If you didn’t watch the last 15 minutes of the Oscars last night, then you missed a whole lot: Sean Penn won best actor for Milk and made a great acceptance speech.
He started with the obligatory thank-yous, but then went on to speak out against the protestors at the Oscars. He also eloquently spoke of the shame that people who supported the gay marriage ban in California would experience in the future.
In one of my favorite quotes, Penn explained what the movie means to him: “It means a lot to myself and everyone involved not only in the movie, but anybody who believes in equal rights for human beings. It’s really simple . . . There’s nothing more important than the themes that are in this movie. To be part of something like that is a privilege.” Way to go Sean Penn, way to go.
As Emma Southard, a University of Cincinnati social work student and queer activist, pointed out, there is another very important excerpt from Penn’s speech: “I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”
And while there were many reactions to the speeches that night, Southard’s reaction was echoed by many: “That was intense he was really driving it home and pegging those people. And I am sure that some of those people who voted for Prop. 8 were sitting in that crowd.”
While the crowd applauded their approval for Penn’s words, some of them probably donated to the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign and even more probably voted for it.
And let’s not forget Dustin Lance Black’s awe-inspiring speech for Best Original Screenplay for Milk. Black described his life before he moved to California and how hard it was to be queer. One Oscar watcher, Erica Kendall, explains Black’s speech: “He hit the nail on the head when he talked about hearing the story of Harvey Milk for the first time, and that was what gave him [the] hope, it was what gave him the ability to write the screenplay for Milk.”
Black also mentioned that upon hearing the story of Milk, it gave him the hope that one day he would be able to fall in love and get married. Of course the audience applauded heavily, but that begs the question: Why Prop. 8?
“I love how Prop. 8 has become this universal thing that has gotten all of this attention across the country for gay rights. It’s neat to see so many people talking about it and to see things about gay rights on the main headlines, but it’s strange that it was something so inconsequential that grabbed this attention. Prop. 8 is something that effected people in only one of our 50 states, and it only effects those people that want to get married,” said Southard.