Pop Goes the Politics
Award Show Stoppers
Leah Scheitel // Copy Editor
It’s that time of the year again, when celebs and their loved one dress up as if they are extras on The Crown and parade around red carpets, patting each other on the back for just how well they acted this year. Little do they know most of the best acting is being done in that sea of fake smiles and forced optimism.
Awards season is in full throttle, making it the perfect time to grade some of the causes celebrities have devoted their speeches to or wore pins for, and how effective their actions were for the causes.
Marlon Brando / 45th Academy Awards (1973) – Grade A+
Marlon Brando plays some badass, intense characters and his rejection of his Oscar award for Best Actor suggests his personal character mirrors those of his fictional ones. Not only did Brando not attend the Academy Awards, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an actress and indigenous rights activist in his place to accept his award for Best Actor for The Godfather, allowing her to use his platform and acceptance speech time to address the film industry’s treatment of American aboriginals. This was in the 1970s, decades before the Idle No More movement, when the plight of Native Americans was hardly uttered. Brando used his platform in an idyllic way – lending it to a representative of an oppressed group to directly address the cause, using their real voices and not adding his into the mix. His stand caused a stir that is still being talked about four decades later.
Brie Larson / 89th Academy Awards (2017) – Grade B
As customary with the Academy Awards, the previous Best Actress winner presents the award for the current Best Actor and vice versa. However, when Brie Larson had to give the Best Actor award to Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea in 2017, she refused to clap for Affleck due to the sexual assault allegations against him. If you look at her face when she read his name, it was a look of pure disdain and disappointment, and while not clapping for an asshole may seem like a small gesture, it does speak volumes and draws attention to the situation in a very graceful way. Larson did the only thing she could to express her disgust for Affleck, while other stars, including his older brother Ben and BFF Matt Damon, were quick to congratulate. It also was one of the many stones to be thrown at the patriarchy in 2017, a year that birthed the #MeToo movement, resulting in the downfall of many prominent actors, journalists and politicians.
Black Suit Attire / 75th Golden Globes Awards (2018) – Grade C (I guess)
This is the most recent awards protest on the list, as just three weeks ago, celebrities all colluded to wear black to the Golden Globes to draw attention to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, both of which speak to the treatment of women in Hollywood. While this is a cause to get behind, the execution seemed a little flaccid. If celebrities really wanted to make a point, not going might have done it better. What message would it send if every woman who has ever been affected by sexual discrimination or assault in Hollywood just didn’t show up? Their absence would have sent a louder and more powerful message than wearing a slimming colour on the red carpet.
Michael Moore / 75th Academy Awards (2003) – Grade C+
Michael Moore has made a career out of being outspoken. Therefore, it came as little surprise he used his 45-seconds for winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature to draw attention to a cause that seemed superfluous to others. Moore disparaged then-president George W. Bush for going to war with Iraq, which was four days old at the time. “We have a man who is sending us to war for fictitious reasons,” Moore said, as boos and awkward glances were exchanged in the audience, and even amongst is army of documentarians behind him. The orchestra started to cut him off after he said, “Shame on you Mr. President.”
While Moore faced ample scrutiny for his speech – something he is probably used to – he was likely right. The Iraq War lasted over seven years, with over half a million people dead because of it, and they never managed to find those weapons of mass destruction that they were searching for.
Anti-Trump Speeches / Various Awards Shows (2016-present) – Grade B-
Since Donald Trump became more than a washed-up reality TV star, he has inspired vitriol in many award speeches. Everyone from Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Meryl Streep and David Habour of Stanger Things have used their limited time to speak out against the president’s actions regarding his attempts at a Muslim ban. Most recently, Oprah Winfrey used her speech at the Golden Globes to instill hope into millions with hints at a potential presidential run. And while an Oprah presidency might not solve the political problems in America, for once, even just for the length of a speech, it’s nice to see hope rather than the jaw-clenching fear of Trump’s next tweet causing a nuclear war.