(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
You may as well accept it: There is nothing, absolutely nothing these days, that can’t be ruined by identity politics. No matter how innocuous an event, action or inaction may seem, there’s somebody, somewhere, from some particular political or cultural stripe or who self-identifies in a specific way, who’s completely pissed that the group or viewpoint they align with isn’t being shown deference to their 100% satisfaction. Social media has given rise to an entire generation of online crusaders just looking for something to be indignant over and to take that indignation worldwide by way of a million tweets and a thousand ponderous think-pieces. This is how we are now. And it’s why we suck.
If you thought we were going to get through an entire three-and-a-half-hour Oscars telecast without somebody saying or doing something to provoke an orgiastic outragegasm across the internet, you were deep in an Ambien dream on Sunday night. Jesus, before the show even started there was the specter of a potential protest by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in response to this year’s nominees being mostly white and Selma‘s director and star being snubbed in their categories. #OscarsSoWhite was a trending topic going into the thing and it hung like a pall on social media over the entire event, with host Neil Patrick Harris acknowledging the controversy in practically the very first line of his opening monologue. (For the record, if in just the space of a few months we went from #BlackLivesMatter, which was meant to call attention to people of color actually being shot down in the streets, to #OscarsSoWhite, which was meant to call attention to people of color not being nominated for the highest honor in the entertainment industry, we’ve apparently solved racism.)
So even though the dust should’ve already settled from what was, by any reasonable standard, a deadly dull Oscars presentation, we now get to bask in the dust being stirred by those who just didn’t like something or another they saw or heard on Sunday night — the people now stomping like angry children all over the internet. Here are the moments and impromptu movements, spawned by the 87th Annual Academy Awards, that sent a bunch of apparently very bored people scrambling for their iPhones and laptops over the last 24 hours.
Before we even got off the red carpet, Best Actress nominee Reese Witherspoon had decided that it was incumbent upon Ryan Seacrest and his ilk to act more like the hard-hitting journalists they are when coming face to face with movie stars about to spend the next few hours jerking each other off in front of 40 million people. Her Instagram hashtag #AskHerMore implored red carpet reporters to avoid sexism and dig deep when dealing with very important people like, say, Reese Witherspoon, asking more thoughtful and probing questions than simply, “Who are you wearing?”
Next year, look for Gwen Ifill and Henry Kissinger to join the cast of E!’s Live from the Red Carpet and for the People magazine special issue dedicated to Behati Prinsloo and her husband Adam Levine’s post-Oscars discussion of the situation in Ukraine.
Patricia Arquette Wins… Then Promptly Fails
If you need an absolutely crystalline illustration of how, when it comes to today’s identity politics, you simply cannot fucking win, look no further than Patricia Arquette. After winning her Oscar last night, Arquette gave a rousing, inspirational, undeniably pro-woman acceptance speech. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive among feminist Twitter. That lasted all of maybe an hour, when further comments she made backstage began to leak out and the separate factions of feminist Twitter began breaking off into their own little individual torch-and-pitchfork mobs because they either felt insulted not to be included in Arquette’s plea for justice or believed that plea to be — wait for it — “problematic.” The Purity Police assembled the circular firing squad and began shooting.
One writer called it a “spectacular intersectionality fail,” saying she “thoroughly erases gay women and women of color and all intersecting iterations of those identities”; another called her viewpoint a “type of feminist myopia”; Amanda Marcotte at Slate wrote, “(Arquette’s) comments were bad for the cause of equal pay and for feminism. Solidarity is not just for white women”; and social media of course lost its fucking mind, with one person saying that, by not speaking the proper shibboleth, Arquette had “ruined her nice moment.”
If you’re barely keeping your head from slamming into your desk and yourself from throwing your computer through a window, you know how I feel right now.
The Treason Comment
Hosting the Oscars is the worst job in entertainment these days. No matter what you say or do, you’re probably going to leave people dissatisfied and grouchy. Once the public begins the process of evaluating and snidely sounding off on your performance, you’ll either have “gone too far” or won’t have “gone far enough.” Neil Patrick Harris was a sure thing, as beloved by an entertainer by as wide a cross-section of the general public as you were likely to find going into this thing — and yet he still bombed. (In the future, rather than have a host at all, Twitter should just vote on what happens next by hashtag.) The overwhelming consensus was that Harris was boring, but there’s a decent portion of the internet angry today at one wordplay crack made immediately following the Oscar presentation for Best Documentary Film. As you know, Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour won, which gave Glenn Greenwald the chance to take the stage in a tux and accept an Oscar in front of Hollywood royalty while the guy whose shoulders he stood on to be there was sitting in a small room in Moscow eating ice for lunch.
On that note, Harris followed up this Very Serious Oscar Moment by saying, “Edward Snowden couldn’t be here for some treason.” Despite the fact that it’s entirely possible the joke was aimed at the U.S. government, the Snowden fanboys were less than pleased. At The Huffington Post right now there’s a piece which declares, “Neil Patrick Harris should be chastised and fired for what he said about Edward Snowden at the Oscars last night… His remark was not the least bit funny, and it was an insult not only to Snowden but also to Laura Poitras, who had just accepted her Academy Award for Citizenfour and had saluted Snowden ‘for his courage.'” He goes on to call Harris “feckless,” which has to be the first time in history that word has been used to describe Neil Patrick Harris.
