Social Issues, Not Trump, Take Center Stage at Oscars

Political moments at the Oscars used to be the source of surprises and onstage controversy.

No longer. This year, they were not only expected, they were part of the production.

Stars wore Times Up buttons, Twitter bought a #MeToo inspired ad, Walmart and Nike channeled diversity and empowerment, presenters were at the ready with statements. There was even an Oscar salute to activism, via the Oscar nominated song “Stand Up for Something,” sung by Common and Andra Day and introduced by Dave Chappelle.

“If you are a nominee tonight who isn’t making history, shame on you,” Kimmel said in his opening monologue, a nod to the anticipation of a more diverse set of nominees and the show’s hopes of social change ahead.

He urged winners to say whatever they wanted — whether it be on sexual harassment or gun violence — but he also jokingly offered a Jet Ski to anyone who gave the shortest speech.

There was Trump humor, but it could hardly come at a surprise. A joke about Hope Hicks and another at the message of “Get Out.”

“None other than President Trump called ‘Get Out’ the best first three-quarters of a movie this year.”

Kimmel’s better quip was aimed at Trump’s vice president: “We don’t make movies like ‘Call Me By Your Name’ to make money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.”

In the lead up to the telecast, the Republican National Committee issued a pre-emptive statement. On Sunday, the NRA tweeted out videos timed to the Oscars bashing elites, Hollywood included.

Kimmel did give a shout out to the Parkland, Fla., high school students and the March 24 march on Washington, having talked about the issue of gun violence on his late night show. Common was more direct: “Tell the NRA they in God’s way,” he said in his performance.

The Oscar intro — a retro take marking the ceremony’s 90th year — even anticipated the post-show slams from the right, making reference to the gathering of “Godless Hollywood elitists.”

In contrast to last year, when the question of whether Trump would tweet hung over the ceremony; this time around, the greater focus was on something larger and loftier, about causes and social movements to change the industry and the country. The president actually was referenced just four times.

Diversity, equality, inclusion were a continued theme throughout the evening, led by Frances McDormand, accepting her Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Mo.,” had all the female nominees stand up. She called on the industry to produce more projects created by women, including the addition of “inclusion riders” to contracts.

The Times Up movement was featured in a special segment, the message being that the past year, Harvey Weinstein, et al, can mark a turning point for the industry in representation. That was a sentiment expressed by the team behind “Coco,” winners of best animated feature.  “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters,” said the film’s director, Lee Unkrich, as he thanked the people of Mexico.

Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani, both immigrants, celebrated the Dreamers, who would face deportation on Monday were it not for a Supreme Court decision last month. “To all the Dreamers out there, we stand with you,” Nanjiani said. Very quickly, United We Dream, an advocacy group pushing for the Dream Act, tweeted out their remarks.

“Stand Up for Something,” the Oscar nominated song from “Marshall,” provided the opportunity for a segment devoted to activism, introduced by Chappelle, who said, “In American life, there are these people who abandon comfortable circumstances and take on issues that are bigger than themselves. And that is a thankless, thankless job to take on.”

“I stand for peace, love and women’s rights,” Common said in his performance with Day, as they were joined by activists from a host of groups including Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter and Sandy Hook Promise. Common finished by imploring those watching to “stand up.”

 

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