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When Shallowness Enables Depth: The Oscars as a Scenario for Socio-Political Protest

by Ethan Tussey

by Elizabeth Castaldo Lunden for IN MEDIA RESOriginally created as an event to provide prestige and consolidate the hegemony of the American film industry around the world, the Academy Awards ceremony may be considered one of the shallowest media events; a parade of Hollywood luminaries displaying the most expensive creations of outrageously expensive high-end fashion brands. The controversy around this years nominations spread throughout the web using #oscarsowhite, triggering debates around the lack of diversity among the nominees. In 2015, questions of gender equality where set under the limelight through Reese Whiterspoons #AskHerMore and Patricia Arquettes acceptance speech. Clearly, these events speak for a deeper problematic than merely what happens to Hollywood stars regarding gender inequality and racial segregation. In fact, the high level of engagement around these topics speaks about a deeper problematic within American society for which what happens in Hollywood serves as the means for agenda setting. From a historical standpoint, the Oscars have been the chosen scenario for political manifestations many times before. In 1992, 11 persons were arrested in an LGBT demonstration that gathered 300 people in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, protesting the absence of positive gay characters in films (Daily Variety, 1992, March 31). Two smaller protests took place that same year. A religious group chanting Hollywood repent, and Jesus loves sinners, and a group of African-Americans protesting Oscars snub of black and rap music. In 1979, 13 persons were arrested after a riot against the police in a Vietnam veterans against the war protest. (Daily Variety, v.183, n. 26). The previous year, Vanessa Redgrave raised her voice for Palestina while accepting her award for best supporting actress. (Daily Variety, v. 179, n. 22), while members of the Jewish Defense leave protested against her nomination. And the list goes on. Therefore, it is worth asking: why does the Academy Award ceremony serve as a platform for political engagement? The question is almost rhetorical, and its answer certainly pinpoints at the shows international reach. After 88 editions, the Academy Awards ceremony remains the moment where all eyes are set on one event, raising awareness about the flaws of the so-called American dream.

Red Carpet and Marlon Brando

A clip from TCM's Oscar doc

from Marlon brando rechaza oscar (2009)
Creator: TCM
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey