If you have been living under a Wi-Fi free rock you probably wouldn’t know that the 2015 Oscar Awards were this past Sunday. But since you’re probably not a hermit, here’s a little rehash…
Ratings wise, The 2015 Oscar Awards have got to be one of the most successful award shows in recent history. I know I couldn’t scroll through social media feeds or news reports without reading about it. I don’t have the analytics but I’m sure Twitter will affirm its popularity. Put simply, coverage of the 2015 Oscar Awards crept into every nook and cranny of our digital lives like a zombie virus. I expected Alice from Resident Evil to storm the stage at one point.
Content wise, it was also a success. Neil Patrick Harris brought his signature biting-yet-Hollywood-approved shtick to the stage. Lady GaGa reminded everyone that she’s a classically trained, eclectic artist in a moving tribute to Julie Andrews (…and she channeled a Food Network-meets-The Sound of Music style in her red carpet gown…but we won’t go there). Oprah threw shade. John Legend made an uncomfortably vital point about race relations in America. Patricia Arquette made a powerful statement on gender wage inequality. Oprah threw shade. Graham Moore delivered what was probably the best speech of the night by encouraging those who are seen by others as “weird” and “different” to embrace and love themselves just as they are. And yes, and Oprah threw shade.
All in all, it was a good night for Oscar, even though I’ll admit I find the whole spectacle to be predictable and boring. Nearly everyone on the Web agreed, too – good show. Next.
But this is 2015, the Age of Perpetual Outrage. Deep within the bowls of the Internet outrage machine, self-appointed social justice warriors (SJW) told us that the Oscars were actually “problematic” (a favorite term of the online SJW activist). I’m not going to include the critique of the Oscars as overly white and male since that’s a whole other meaningful and much-needed discussion for a separate post.
Instead, I’m going to ruin your day by reminding you that there are people out there who will literally find anything to be outraged and offended over. In the age of clicks and Buzzfeed, catchy, attention getting statements and provoking think pieces are quickly becoming the way to make a name for oneself online. Why post a video of your cat falling off a shelf when you can write a post about how one of Taylor Swift’s problematic videos perpetrates harmful stereotypes of black female bodies?
The recent Oscars were no exception to the ire of the SJW. The biggest offense: Patricia Arquette’s feminist statements. Here’s what she said, both on stage and when she was asked about her comments backstage:
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
“It’s inexcusable we go around the world talking about equal rights for women in other countries…and we don’t have equal rights for women in America. The truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all…the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
To nearly everyone who heard both the original and clarified comments, Arquette’s passionate defense of women’s rights and equality came across just as they sounded – empowering and thought provoking. To the SJWs of the Web, Arquette committed an unpardonable sin – she, a white woman, apparently told lesbian and transgender women of color that their concerns aren’t equal to those of white women. I wish I were joking…I’m not.
Salon’s Katie McDonough called her speech “well intentioned” but “[ignorant of] the fact that the wage gap for women of color and LBGTQ women is much, much worse than it is for straight, white cis women.” Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check went so far as to claim that she “thoroughly [erased] gay women and women of color and all intersecting iterations of those identities by creating these independent identity groups as if they do not overlap.” Grimes continued, “Arquette goes on to do even worse, which is to demand that ‘gay people’ and ‘people of color’ fight for ‘us,’ a group that Arquette has specifically identified as non-gay and not of color—as very specifically straight and white and ‘woman.'”
That’s modern identity politics 101, I guess.
But the Oscar for most divisive, shrill and nitpicking ranting goes to The Grio’s Blue Telusma. The title says it all (and if you’re into sadomasochism, go ahead and follow the link here): “Dear Patricia Arquette: Blacks and gays owe white women nothing.”
Um, okay. Sure. Be warned, ladies – you have to mention every single variety of woman and their accompanying struggles when you’re asked, on the fly, about how you feel about gender inequality. If not, you’re a horrible person, or something. You see, because she’s a straight, white, cisgender woman of enormous Hollywood privilege, she couldn’t possibly have been calling for unity of these different social justice movements. Battles for equality are not won in solidarity – no, divided we achieve!
Could she have said it a little better? Sure. But she said the comments off the cuff with cameras in her face. Most importantly, it was automatically implied that she was talking about all women, from white and black to lesbian and transgender. By mentioning the LGBT and African-American rights movements, she was making the point that both of those movements should openly embrace and champion feminism (I’d argue that they do, but these are Arquette’s comments). The fact that her empowering statements were mangled to reflect some kind of bigotry goes to show you how frequently pathetic Internet activism is. Fighting for equality is about breaking down barriers, making diverse allies and boldly charging onward, changing hearts and minds in your wake. It’s not about nitpicking every damn word a celebrity says to find a hidden nugget of bigotry or policing speech and conversations for the slightest perceived slip up.