Greenwald, by the way, called the comment “stupid and irresponsible.” When someone explained to him that Harris was making a joke, he responded, “What is that? I don’t understand what that is,” then updated that comment six times to various bored guests he managed to corner at the Vanity Fair party.
The American Sniper Snub
With Greenwald, Poitras and Company somehow managing to escape being hit by a drone strike directly ordered by President Obama, it already looked like it was going to be a bad night for the oppressive U.S. military industrial complex. But once the awards were over and American Sniper had taken home only one, that’s when it was clear the Hollywood liberals had again gotten their way and ignored the will of the people and the traditional American values they held.
Here was noted film critic Sean Hannity:
AMERICAN Sniper snubbed by liberal hwood Predictable. #CluelessOscars
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) February 23, 2015
There was so much more than that, but you get the idea.
Well, There Goes That
Pretty much the one moment everybody could agree was wonderful was screenwriter Graham Moore’s acceptance speech. Moore had just taken home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game and he used the opportunity to tell the world that he’d once attempted suicide, as a teenager. He implored teens to embrace the things that make them feel different, saying, “Stay weird, and then when it’s your turn, and you are the one standing on this stage, please pass this message on.” It was powerful, passionate and almost impossible to find fault with, right? Come on.
A piece over at Buzzfeed bemoans the fact that Moore’s speech wasn’t what everyone thought it was and therefore didn’t go far enough in specifically speaking to those whom such a speech would supposedly do the most good. While many may have jumped to the conclusion that Graham Moore is gay, he’s not, and that means his plea to “stay weird” was simply too vague. “What is weird? Is weird depression? Is weird feeling suicidal? Moore’s depression is nothing to make light of, but by connecting his story to Alan Turing’s, his speech demanded addressing actual gay, lesbian, and transgender people who are having suicidal thoughts,” Ira Madison writes. “Alan Turing wasn’t weird; he was a brilliant gay man who killed himself because his government chemically castrated him. Turning the reality of himself — the pride and incredible pain — into the useless ‘weird’ is a disservice to his memory and to young queer people who very much need to know they come from a legacy of brilliant, talented, successful queer people.”
So, yes, you’re reading this correctly. Because Graham Moore isn’t gay himself, because he supposedly didn’t go far enough in reciting a manifesto calling Alan Turing an unjustly persecuted role model for gay people, and because apparently LGBT teens aren’t capable of taking inspiration from a speech that doesn’t name them directly but which speaks in slightly broader and more inclusive terms, Moore dropped the ball. Slate by the way is also picking Moore’s acceptance speech apart, piece by piece.
Chris Pine’s Tears
Common and John Legend’s performance of Glory from the Selma soundtrack brought many in the audience to tears. When that’s David Oyelowo, it’s not a problem. When it’s Chris Pine, The Root sees it and the fact that people noticed it as the perfect symbol of everything that’s wrong with the fight for racial equality in this country. Assemble that circular firing squad again. Ready, aim…
Sean Penn and the Green Card
Not long before the Oscar ceremony began, Salon, the internet’s premiere destination for all your pointlessoutrage porn needs, published a piece titled, “How the overwhelming whiteness of ‘Boyhood’ feeds dangerous Hollywood myths.” It argued that there was no way a story that took place in Texas over 12 years wouldn’t have prominently featured any Mexican characters. In other words, if Boyhood had won we might have seen at least a small outpouring of dissatisfaction from the Millennial Mexican-American activist community, fresh off their victory over every other fucking crisis currently plaguing Latino immigrants in this country. Thankfully, we didn’t get that — or maybe not thankfully, since at least if Boyhood had won, Sean Penn, who more and more looks like an ashtray made by a homeless man at a community center, wouldn’t have been able to rattle off the most instantly controversial line of the evening.
When Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman won for Best Picture, Penn said, before reading off the name of his friend, whose film was having a spectacular night, “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card?” Google “Sean Penn Green Card” right now and you can see the result. It was a bad joke to make in front of tens of millions of people; it’s certainly not the same as ribbing a guy you’re close to while on-set. But, taking us back to the beginning, social media and a tidal wave of think-pieces all slammed it as proof that, really, #OscarsSoWhite. Again, there were those who inexplicably claimed that Penn had ruined the entire Oscars for them. Iñárritu not only took it in stride, but actually laughed at the joke, though that hardly matters since we all know Penn’s dumb-ass crack — which, like the treason joke, may have been a subversive mocking of the very point-of-view it appeared to extol — is exactly the thing that’s going to stop immigrants from trying to achieve their dreams here in the United States. It’s not going to be an entire political party that wants to send them all back home. It’s going to be Sean Penn.
Penn’s comment was bad and incredibly ill-advised given the venue, but at least it raised a few eyebrows in an evening where almost nothing did and at an event that’s traditionally criticized for being so pompous and self-congratulatory that it plays out like three hours of reading lifestyle tips on “Goop.”
The unfortunate thing? Even if Penn hadn’t ended the night with the Oscars’ most “shocking” moment, there would’ve been so many other things about the show for people to claim to be offended by. There always is these days.
RELATED: Throw one more giant helping of Oscar outrage on the plate. E!’s Giuliana Rancic has now apologized for a comment she made about a young black Disney Channel star, but that apology is much more troubling than the comment itself. Read about that here.
This article has been updated and may continue to be.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.