments about my religion and ethnic backgrounds; I do feel that has held me back more than anything else within the workplace. She honestly sounded like she was attempting to prepare us for Hillary 2016 in the most one-dimensional way. Real talk, Julianne Moore refusing to partake in the mani cam was more feminist than Patty Arquette’s very watered down, over hyped speech.

[bctt tweet=”Arquette’s ‘feminist’ speech was watered down and over hyped.” username=”wearethetempest”]

There was also a moving and needed performance of Glory by John Legend and Common, who would later be essential in letting the Academy and America know the importance of Selma and other movements through subtext his speech.

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The thing that bothered me about the way the camera was focused during their performance was the fixation on Chris Pine. It felt unsettling that this beautiful white man crying was a big deal. Yeah, it was great to see a white guy cry at something so raw and real, I even live tweeted it but the fixation and praising of it almost became pedestal like. In my mind, Chris Pine either feels extremely guilty or just discovered something on ancestry.com, because his flowing tears got a disproportionately weird amount of headlines and screen time when people with lived experience like Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo crying. I watched headlines unfold suddenly crediting Chris Pine for way too much, one even championed him as “Here is the Face of the Civil Rights.” It illustrates how much a white seal of approval triumphs over others.

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Do white tears hold some kind of precedent now?

Neil Patrick Harris also tried to playoff misprounouncing names to make a point David Oyelowo’s name, two times.

Fast forward through more of the offensive Neil Patrick Harris who should never be allowed to host again, my pick is Viola Davis who commanded the stage, to the closing featuring trashman Sean Penn.

I have questions I want to address to the academy because beyond yesterday Sean Penn was not a good person. He has been arrested and charged for domestic violence multiple times, why was he glorified with presenting the arguably most prestigious award of the night? He seems to have flown under the radar although he has been arrested six times. I see other abusive men in Hollywood like Chris Brown becoming pariahs and openly (and rightfully) criticized while white violent men like Penn and even Eminem seem to have vague murmurs and get a lauded in Hollywood.

Why do white men get this pass? I see Bill Cosby get admonished, as he should be, but hardly see Terry Richardson lose work, and Sean Penn won two Oscars from work he was offered after being arrested and convicted.

Beyond Sean Penn being violent physically towards women, his remarks about immigration crossed a line. With the current climate in Mexico and the fact that borders to be honest are imaginary lines, his inability to just announce the winner was disgusting. Microagressions weigh heavy on the heart and regardless of their friendship status, it doesn’t make them okay when they insult so many other individuals.

Penn opened the envelope and said,  “Who gave this sonofabitch a green card?” and then proceeded to announce Alejandro González Iñárritu as the winner.

Iñárritu proceeded to comment on his poor English, which I feel is something many people do as non native speakers when we feel a group may be judging us.

I did exhale deeply when he took space to say the following:

“I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico,” Iñárritu said at the close of his acceptance speech. “I pray that we can find and build the 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 of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation. Thank you very much.”

In this sense, the Oscars did earn the merit and spirit of the hashtag bestowed on them with #OscarsSoWhite. We went two steps forward with some celebrities touching on issues but many, many steps backwards with microagressions and casual racism ingrained into the fabric of this award show.

[bctt tweet=”Two steps forward and many steps back.” username=”wearethetempest”]