Oscars Activism: Right or Wrong?
23 Feb 2015
By now, Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech on behalf of women’s equality has gone viral. As much applause as she received for her remarks, the backlash has been loud, too, i.e., she was wrong because her speech excluded certain groups, because she is wealthy, because she only spoke of mothers. Whether or not Arquette erred in making her statement during an Awards telecast, by expecting her 30-second commentary to be perfect, and all inclusive, aren’t we missing the point? I would hope equality for all trumps the inartful way she got there. And presented with the opportunity to focus attention on a vital message before the world’s largest audience – should she take the chance, or zip it?
John Legend, who, with rapper Common, won the Oscar for Best Song, made comments about civil rights and black incarceration levels that have likewise received mixed notices for a number of reasons, one being that he is wealthy, so how dare he speak to an experience he does not share.
There are several ideas to unpack here – speaking up at all, when to do so, and who is allowed to speak.
I grant you the Oscars are not the best or even a proper venue, but as we clearly have distance to travel on these important issues, it may be too much to expect that we demand silence until the perfect messenger or the perfect moment presents itself. Those “perfect” moments may never come.
Perhaps there is value even in our complaint about statements that feel inappropriately placed, if indeed it makes us have a discussion about a topic that we might otherwise avoid.
Enjoy my spirited interview with Jerry Doyle on the subject.
*Please note, during the interview, I misidentified the film about the life of Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi’s enigma code, as “The Theory of Everything.” I meant to say “The Imitation Game.” My sincere apologies.
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