Representation and Controversy Mark Oscars

By Rosie Alger
Elm Staff Writer

Glamorous and as filled with drama as ever, this year’s Academy Awards brought some serious successes, and some pretty big disappointments. Not everyone can be a winner, and with so many talented creators with very devoted fans, someone is bound to be disappointed. Here’s what I found exciting and upsetting at the 2017 Oscars.
First of all, there was way more representation and diversity in attendance than in previous years. I was thrilled to see Viola Davis, an extremely talented and now three-time Academy Award nominated actress, finally win a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “Fences.”
Additionally, “Moonlight’s” Mahershala Ali made history by becoming the first Muslim man to win an Academy Award for acting. This is a huge and incredible step forward for representation in film, and I am looking forward both to see what Ali will do next, as well as seeing more Muslim actors and actresses making the front page and getting box-office recognition.
These wins were important steps forward in what I view as a field that has been seriously behind the ethos of diversity that it claims to uphold. Not only that, but “Moonlight’s” win for Best Picture was extremely important, both in honoring the film’s master storytelling, and in highlighting the romance and life of a gay black man, at a time when these kinds of stories are often swept under the rug.
Unfortunately, “Moonlight’s” important win was grossly overshadowed by the mistake made when the announcers were given the wrong envelope, and subsequently the announcement of the wrong film, “La La Land,” as the winner. The announcer for the award had a card that said “Emma Stone, La La Land,” which was for her win as Best Actress, and in their confusion announced that film as the win by mistake.
Zamira Rahim wrote about the incident for Time, and said, “Jordan Horowitz, another ‘La La Land’ producer, then took the mic to clarify. ‘This is not a joke,’ he said ‘Moonlight has won Best Picture. Moonlight. Best Picture.’ Horowitz was praised online for handling the situation with dignity. Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel tried to lighten the mood with a joke as the cast of ‘Moonlight’ made their way to the stage. ‘I would like to see you get an Oscar anyway — why can’t we give out a whole bunch of them?’ Kimmel said to the ‘La La Land’ team.”
While I agree that the cast and crew of “La La Land” handled the situation as best they could, the mix up meant that “Moonlight” did not get the attention they truly deserved. Their time for a speech got cut off, and many more people are talking about the mistake itself than how wonderful a movie “Moonlight” is. As Rahim said, “The chaotic — and awkward — moment is all anyone can talk about.”
The other big disappointment for me was Casey Affleck’s win for Best Actor. Although I believe that there is no doubt that Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea” was beautiful and nuanced, I don’t think the Academy should honor those who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault by multiple people. There are plenty of talented actors who deserve to be rewarded for their work just as much, and as an institution, the Academy should be prioritizing the careers and achievements of members who demonstrate their values, which hopefully do not include sexual violence.
Leigh Blickley wrote about this for the Huffington Post, explaining the original allegations. She said, “In 2010, Affleck was accused of harassing two women on the set of the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary ‘I’m Still Here,’ which he directed. One of the women was Amanda White, a producer with whom he had worked for 10 years, and the other was the movie’s director of photography, Magdalena Gorka. Both claimed they were subject to inappropriate sexual comments and unwelcome advances.”
Unfortunately, despite these incidents, Affleck’s career and reputation have continued to flourish untarnished. As Blickley said, “all the backlash over the 2010 incidents had no effect on the actor’s Oscar chances.” In a world where a white man can speak publically about sexually assaulting women and still get elected president, I would hope that our arts community would hold itself to a little bit of a higher standard in who they hire, support, and honor.
Although there may have been some great advances in representation at this year’s Oscars, we still have a long way to go. There are still plenty of stories that have not been told becasue they are not valued. Great movies put us in the shoes of someone who may be very different from ourselves, someone who can teach us more about the world and its possibilities. Great movies tell stories that are invigorating, moving, funny, insightful, or thrilling. Let’s hope that the creators that we hold in renown continue to push for such movies, and continue to praise the work of those who have too often been pushed aside.

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