Evelyn Crunden ’13
Dazzling lights and the red carpet are customary of the Oscars, as is an absurd amount of attention paid to outfits, makeup and attendees. Still, a good portion of Oscar-related buzz comes down to its host, for better or for worse, as well as the winners of the night’s coveted golden statues. This year’s antics, brought to you by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, were so unusually tasteless that the entire Internet has decided to weigh in, while the winners were for the most part underwhelming. Though this isn’t an unusual occurrence, it still begs a few key questions, as does the ceremony as a whole. Why was the show such a disappointment? The devil’s in the details.
First and foremost, Oscar hosts with a few exceptions are generally white men who feel comfortable making any number of racist, sexist, homophobic, classist and etc. comments while enjoying their place on the stage. MacFarlane, however, was unusually awful. Why? Perhaps a measure of the disappointment and disapproval stems from the fact that progressives have been working to slowly bring Hollywood, a seeming bastion of liberalism that is actually really just a bastion of privilege almost uniformly out-of-touch with the rest of the world, up to speed with the state of mankind circa the 21st century.
For example, MacFarlane’s entire dance celebrating the presence of women’s breasts in Oscar-winning cinema could have been mildly entertaining, but it overlooked the fact that 77 percent of Academy Awards voters are men and as such, are the primary culprits behind female nudity in the institution’s repertoire. A crack about Quvenzhané Wallis, the adorable and night-stealing nine-year-old Oscar nominee, being George Clooney’s type also went beyond the pale, as did deciding to completely bypass any niceties by making a Rihanna-and-Chris Brown joke relating to Django in a moment that managed to be racist, sexist and just appalling in general.
MacFarlane’s tasteless humor wasn’t the only disappointment of the night, however. In a year where beautiful movies like Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild were in competition with complex action thrillers like Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, one would’ve expected more from some of the results. Indeed, while Jennifer Lawrence is a wonderful actress and a treasure, her win seemed a bit confusing when given her competition, and the choice catered more to viewer stereotypes and mainstream expectations than actual validity. Meanwhile, the award of Best Picture to Argo was perhaps the most underwhelming moment of the night and seemed to lead to a collective moment of relief that at long last the show had ended.
Still, the night wasn’t completely full of letdowns. Actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, though already much honored by the Academy, still received awards with grace, and the man himself gave a beautiful and poetic speech that resonated with the audience. A certain level of relaxed behavior among several hosts and winners – a slightly tipsy Meryl Streep and a seemingly wasted Quentin Tarantino were the highlights – was also endearing, especially for their fans, while Wallis’ antics were the most appealing aspect of the entire show. Meanwhile the win of Inocente, a tale of homelessness in America marked by an intersectional lens, was by far the most moving moment as its protagonist stood tearfully on the stage.
Ultimately, the night was not a complete failure, but it was an unfortunate display of tasteless humor, expected and sometimes undeserved wins, as well as a sad indicator of Hollywood’s separation from the rest of the world. While we’ll all probably still tune in next year, we can only hope that as an audience, we will be in for a more respectful and more validating experience.