Racism, body-negativity and other stuff about the Oscars

Photo: Golden Oscar statute. Image Source: Google ImagesThe 84th Academy Awards show was last night. I didn’t watch it. I don’t have a TV. I don’t go to the movie theater. I don’t even have Netflix. So, I didn’t have much interest in who won what. And awards shows are boring, anyway. But the blogs are abuzz this morning with commentary on the winners, the losers, the Academy and the fashion, and it’s made me think and feel awholelotta stuff.

I guess we should start with the racism.

Meryl Streep won best actress for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, pitted against Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs, playing a person who identifies as a woman but assumes a male identity while working, and Viola Davis for The Help. Davis’s co-star Octavia Spencer won best supporting actress for her role as a maid in the film, making her the fifth black woman to win the best actress Oscar.

Everyone rejoiced when Streep won. She has a long and illustrious career, and she has been snubbed by the Academy many times for her work. She is deserving of recognition and distinction.

Photo: Octavia Spencer holding her Oscar. Image Source: Google Images

Octavia Spencer holding her Oscar. | Google Images

Many news outlets, critics and bloggers have touted Streep’s win as her time to shine, saying Davis will get another chance at an Oscar, too. But she probably won’t. As evidenced by Spencer’s historic win, there just aren’t leading roles written for black women—or most any people of color—in major Hollywood productions. A supporting role, maybe, but that’s even a stretch. Sure black women can play the headstrong maid working with a white woman to help her overcome the strife and racism in her life, but how often is that sort of character the lead? How many roles are there for black women outside of the context of white people? Let alone ones that will be rewarded with a gold statue.

And The Help (one of the few nominated films I watched) was only well received by audiences because it explores racism in a way that makes white people feel good about it. The film takes place in an era we feel far removed from. It makes white people feel good because a white woman empowers black maids to tell their stories and stand up to their abusive employers (for the white woman’s own personal gain as a journalist, might I add).

While The Help is a powerful story, it’s mostly about a white woman learning about terrible racist things happening to black women and sort of doing something about it, therefore solving the pesky problem of racism. The film really does nothing but perpetuate the myth that racism was something hard and ugly that generations before us had to deal with.

Anyway, there was also an amazing commercial aired throughout the awards show. Maybe it’s the somberly inspirational backing track or the downtrodden-but-hopeful look on director Aurora Guerrero‘s face, but this Bing ad for her first feature film, Mosquita y Mari, makes me want to simultaneously give her a congratulatory bear hug and accomplish all my dreams in one fell swoop.

The commercial doesn’t reveal much about the film—it’s more about the production and Guerrero’s journey—but Guerrero summarizes Mosquita y Mari as a love story of two adolescent Chicana best friends living in Los Angeles. I need to see this movie.

Also, this apparently happened at an Oscar after party:

Photo: Adam Lambert and Sir Elton John wearing black suits and slow dancing at an Oscar after party. Photo source: The Advocate, Google Images.I love everything about this. I bet Elton thinks Glambert is a babe.

And while we’re on the subject of babes, the dresses celebs were sporting last night were out of this world. But, of course, the more traditionally attractive a celeb is (i.e.  lighter skinned, younger, thinner), the more likely they were to be on best-dressed lists. Critics seemed to love what Gwenyth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie were wearing, but I can’t imagine why anyone would pan these stunners (prepare for a glamgasm):

Photo: Kelly Osbourn in a form-fitting long black Badgley Mischka gown with emerald green beading and gems. She has light lavender hair. Image source: Photo By Gregg DeGuire/WireImage, Google Images

Kelly Osbourn donning Badgley Mischka at the Oscars. | WireImage

Photo: Maya Rudolph wearing a plum Johanna Johnson dress with bejeweled cap sleeves and belt on the Oscars red carpet. Image source:  Gregg DeGuire/WireImage, Google Images

Maya Rudolph is perfect in plum at the academy Awards. | WireImage

Photo: "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd wearing a blue bejeweled gown. Image source: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage, Google Images

Sherri Shepherd wearing her Oscars finest. | WireImage

Photo: Melissa McCarthy in an amber gown with clear rhinestone neckline and belt by Marina Rinaldi. Image Source: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage, Google Images

Melissa MaCarthy rocking Rinaldi on the red carpet. | WireImage

UPDATE: There was one good thing I missed. While introducing Demián Bichir for his role in A Better Life, Natalie Portman identified his character as an “undocumented immigrant,” not as illegal.

“You created so much empathy for another human being that we all left the theater looking at the world differently,” said Portman to Bichir. “As Carlos Galindo, an undocumented immigrant fighting to give his son the opportunities he never had, you made us face very true portrait of a human being no one had ever dared us to consider before.”

UPDATE 2: Billy Crystal was in blackface? What the what?

During the opening sketch, the host of the show put on blackface to play Sammy Davis Jr. This parody cannot be separated from the terrible historical context of blackface, and blackface trivializes a complex identity by reducing it to a mere costume. Watch the video below for a more analysis:


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