I Skipped the Oscars and Patricia Arquette was WRONG.

by , under entertainment, Geek, movies, personal, Pirate, politics, racism, representation matters, sexism

(I should state that these opinions are my own. They are not a reflection of anyone that I know who works in Hollywood. Wouldn’t want any of you to get flack for my opinions.)

oscars2015I didn’t watch the Oscars this year. And I’m happy I didn’t. I did catch John Legend and Common’s performance. And I did see Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews.

But it’s hard to watch a show you just can’t really support anymore.

In recent years, I stopped watching fashion coverage. While I liked seeing what people wore- I do love fashion. The coverage was ridiculous- the 365 degree cameras, the mani cams, the inane discussion about what someone’s wearing rather than their thoughts on the movies nominated. (While I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, Joan Rivers’s influence on fashion coverage was not a positive influence. It’s become far too mean, and certainly unfavorable to anyone who doesn’t fit a specific body shape- they’re far too critical towards older women and heavier women.)

When I was a teenager, sure, they talked about fashion. But they spent more time asking about the actor’s performances if they were nominated or in a film that was nominated. Or their thoughts on nominees if they weren’t.

I cringed when nobody knew how to pronounce Quvenzhané Wallis’s name when she was nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild (and apparently they cracked a joke about her in this years’ broadcast?). (Kwah-VEN-juh-nay) I admit, I stumble on Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name – but you can bet that if I was vlogging about him or interviewing him, I would practice it until I had it down pat. Because that’s part of covering entertainment, isn’t it? (My brain puts the w in Chiwetel’s name in a different syllable, for those wondering)

And those are just my gripes about Oscars coverage. It gets more and more obvious that the Academy is largely older, white men. Even as Hollywood strives for diversity, the Academy stays the same. White white white.

How is it that American Sniper could get six Oscar Nominations, but Selma be only nominated for two- Best Picture and Best Song? How is it that a film could be nominated for best picture, but the director not be nominated?

I’ve been reading the acceptance speeches, and I love that Reese Witherspoon used her time in the spotlight to highlight the inane questions women are asked (both on red carpets, and in interviews in general). That Alejandro González Iñárritu mentioned immigrants in his acceptance speech. How powerful John Legend and Common’s performance and acceptance speeches were. Please note that I’m not including Patricia Arquette in this. Because as I re-read her speech, I was struck by something and I don’t want to lose the general flow here.

I like that today, everyone’s wondering why John Travolta was so creepy last night- giving Scarlett Johansson what looked like an unwanted kiss, and seemingly unable to stop touching Idina Menzel’s face no matter how uncomfortable her smile was. That everyone’s calling out Sean Penn’s green card joke as being tasteless and racist – it doesn’t matter that they’re friends, it wasn’t the right venue. (Also, Sean Penn is pretty much just a gross human being.) Without context, it’s horribly racist and demoralizing to Hispanic person who wants to break into the industry watching the awards.

I’m just not happy with the state of the Oscars. I don’t want to see token nominations for the sake of diversity- but I’d like to see more of a reflection of what’s out there. I’d like for the Academy to be a little more reflective of the world at large, and not as imbalanced as Hollywood is- if only because then more people might see the Academy Awards as more than just a bunch of white rich people giving each other glitzy high fives.

Now, Patricia Arquette. I’m sure she meant well, asking for help in ending the pay gap. And honestly, if she’d just left out the part about gays and people of color doing their part to help women… it would have been a great speech (Edit: I wasn’t entirely clear here, and that’s my fault. Arquette’s comments regarding minorities supporting the cause were made in the press room backstage after her win, not during her on stage speech). The pay gap is a major issue for women across the board, especially in Hollywood. But a bigger issue for the feminist movement is white women overlooking the fact that they themselves tend to ignore the issues of women in minority groups- as well as minorities overall.

And Arquette did just that. She said that these groups, who are often paid less than white women (and in some cases have a harder time getting employment, period) should stand up for women.

The truth of it, is that minorities have always been there to back other marginalized groups. There are plenty of amazing feminists who are women of color- but you usually only hear the white ones. White feminists who regularly dismiss the issues of women of color. Who dismiss transgender women.

These people fight because they have everything to lose. I can’t say the same for most white women. And certainly, white men are the least likely category to support feminist causes- because they know that they’ll lose their comfortable privilege.

You want to start a movement? Call for women to band together. Call for people to band together. But don’t dare suggest that minorities need to drop their own issues to help you make more money than you already are. Than they are.

Thoughts? I’m sure someone probably disagrees with me about Patricia Arquette. But I’d love to hear your opinion (so long as it’s civil).

  • Eli

    Don’t get me started … You know I agree with everything you say.

  • <3 I tried not to get me started. I'm sort of surprised that I hadn't heard some (white) person say I was wrong about Arquette. I was happy when I heard she'd mentioned the wage gap… and then WHAM. *sigh*

  • Ginger Rachelle

    Great post I am in total agreement! I am really tired of people talking about this wage gap as though race isn’t a factor. What about the fact that Native/Indigenous men are paid far less than anyone else! I’m also really over pretending that POC aren’t being paid far less than WM and WW in Hollywood. Yes Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her WM counterparts (and that’s wrong)but she’s also being paid way more than any other person of color man or women. So even if Patricia Arquette was just speaking on Hollywood it was still bogus. And I can’t even get started on the LGBQT aspect of things!

  • Thanks! I admit, this post made me a little nervous – only because past discussions with friends about wage gaps across racial divides lead to a lot of arguments. But I couldn’t let her comment (and the resulting wave of approval for her speech) go unchecked.

