The opinions in this article don’t necessarily represent the views of everyone at Screen Rant.
Since its inception in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been handing out awards, commonly referred to as an “Oscar”, to those in the movie industry for outstanding achievements. Everything from Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, to technical areas such as Best Sound Editing and Best Makeup and Hairstyling – something Suicide Squad seems poised to win this year – are given consideration.
For the 89th time, most of Hollywood’s elite will gather to once again recognize dozens of movies and individuals for being the best of the best the previous year. Many of those fortunate enough to be selected as winners will undoubtedly have detractors voicing their opinions on why another nominee should have won, but for those who follow closely, debating the awards has always been part of the fun.
Lately, much of the fun these awards shows used to offer has been sucked away with politically-charged speeches. The excellence recognized at the Golden Globes this year was overshadowed by Meryl Streep’s impassioned acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which focused more on America’s newly elected President, than it did anything else. Meanwhile, the Grammys were also full of political statements – mostly in the form of Make America Great Again dresses and “impeach” jackets worn by those in attendance.
Granted, America’s political landscape is a hotbed of turmoil filled with vitriol from just about every side – each attempting to shout down, shame or belittle the other into submission. Everyone has a opinion on the outcome of the latest American election and the current administration in control of the White House. Thanks to social media, right, wrong or indifferent, anyone can express that opinion for everyone to read. People often say to actors, musicians and athletes, “Stick to [insert profession here]. We don’t pay/watch you for your political opinions.” The people who say that couldn’t be more wrong.
Just like Joe Plumber, Suzy Doctor or any other average citizen, those in the entertainment industry have every right to express their opinion on politics. Though many may disagree with what they say, the fact it’s within their right to say it shouldn’t be up for debate. However, just because they CAN say it doesn’t mean viewers want to hear those opinions every time one of these entertainers is on stage. Recent example: Lady Gaga gave a great, virtually politically-free performance at Super Bowl LI this year, yet she was skewered for “not taking advantage of her platform” by those who oppose the President. Just like the “Stick to your profession” people, this too is a ridiculous statement to make.
Hollywood and politics have a long, storied history. Many actors, feeling they can do a better job than life-long politicians, will throw their hat into the political ring to prove it. Just about everyone knows that late-President Ronald Reagan was an accomplished actor before serving two terms in the Oval Office. Comedian Al Franken is a current Senator for the state of Minnesota, while former-Predator buddies Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura served as the Governors of California and Minnesota, respectively. The trend of actors-turning-politicians isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.
There was a time when Hollywood versus the United States Government was an actual, very serious, thing. This “war” dates as a far back as the ’40s when writer Dalton Trumbo, along with other members of the Hollywood Ten, refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee regarding Communism propaganda in the motion picture industry. The Ten eventually served time in prison and were “blacklisted” from much of Hollywood’s elite projects – though Trumbo still won an Oscar for his Roman Holiday screenplay. Today, in many people’s eyes, it’s still a “Hollywood versus Everyone Else” mentality – and in many ways, it probably is.
Back then, if you didn’t want to take part in fierce political discussions, you simply avoided them. In today’s world, that’s nearly impossible. From car manufacturers, to lumber suppliers, to beer and soda makers – it seems every company wants to express its political and social views. With 24-hour news cycles and the reach of “always on” social media, many people have grown weary of almost every topic becoming embroiled in partisan politics – this is especially true for movies.
For the average viewer, watching movies is a way to escape the rigors of reality for 90 or so minutes. They want to watch Jake Sully run with the Na’vi through the trees of Pandora in Avatar, or experience the thrill of outrunning an Indominus rex while watching Jurassic World. So when they chose to tune into awards shows, they bring that same attitude with them -hoping their favorite movie or actor/actress will win. What they aren’t looking for is a series of 60-second speeches that merely parrot the political talking points from all the previous acceptance speeches of the night.
That’s why we’re asking Hollywood to once again, for just one night, make the Academy Awards about movies and not politics. If an actor/actress/director is concerned that someone won’t know their stand on the current President, his election into office or the policies he’s attempting to put in place, then by all means, take to social media in a whirlwind of disapproving statements. Rest assured that the world is most likely listening. But, for a short three hours let viewers escape the harsh reality of politics and get caught up in the crazy world of fancy dresses, nomination snubs and movies – if only for a moment.
We’re not naive enough to think the upcoming Oscars will be completely free of political outbursts. Come Monday morning, everyone will be talking about what politically-charged statement (multiple) winners made the night before, but it honestly doesn’t have to be that way. All we are asking is that Hollywood’s best and brightest please remember they’re on an award stage, not a political platform.
The Oscars will be televised on ABC Sunday, February 26.