Last year around this time I wrote a scathing article for my school paper about Seth Macfarlane’s attempt at hosting the Oscars in which I primarily focused on how his “We Saw Your Boobs” song basically undermined any hope for women to be taken seriously in Hollywood. In light of that I felt like this year I should balance out my review of the Oscars and acknowledge some of the good things they did this time around.
Featuring Ellen Degeneres as Host
It’s really not surprising that Ellen delivered the highest rated Oscars in nine years. She is pretty impossible to hate; it’s one of the things that makes her such a great advocate for the LGBT community. Even the fairly conservative individuals I know really appreciate that Ellen just seems like a nice person. I mean, she has gained popularity doing what seems to be the impossible for most comedians: being funny AND nice. I mean, just check out her nice-off with Jimmy Fallon.
She also seems incredibly approachable, which is a brilliant marketing device. As an audience we start thinking of her as “one of us”, someone who orders pizza and takes selfies at fancy events. It just gets more exciting when she tips the pizza guy 1000$ and takes a selfie so popular it breaks Twitter.
Awarding Lupita Nyong’o Best Supporting Actress
I’m partially excited about this win because I think Lupita seems like a really cool person. Like most people, I started hearing about her when 12 Years a Slave was being promoted. In an interview with Vogue she shared a bit about her background. What I found particularly interesting about that interview was her undergrad specialization, and how she went on to film a documentary about albinism.
Beyond just being happy for her as a person, a lot of viewers were excited by what seemed like a little more representation in Hollywood.
Lupita was born in Mexico while her parents were in political exile, but her family eventually returned to Kenya during her childhood. While she is the sixth black actress to win best supporting actress, her award is a first time win for a Kenyan actress. In a video that’s been circulating online Lupita shares how her sudden rise to fame stopped one young fan from buying skin whitening cream. She then goes on to share examples of beautiful black women who inspired her to pursue acting.
Considering my interest in the way women are represented in media, it was really exciting to see Cate Blanchett using her speech to point out that women are not a “niche” and that movies about women “earn money”. Her claim is supported by this year’s box-office success of movies staring women, like Catching Fire and Gravity.
I’m not saying the Oscars are by any means the epitome of the television ideal. There were a variety of ways that the Oscars did increase in diversity, but they still have a long way to go. They may have also allowed women a little more recognition, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood is suddenly free of sexism. Even Ellen had one joke “go a little astray on her” while acting as this year’s host. I’m just really happy not to be itching to write a Shame Day about it.
And who knows, maybe this could mean that the Oscars are evolving into something that actually rewards more equal representation in Hollywood.