  • Faith McKay

    I didn’t watch the Oscars either (I’ve never watched an awards show, actually..) and of course everything I read (at least 5 different recap articles) that quoted her speech cut that part out. I just… I can’t even start on how misguided and ignorant and… oof. This is so sad.

    Edited to add: I meant to say thanks for posting this so I became aware! So thanks!

  • The comments were actually said backstage to the press. I’m going to amend my post to reflect that. 🙂

    But it really is misguided. And disappointing.

  • Shemp DeYoung

    Seems like you were far from alone. Even though the show was hosted by America’s Sweetheart Neil Patrick Harris (This I say without a touch of irony or snark … I love that guy!) the Oscar’s broadcast ratings went down again.

    It wasn’t my intention to NOT watch this year, but I wasn’t really looking forward to it (NPH aside). I felt the same way many did about the nominations “But what about …?” This year was the first one where I TiVo’d the Oscars and watched a live sporting event instead. I suspect there were many who watched something else and then just pulled up a few clips online later.

    I didn’t notice what you pointed out about Patricia’s speech when I watched it later that night, but you are absolutely right.

    I also found it both encouraging on one hand, yet sadly ironic on the other that the current president of the Academy is a Black woman.

    I *am* encouraged by the dialog this year’s awards has sparked though. People are getting tired of the machinations of the Old Hollywood system. In addition to the issues you mentioned, I heard discussions of:

    – Why is Terrence Howard on this broadcast when he’s a known domestic abuser? Or Sean Penn (remember Madonna?)

    – While admiring what he did for SNL back in the day, people are disgusted with Eddie Murphy and his kissing of Bill Cosby’s [alleged] rapist ass.

    – Why are films like Interstellar winning all kinds of awards for design and costume while Guardians of the Galaxy is ignored?

    Now, I’ll readily admit that snubbing GotG or The LEGO Movie doesn’t compare to the social issues of the day, it does, though, speak to the reasons people outside of the industry are NOT watching their show as enthusiastically. I’ll bet I’m as big a fan of Animation as any adult you know, but there would have been absolutely no legal way for me to have seen “Song of the Sea” or “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” in a theater. The LEGO Movie? Twice in the theater and I bought the DVD on Day One. That movie was a technical wonder, a visual delight, and as a father watching it it the theater with his teenagers, I’m not afraid to say, I had tears in my eyes. Big Hero 6? I laughed so hard that the lights were barely up before I was tweeting about it. The Boxtrolls? Beautiful.

    Somehow, the fact that certain films are too much fun or too silly or too comic-booky or too successful makes them something less worthy? The voting members of the Academy are worse than those silly hipsters who piss & moan that their favorite band is a sellout because you can buy their music on iTunes or Amazon.

    On the plus side, between her album with Tony Bennett and her tribute to Sound of Music, a bunch of old white dudes have to admit that that Lady Gaga can sing her ass off.

    Keep fighting the good fight Whitney!

  • Eli

    I don’t care much for celebs … I mean in that they’re just people with jobs and either they do those jobs well or they do them poorly like everyone else. Celebs are dumb just like everyone else. Celebs are stupid and ignorant. They try to use their influence to say things and change things and sometimes that works well … other times ……….. other times they’re just stupid mundanes.

  • Darla Elenbaas

    Where do you get your data that white women ignore the issues of women of color? Seems like a racist comment.

  • I was wondering how long it’d be before I got a comment like this, so congrats, I guess?

    We need to clear up one thing before I really answer this for you. I’m a bit of a word nerd (I am a writer, after all) and by the definition of racism, a minority actually can’t be racist against a racial group with power. Because racism implies that the person making the statement is in the group with power. I think you’re trying to suggest there’s a bias or some sort of hatred, but that isn’t really the case. Am I frustrated by the status quo? Absolutely.

    Most of my data is anecdotal. But I’m going to assume you aren’t interested in the times that I’ve been with groups of feminists where it was mostly WoC and have the lone white woman come in and decide that they were in charge and that their ideas are better. So here are some incidents that you can Google if you really want to.

    When WoC organize hashtags to discuss issues pertaining to them, they’re frequently derailed by white feminists who take issue at being excluded. Taking issue is actually putting it mildly. I’ll be honest, some of them start harassing WoC feminists with the same vitriol that MRAs or GG supporters come at the opposition with. Mocking hashtags have been created in order to make it seem unfair that there isn’t a discuss about THEM, and racist language is common. Jokes about cleaning women, nappy hair, etc, etc.

    But if you’re looking for specific instances, #solidarityisforwhitewomen was a pretty public example (http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/08/22/214525023/twitter-sparks-a-serious-discussion-about-race-and-feminism) Or in another recent Twitter case, you can look at how Rosie O’Donnell treated Lauren Chief Elk when she suggested that they ask Eve Ensler questions about how the Vagina Monologues marginalizes WoC feminists and transgender or genderqueer individuals. http://www.dailydot.com/politics/rosie-odonnell-eve-ensler-twitter/ (That has tweets embedded)

    But as a whole, most second wave feminists are focused on the issues of white feminists. Third wave feminism focuses a lot more on intersectionality. And they (a lot of second wave feminists) don’t realize that they, as a group, have privilege over every other woman. And if you’re utterly confused by that statement- then I think that this is a good read. http://rhrealitycheck.org/ablc/2015/02/24/funny-thing-privilege/

    (Btw, I’m flattered that it looks like you created that Disqus login just to call me a racist)

  • Ginger Rachelle

    Great response!! Love it!

  • Thanks – I admit, I was a little nervous about it. Mostly because you never know how people will respond, you know?

    But man, it irks me when people try to imply I don’t know what I’m talking about. lol

  • Ginger Rachelle

    I can totally understand but you handled it really well.