Tags: oscars | academy awards | legend | arquette | witherspoon | politics

2015 Oscar Ceremony Most Political in 87-Year History

Monday, 23 February 2015 08:42 AM

The Academy Awards turned into a platform for more political statements from the stage, backstage, and on the red carpet than have ever been made in the nearly 90-year history of the Oscar ceremonies.

The heartfelt remarks ran the gamut from defense of the voting rights act to women’s rights, human rights, and even support for fugitive Edward Snowden, who has been attacked by both Republicans and Democrats for putting Americans in danger by leaking government secrets, according to reports.

The most notable comments came from singer John Legend in accepting the award with the rapper Common for the best original song, "Glory," from the movie "Selma," which centered on the Alabama city that was a catalyst for the civil rights movement 50 years ago led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Common got the ball rolling while paying tribute to free speech in France as well as the people in Hong Kong for highlighting the democracy movement in China, according to Quartz, which called the Oscars the "most politically charged in years."

His controversial comments may have brought back memories of Richard Gere’s appeal for greater human rights in China, especially Tibet, from the stage in 1993. His remarks resulted in what amounted to a 20-year ban as an Oscars presenter.

Standing with Common and holding his Oscar, Legend may have angered conservatives in Southern states by declaring, "We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now."

According to ThinkProgress.org, the rights championed by King "have been eroded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 which effectively struck down the heart of [President] Johnson’s Voting Rights Act."

The high court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder opened the doors for nine Southern states to change their election laws without federal approval, according to the progressive website.

Legend went on to say, "We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850."

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According to Quartz, the comparison was first made by Michelle Alexander, a lawyer, professor, and the author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness."

Likewise, Patricia Arquette, while accepting her award for best supporting actress for "Boyhood," raised more than a few eyebrows when she called for wage equality for women.

She said, "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."

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And backstage, Quartz noted that she created a Twitter storm by saying, "It’s time for all the women in America, and the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now."

And while accepting her Oscar for best documentary for "Citizenfour," director Laura Poitras astonished the star-studded audience, and millions of viewers around the world, by showing her support for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who is now living in asylum in Russia.

Calling him a "whistleblower" on mass government surveillance, Poitras said, "Disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy, but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made that affect all of us are being made in secrecy, we lose our ability to check the powers in control."

But Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris was seemingly quick to rebuke her and get in one of his better unscripted jokes of the night, when he then said that Snowden couldn’t make the ceremony "for some treason."

Presenter and Oscar nominee Reese Witherspoon was among several actresses promoting the #AskHerMore campaign, which criticizes sexism on the red carpet while urging TV reporters to ask more creative questions of women than, for example, which designer's dress they are wearing.

According to Quartz, political statements during the Oscars’ history have been fairly limited, with the most memorable being Marlon Brando rejecting his best actor Oscar in 1973 for "The Godfather."

The Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather attended the ceremony in Brando’s place, saying from the stage that the actor "very regretfully" could not accept the award, as he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans on film.

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The Academy Awards turned into a platform for more political statements from the stage, backstage and on the red carpet than have ever been made in the nearly 90-year history of the Oscar ceremonies.
oscars, academy awards, legend, arquette, witherspoon, politics
Monday, 23 February 2015 08:42 AM
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