Following the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, the 90th Oscars attempted to shine light on the long time covered up sexual assaults all too common in Hollywood. Casey Affleck, last year’s Oscar winning lead actor, strayed from tradition in skipping this year’s ceremony, in light of previous co-stars accusing him of sexual assault. Instead, Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster presented Frances McDormand with the lead actress award, Lawrence calling it a “new day in Hollywood”.
McDormand’s acceptance speech quickly turned from words of thanks to a motivational call to action. In one of the most chilling moments of the night, McDormand placed her Oscar down for some “perspective”, and then asked for “all the female nominees in every category [to] stand with [her]… the actors…the filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers”. She demanded acknowledgment for the powerful stories women have to tell, and that need to be financed. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight,” she continued, “Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whatever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them”.
She ended, what host Jimmy Kimmel called, an “Emmy winning speech”, with two simple words, “inclusion riders”. The phrase quickly became Google’s top search of the night. An inclusion rider, not something you typically hear about in Hollywood, is a stipulation written into contracts demanding diverse cast and crew in terms of race and gender identification. McDormand spotlights the great work women have done and always will do, but better yet, demands more. She doesn’t mention #MeToo or Time’s Up because she instead provides a definite solution to the problem of underrepresentation among women, minorities, and the marginalized in Hollywood.
However, let’s not forget another winner of the night: Kobe Bryant. Bryant won an Oscar for his animated short Dear Basketball, which he wrote and narrated about his journey through and love of the sport in the midst of his decision to retire. But back in 2003, Bryant was arrested and charged with sexual assault after a nineteen year old accused him of rape. The case was eventually dropped, however many felt it was out of intimidation after the victim’s personal records and recent sexual encounters were released.
Let’s be real here: the Academy can’t have their cake and eat it too. In reference to Affleck’s decided absence, they released a statement saying, “We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year”. The statement seems to acknowledge how Affleck’s Oscar participation would only take away from the spectacular work in movies this year, but also from the progress the Time’s Up initiative has created. Yet so easily they forget to practice what they preach. While Bryant’s win does not erase the work of #MeToo and Time’s Up, or overshadow other important moments of the night, including Jordan Peele’s win for best original screenplay, becoming the first black man to win the award, it does call into question whether Hollywood elitists really have the interests of women and minorities at heart. The separation of art and personal life cannot be denounced in one situation and not another. Furthermore, celebrities sporting their Time’s Up pins in their selfies with Bryant should take a hard look at their involvement with the campaign, and question if they believe in the cause or are simply following a trend.
McDormand and Bryant both won Oscars Sunday night, but only one of them is making a real statement; and it’s not that basketball players can do more than “shut up and dribble“. The female lead of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri pushes us to re-evaluate our perspectives. Are we going to continue our cycle about tweeting for equality, or actually do something about it? The Academy made their choice. They talk a big game about standing with victims of sexual assault, but when the cards are on the table, and Kobe Bryant, Gary Oldman, and Casey Affleck are winning awards, they continue to opress those they wear pins for. McDormand started a fire not only in me, but in people across the country. Enough is enough. We have to take real action if we want equality to be attained. Argue for equal pay among the genders, demand more roles for minorities, factor in inclusion riders. If you have privilege and a platform, raise and listen to the voices of those who don’t . Time’s Up and #MeToo are just the beginning, if and only if we practice McDormand’s words. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Better yet, run.