The 89th annual Academy Awards show aired last night, setting social media and news outlets ablaze. Like always, the fashion was amazing (depending on who you ask), the celebs were slightly annoying, and the online commentary was side splitting. (Thank you, #BlackTwitter) And while these things were to be expected, there were a few firsts last night that stole the show-and our hearts.
Whether it was Halle’s “natural” hair, Chrissy Teigen sleeping off her vodka, or Gary from the tour bus, I think we began to realize early on that this award show was going to be a bit different than those that came before it.
Recently, the Academy faced backlash over its lack of diversity, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite took on a life of its own last year, after April Reign aired her grievances via Twitter.
We all agreed-The Oscars was for white people, by white people. As a result of our frustration, many people of color had pledged to stop watching the ceremony all together. In 1939, in a historical feat, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. While most of us will remember her as a pioneer, we should also remember that she wasn’t even invited to the premiere, read a speech that was written for her by the Academy, and never received the actual award.
It wasn’t until Denzel Washington played a slave who was flogged in Glory, and a corrupt police officer in Training Day that he was able to take home an Oscar of his own. Now, in 2017, Halle Berry remains the only woman of color to ever win an Oscar for Best Lead Actress.Singing, dancing, servitude, drug dealing…all guaranteed wins for Black people at the Oscars. But what about the other stories that are often swept under the rug? What about the facets of the Black experience that are so frequently overlooked?
Moonlight, a film by Barry Jenkins, and playwright Tarell McCraney offers a unique coming of age story about a young Black boy who struggles with loneliness, his sexuality, and his life in extreme poverty. Met with condemnation, awe, and ultimately an Oscar, Moonlight took home the award for Best Picture-but not before some f*ckery went down.
First this happened…
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2017
— Adam Khan (@Khanoisseur) February 27, 2017
We were all surprised that something like this could happen during what many consider the most important award presentation of the night. However, my concern rests less with the debacle (though unacceptable), and more with the headlines that have been circulating this morning in response to the debacle.
Jordan Horowitz, the producer of LaLa Land, who eventually announced the real winner after clearing things up, is now being hailed a “hero” by the Boston Globe. While I agree that he handled the whole ordeal with class-sans him snatching the envelope from Warren Beatty’s hand-I’ll give him that.
But what I can’t co-sign is the media’s need to somehow make the cast and crew of LaLa Land the “heroes” of the night. Another publication calls the cast “gracious” for handing over their award with such dignity. Sure, the award wasn’t thrown across the room, so that was nice, but let’s cut the crap. The cast and crew of Moonlight won the trophy fair and square, and that can’t be diminished. Lost in a sea of LaLa Land footage, many social media users complained of not even being able to find the Moonlight acceptance speech.
I think it’s becoming increasingly important that we are mindful of the words we use, and the narratives we are creating. LaLa Land‘s decision to do the right thing, shouldn’t be allowed to take center stage.
“I just didn’t want to go up there and take something from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that, but I feel very fortunate for all of us to have walked away with the Best Picture award.” -Mahershala Ali
The cast and crew of Moonlight put their blood, sweat and tears into this film, and I think everyone would be better served to simply point out that a mistake was made, and the award had to be turned over, rather than writing headlines congratulating the people who didn’t win for handing over an award to the actual winners. This award means a lot for many reasons. Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim to ever win an Oscar, and this film is the first LGBTQ film to ever win Best Picture. Not even Jimmy Kimmel prompting Jordan Horowitz to “keep” the award can change that.
While I understand that the world is full of jerks who may have behaved differently in that moment, I think it’s important that we continue to center the winners of the award, the artists who put so much into it, and the reason why this moment is so important for Black people and Black LGBTQ folks in our community.
For the full Moonlight acceptance speech, click below.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 27, 2017
A thread of very good tweets regarding this debacle. See below-
I will never get over Moonlight effectively having to share its narrative with La La Land pic.twitter.com/GGAmFjQORM
— Ira Madison III (@ira) March 1, 2017
Historically, Variety highlights a Oscar winner in their post show covers. It's been Best Director and Best Cinematographer past three. pic.twitter.com/RYtI5XWquG
— Ira Madison III (@ira) March 1, 2017