I didn’t watch the Oscars because nobody was paying me to, but I did follow my friends watching them on Twitter, and here is what I gather:
1) Patricia Arquette made the stupidest white mainstream feminist plea for equal pay ever, claiming that “gays” and people of color need now to step up and fight for equal pay for women. Things she failed to mention: lots of gay people and people of color are women. Pretty much half of them, I’d say. More things she failed to mention: the pay gap between white men and white women is bad, but nowhere near as bad as that between white men and black women, or white men and Native American women, or white men and…you get the picture. Also, the implication that gay people and people of color owe [white] women something because “we’ve” been “fighting for them” and they’ve had enough time in the spotlight? Straight out untrue and obnoxious. Arquette, no doubt your intentions are good, but try to think next time.
2) The same crowd that apparently went wild over Arquette’s speech was silent and uncomfortable when Common and John Legend spoke about the mass incarceration of black men in the US. Fantastic.
3) Lest you think that Hollywood even gives two shits about white women–even famous white women in their clubhouse–they once again invited wife-beater and rapist extraordinaire Sean Penn to the stage, this time to give the Oscar for Best Picture. When the winner turned out to be Birdman, he reminded everyone how revolting he was by making a racist joke about the film’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Apparently Iñárritu handled the situation with grace and dignity, calling on Mexicans in the US to fight for the respect that is their due, and Penn’s defenders immediately took to the internets to say it was totes OK because Penn was only joking, and anyway, Penn and Iñárritu are friends. Which is weird, because maybe I have this “friendship” thing completely backwards, but I always thought that part of being someone’s friend is not making racist jokes about them.
I’ve seen a lot of tweets about how Hollywood’s liberalism is a façade, and I’m going to say something controversial here: no, it’s not. This is liberalism. Liberalism is very good at handling the rights of the individual; liberalism posits that the structures of power as we know them are fine, it’s just that everybody should have access; liberalism wants us to all be friends. It’s not terribly good at power dynamics based on group membership and intersecting identity categories and axes of oppression and exploitation; it’s deeply uncomfortable with calls to dismantle institutions and power structures as they stand; it has a really hard time admitting that sometimes you have to take sides and fight. And that’s why the Hollywood audience went wild for Arquette, didn’t want to deal with what Legend and Common were saying, and keeps pretending Sean Penn is a fine human being. And it’s why traditional liberalism on its own, without the threat of the radical left lurking in the wings, is terribly weak sauce. Let me quote Barbara Ehrenreich, from one of my favorite of her essays:
“I can’t wait for the liberals to make a comeback, and not because I am one of them. When the liberals went underground, it was left to the rejects of the Democratic party–the feminists, peace activists, rainbow coalitionists, socialists, union militants–to hold up the liberal banner. We were left to defend social programs, like welfare and Medicaid, that were never halfway adequate in the first place, and to argue–a little wearily–for the mild reforms that might make life marginally more secure for the average person. What else was there to do in such a desolate political landscape, with no one…occupying the long expanse between us, on the left, and the likes of Jimmy Swaggart on the far, far right? But if the Democrats find the courage to get back to their business–working for the slow and piecemeal reform of our far-from-perfect society–maybe we’ll be able to get back to ours. And that is, as it has always been, to insist that slow and piecemeal reform is just not good enough.” (The Worst Years of Our Lives. HarperCollinsPublishers: New York, 1990. 81.)
What did I miss by watching the Oscars only via Twitter? Let me know in the comments section.
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