Was the real winner at the Oscars...Social Justice?


Though my hope for an upset in the Best Picture category by Selma didn’t happen, last night Oscars most memorable moments almost all touched on issues of equality and representation. The producers themselves seemed incredibly concerned with optics as they packed the presenters list with people of color. They, and host Neil Patrick Harris opened the night with self-depreciating acknowledgment that the night was there to honor the “best and whitest.” No, this did not make up for the lack of POC nominees, but it was refreshing that the issue was acknowledged and hopefully it sparked some dialog and awareness that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. 

The same goes for the big moments. Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to call for an end to the gender gap in wages. Screenwriter Graham Moore dedicated his award to kids who felt weird and alone with a moving story of his own suicide attempt. Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour took home a trophy. And in the most moving moment of the night, John Legend and Common brought the audience to tears and to their feet with a powerful rendition of “Glory” staged on a replica if the Selma bridge. Moments later, they won for best song a d in a truly eloquent speech reminded us that “Selma is now.”

Even off outside of the theater, the idea of equality was a topic of conversation, with the meteoric rise of #AskHerMore - a movement supported by nominee Reese Witherspoon to not just talk to women about their dresses, but to also ask them the same substantive questions as were asked of men. In ABC’s red carpet coverage, they shockingly stuck to this, and even mentioned the hashtag several times. Of course the fashion was discussed (and with dresses as breathtaking as Lupita Nyong’o’s and jennifer Lopez’s, rightly so).

Does this make up for the lack of diversity in the actual awards, no, but it these things got people talking; and earnest conversation among people is where change truly begins. In my own household after Patricia Arquette’s speech, my wife and I entered a lively debate with my Father-in-Law about whether the gender wage gap actually existed, which he at first didn’t believe. An Oscar speech may have helped him become more enlightened, even a little bit, and moments like those are almost as important as who took home the awards.

This post was original published on the fangirlingthebook tumblr on February 23, 2015.