Arts

If nothing else, the Academy Awards got a large audience thinking about some real and important topics

Photo: Disney (ABC Television Group), CC

It was painful to watch Neil Patrick Harris host the 87th Academy Awards and miss the mark with his robotic and cringe-worthy script. But audiences were given a little more than expected as winners went up to the podium to give their acceptance speeches: something to think about.

In fact, this started much sooner, when actors walked the red carpet.

After a large backlash from actresses refusing to partake in E! News’ “Mani Cam” during the 2015 SAG Awards, evidently the network opted not to include one during this year’s Academy Awards, although its official reason for taking it out of the program was due to production time restraints.

Actress Reese Witherspoon took a further step by shining light on Amy Poehler’s #AskHerMore campaign to do away with sexist questions asked by journalists, encouraging them to ask more thought-provoking questions than what designer dress and accessories they are wearing.

When it came to the Oscars ceremony itself, several winners took the stage not only to say thanks, but also to spread a larger message on behalf of others who don’t have the same chance to be heard.

During Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for her winning supporting role in Boyhood, the actress focused her time on advocating equal pay rights for women. She explained it was time for men who love women to show stronger support.

After an emotional musical performance by John Legend and Common, the two artists captured the crowd’s attention by commenting on the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march. As Legend put it, “Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now.” He added, “There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.” Legend said it is an artist’s duty to reflect the time they live in.

Even after Sean Penn’s awkward green card joke regarding Birdman director Alexandro G. Iñárritu, the director took the majority of his Best Picture acceptance speech to thank Mexico, as well as his fellow immigrants to the United States. Iñárritu then brought the focus to new immigrants, saying he wishes they would be given the same appreciation as previous generations that built the “incredible immigrant nation” known as America.

Although some of us watch these shows purely for escapism, as cable networks showcase privileged  Hollywood executives and actors dressed to the nines cracking jokes for much of the night, there is a new undercurrent of meaningful thought making its way into these awards shows.

Speeches like those at this year’s Oscars forced a mass audience to consider some important sociopolitical issues at a time when they would otherwise only expect to sit on their couches and be entertained. They are small acts in a fight against apathy and cynicism that should earn some applause.