Before Lady Gaga performed her Oscar–nominated song “’Til it happens to you” from the documentary The Hunting Ground—she was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, and he had this to say:
Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men, on and off college campuses, are still victims of sexual abuse.
He asked that people take a simple pledge:
I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.
During her emotional performance, Gaga was joined on stage by dozens of survivors of sexual assault, to a standing ovation. The Oscars are often criticised for being fusty, conservative and old-fashioned but it’s clear they are moving with the times and on board with issues out there in society that affect not only Americans, but people the world over. As for many others, at Good Pitch² Australia and The Hunting Ground Australia Project, it represented a shift in how this issue is perceived. A billion people watching those young women on stage with Lady Gaga moves the support of survivors, issues of sexual assault on campuses and its prevention, squarely into the mainstream—which is where it should be.
“The White People’s Choice Awards” as the comic genius and incisive social critic, Chris Rock, called them—rapped to a different tune in 2016.
Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to.
Hollywood is sorority racist.
It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”
That’s how Hollywood is.
But things are changing. Things are changing
(Click here for the transcript of Chris Rock’s opening Academy Awards monologue)
Things are changing but as Rock noted, a few high profile ‘changes’ does not systemic change make. Despite a much loved and globally respected Black President in Barack Obama, #Black Lives Matter is a “call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society”.
For a while now, the Oscars have been a platform for actors and filmmakers who win an academy award, with something to say that is not about thanking their parents, spouses, children or god—and want their message heard by a world wide audience. In 1973, an Apache woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, on behalf of Marlon Brando, respectfully refused his Oscar for The Godfather because of the treatment of Indigenous Americans by the US film industry.
And who could forget never-shy Michael Moore’s speech at the podium in 2003 when Bowling for Columbine won Best Documentary Feature. WATCH his “We live in fictional times” speech and the audience’s reaction.
Last year, a call to action by Patricia Arquette at the podium for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for Boyhood, ironically) gave all of us who care about equality, hope.
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights; it’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America!
(Watch Meryl Streep leap out of her chair and shout “Yes, Yes, Yes!”)
Patricia Arquette has lost out on jobs because of her stand. She doesn’t mind so much because she’s responsible for kick-starting the California Fair Pay Act, signed into law seven months after her Oscar speech—it’s been described as the most far-reaching equal pay law in the United States.
That’s a great use of the Oscars.
Patricia Arquette and Lady Gaga: we bow down.
Tags: Chris Rock, Lady Gaga, Micheal Moore, Oscars, Patricia Arquette, The Hunting Ground, the hunting ground australia project