Beyond #selfie-hood: Social Issues Dominate the Oscars
When Buzzfeed asked Kevin Spacey about his ‘mani-pedi’ he looked at the reporter with “are you crazy” eyes. What the video did was further a discussion that has been raging throughout this year’s Oscar ramp-up: inequity for women in Hollywood. This and other social justice issues took center stage at this year’s Oscars. With slavery and racism at the core of the Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress awards for “12 Years a Slave”; AIDs activism in the best Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor wins for “Dallas Buyer’s Club”; viral stories and dialogues traversed the web this awards season targetting the beauty industry (Cate Blanchett’s response to the press at the SAG awards, Lupita Nyong’o on beauty and race) and gender injustice (Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech).
Though plenty of buzz surrounded the Ellen DeGeneres shutdown Twitter with a record-breaking group celebrity #selfie, which at 3.3 million, broke all Retweeting records, many deeper issues managed to emerge as well.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
The Oscar #selfie tweet was instantly parodied on The Simpsons:
— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) March 5, 2014
Beyond party laughs, Lupita Nyong’o’s moving speech about beauty and blackness has been embedded and quoted across the Interwebs. In addition to the power of her searing performance as Patsy, the abused slave heroine who maintains her dignity and bravery against all odds in “12 Years a Slave,” at every stage of the Oscar season, Nyong’o rose up as an icon of elegance, and eloquence.
What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.
And, in her Oscar acceptance speech, Lupita Nyong’o refocuses the glamor of the moment to the underlying importance of the character she portrayed:
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…
continued to address the issues of entrenched gender injustice in the Hollywood business model in her own Best Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars, addressing those executives:
…in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money.
And while Jared Leto’s performance in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” has sparked some backlash in the transgender community, his speech managed to touch on the global crises in Venezuela, Ukraine, as well as those who have died from the AIDS pandemic:
To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen and live the impossible, we are thinking of you tonight.[…]
This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS. And to those of you who have ever felt injustice because of who you are and who you love, I stand here in front of the world with you and for you.
A number of activist celebrities were key players in this years Oscars ceremonies. Brad Pitt, a key producer of “12 Years a Slave, introduced Bono, nominated for the song “Ordinary Love” which he penned for the bio-pic about legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom,” while Angelina Jolie received an honorary Oscar for her global humanitarian efforts.
What are your thoughts about this year’s Oscars? Do you think these social cause celebrities are having an impact? Do you think the issues raised by the high profile of these social issue narrative winners will have a ripple effect on the culture at large? Has the role of celebrities shifted to that of superhero(ine)s for the greater good?