On Sunday, March 4, the 90th Oscar award ceremony took place, featuring a star-studded guest list, much laughter, long speeches and, of course, politics. Host Jimmy Kimmel could hardly wait 10 minutes before getting in a jab at President Trump and his cabinet. On the president, he said: “Wow, the stunning Lupita Nyong’o — she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Let the tweetstorm from the president’s toilet begin.” The overt partisanship demonstrated by the Oscars is less than helpful to the important causes which the entertainment industry is trying to advance. Yes, free speech is free speech; but this opportunity to present important ideals is too rare and valuable to be squandered in a forum that showcases only liberal voices, affirms the opinions of like-minded viewers and shuns, offends and further entrenches an enormous voting bloc. What a waste of the important activist strides the Oscars could further with a little equanimity.
The Oscars serve as a powerful soap box to reach a wider audience — 26.5 million people in 2018 — and call widespread attention to pressing social issues. I believe that actors should be able to stand for the causes that matter to them and ensure that the rest of the population is exposed to their ideas. For example, the #MeToo movement condemning sexual assault would not have gained as much traction without the clout of celebrities. The Oscars were and will be a perfect stage to continue this discussion and many others to come.
However, blind ridicule and wholesale disparagement of the values of the right completely undermine the inclusive stance many liberals purport to espouse and detract from the positive resolution of important issues that should not be swept under the rug. Derision without self-reflection only further entrenches each camp in their ideals and hardens party divisions. The Oscars are a great time to shine a light on our most pressing issues: gun control, sexual assault movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp and racial discrimination. But when this happens alongside blatant mockery, it weakens the credibility and legitimacy of these movements. Derision may cause conservatives to discredit the entire message, or simply turn off their TVs and with it their minds.
Such one-sided exposure is hardly new, not isolated to the Oscars, and represents a greater trend in Hollywood and American awards shows. At this year’s Grammy award show, a plethora of celebrities, from Snoop Dogg to Hillary Clinton, read excerpts from the scathing White House “tell-all” book, “Fire and Fury”. Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, tweeted in response: “Hillary Clinton reading ‘Fire and Fury’ at the Grammys is why Trump won. But actually. It is.” While there are virtually no things on which Shapiro and I agree, he might be on to something here. Clinton, a learned and highly competent woman, made a set of mistakes that contributed to her loss of the 2016 presidential election. Many have pegged her greatest folly as being “out of tune” with “real” Americans. Clinton ran a star-studded campaign and argued that the voting power of the white working class was no longer relevant in the face of liberal enlightened thoughts. At the ballot box, they proved her, and the many celebrities who supported her, to be wrong. Whether or not Clinton has learned the lesson, the Oscars show that her celebrity followers have not.
Those who direct, speak and perform at the Oscars and those who laugh at the jokes are not ill-intentioned. In fact, they are mostly the opposite; a group of liberal-minded individuals looking to blow off steam after a tough electoral year and enact change. However, creating such a partisan Oscars does not help the progress of liberal ideals, and rather further isolates and alienates conservatives as “not welcome” in such events.
Whether we like it or not, Republicans currently hold the power in the Senate, House and presidency. If we want to see change, Democrats cannot continue to chortle in their echo chamber every time there is a stage to do so. The true Kodak-moment will be once we give constructive criticism, or take our voting power to the ballot box in 2018.
As Brown students on a left-leaning campus, we should realize that change requires the embrace of individuals on all sides of the aisle. Ad hominem attacks are not helpful in the long run because they undermine the larger social discussions they attempt to further. Most importantly, they do not work.
Emily Miller ’19 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.