Okay, Academy Awards, I think I’ve finally figured out how you guys operate. It’s not about substance: it’s the presentation that counts. It’s okay to be the biggest celebration of rich white men this side of the Republican National Convention if you let other folks be presenters and sit in the theater. It’s okay to distribute exorbitantly priced gift bags to astoundingly wealthy people if the host jokes about it. It’s okay to show a bevy of women beaming supportively at their award-nominated men (and have shots of more women left behind while said men collect their awards) as long as you let one actress give a speech about how important motherhood and equal pay are. It’s okay not to nominate any actors from, or the director of, a film about the Civil Rights Movement as long as you give that film the award for best song (and a platform for the best acceptance speeches of the evening, but you don’t get credit for that one). It’s okay to have a known domestic abuser present the award for Best Picture as long as the movie (about an aging, once-famous white man becoming famous again) has a Mexican director. And it’s okay to go back to picking the usual White Man’s Epic every year (okay, okay–we might be shifting genres since “The English Patient,” “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” won) as long as you break the pattern with something like “12 Years a Slave” every once in a while.
I gotcha, Hollywood. Thanks for helping me see the light. (And for helping me spend an evening sitting on the couch playing games on my Kindle. Luckily, I got to sit beside my husband the whole time.) Hopefully the next time I pay attention to the Oscars–maybe in ten years or so?–enough of the (ahem) old voters will have stepped aside to let new voices weigh in on what makes a truly great movie. Then again, power does tend to hang on til the very end, doesn’t it?
(And just in case you Fickle Readers out there think I’m being overly sensitive about all this? Take a look at this collection of anonymous interviews with Academy members about their Oscar ballots and see for yourself how “unbiased” members really are. It’s awfully entertaining, especially if you like seeing people try to rationalize the blatantly arbitrary. Also, have fun finding the many ways interviewees deploy the “we’re not racist, but” argument against the movie Selma.)