Oscars 2018: In its 90th year, we have witnessed probably the most political Academy Awards yet

Karishma Upadhyay

Mar 05, 2018 13:46:31 IST

Best Actress winner Frances McDormand at the end of her acceptance speech at the 90th Academy Awards said, “I have two words for you: Inclusion rider.” The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri actress was referring to a clause that actors can include in their movie contracts that mandate greater gender and racial diversity. Earlier in her speech, she asked every female nominee in all categories to stand up, and asked male studio suits to back their films.

This year’s Academy Awards were Hollywood’s biggest night in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. While there were several references to the #MeToo and Times Up movement — including the segment hosted by Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek – all three of whom have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct; the more prominent theme of the evening was diversity, inclusion and equality. The three actresses introduced a video montage of this year’s trailblazing films and stars like Geena Davis, Ava DuVernay, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Jenkins and Mira Sorvino talking about the power of inclusive story telling.

Oscars 2018: In its 90th year, we have witnessed probably the most political Academy Awards yet

(L-R) Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek deliver a speech about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry during the 90th Annual Academy Awards show on 4 March 2018 in Hollywood, California. AFP

Before announcing the Oscar for Best Production Design, Nanjiani and Lupita Nyong’o appealed for the ‘Dreamers’ – recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigrations program, whose fate currently hangs in the balance under Donald Trump's presidency. “Like everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers. We grew up dreaming of one day working in the movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood, and dreams are the foundation of America,” Nyong’o, who is of Kenyan-Mexican descent said. Making their political message clear, Karachi-born Nanjiani, concluded, “To all the dreamers out there, we stand with you”.

Perhaps the most political moment of the 2018 Oscars was when rapper Common and singer Andra Day took to stage to perform the song 'Stand Up for Something' from the film Marshall. They stood side-by-side with prominent activists including Patrisse Khan-Cullors of the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, transgender rights advocate and author Janet Mock and eight-year-old Bana Alabed, a Syrian refugee and author.

Second-time host Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the evening with a monologue full of political zingers. He congratulated writer-director Jordan Peele, “none other than President Trump called Get Out the best first three-quarters of a movie this year” and reminded the audience “we don’t make films like Call Me By Your Name for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence”. Kimmel also took digs at Michelle Williams’ agents for the All the Money In the World reshoot pay discrepancy and encourages the audience to support the Parkland teens’ March For Our Lives.

Oscars 2018: The best lines from Jimmy Kimmel's opening monologue at Hollywood's big night

Through the awards, several presenters and winners advocated better opportunities for women in Hollywood. Emma Stone introduced nominees in the Best Director category as, “these four men and Greta Gerwig". Coco songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez during their acceptance speech for Best Song noted that the category was 50/50 in terms of gender representation. “When you look at a category like ours, it helps to imagine a world where all the categories look like this one,” Anderson-Lopez said. Coco also won Best Animated Feature and director Lee Unkrich explained why ‘representation matters’. “With Coco we tried to take a step towards a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalised people deserve to feel like they belong,” he said to thunderous applause.

The award season in Hollywood has had a long tradition of hosts and winners using the platform to make political statements. And there is no bigger stage than the Oscars. Marlon Brando sent out a Native American activist to decline his 1973 Oscar for best actor. During her Oscar acceptance speech in 1978, Vanessa Redgrave denounced the “Zionist hoodlums”. Just last year, Meryl Streep made a fiery anti-Trump speech at the Oscars. In its 90th year, we have witnessed probably the most political Oscars yet, which is not surprising considering this is a time of upheaval in both Hollywood and the US: the #MeToo movement, the gun-control issue, racial discord and, of course, all the drama courtesy of Donald Trump.

Also read on Firstpost — Oscars' history of politics: From Brando’s no-show, Vietnam to #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2018 13:48:15 IST