The 2015 Oscars: An All-White Affair


Alvaro Gamboa

Millions of Americans tuned in Sunday Night, February 22, to watch the 87th Annual Academy Awards. The night had many memorable moments, with the overall tone being the diversity, or lack thereof. There were key moments that sparked some controversy and negative reviews from not just the audience, but from the millions watching at home.

One such key moment was when host for the evening, Neil Patrick Harris, had a long running bit about his predictions for the night being delivered via Oscars Security, being placed in a glass box on stage, and picked Academy-Award winning Actress Octavia Spencer to keep an eye on his suitcase filled with his predictions for the entirety of the night. The audiences reaction was muffled as an awkward air filled the arena. Was the incident some sort of play on race being that Octavia Spencer is African –American, Harris is white and needed the actress to watch over his suitcase for the entire length of the show? Was it also a joke because Octavia Spencer received her Oscar for her supporting role in The Help, where she played a caregiver to her white employers? Is this the case or is the general public dissecting this thoroughly and it was merely coincidental that Octavia Spencer was conveniently within range of Harris’ eyesight? Either case, Spencer’s reaction summed up perfectly how everybody was feeling after the incident.

Another moment that was deemed a miss on all accounts was Sean Penn’s off the cuff joke about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s citizenship, asking “Alright, who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” right before presenting Inarritu with his Award for Best Director for Directing Birdman. The joke was meant to be taken light-heartedly, seeing as the two are friends and have worked together previously, as Sean Penn starred in Inarritu’s 21 Grams. Alejandro took it in jest, hugging Sean Pen with all smiles. Upon receiving his Oscar, Inarritu went on to thank the Academy, stating that the win was a huge for His native country of Mexico. In Inarritu’s heartfelt speech, he said he hopes that Mexico can band together and build a government the people deserve. His final remarks were that people should respect immigrants, a touching bit of irony considering his introduction to the podium was taken offensively by everyone in attendance and watching, except the two friends. This comes off the heels of Inarritu’s friend, Alfonso Cuaron, winning Best Director for Gravity last year, making it two years in a row a Mexican Director wins the Best Director category. Is this the Academy’s way of giving back and not seeming so pro-white all these years?

Quite possibly the biggest moment of the night was the performance of the Oscar-Nominated song Glory by Common and John Legend. The nomination was for Best Original Song for a Motion Picture, the film being Selma. As the two performed this touching song, they recreated the famous march from Selma-to-Montgomery march.

The ending of the performance was marked by several people joining Common and John Legend in their march and culminating in the meet at Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was powerful imagery that sent chills through everyone’s bodies. At the end of the performance, there was not an empty seat in the house as the duo received a standing ovation and brought David Oyelowo to tears. Oyelowo was the lead actor in Selma, and had a remarkable portrayal of Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Many in the industry thought that Oyelowo was sure to receive a nomination, but were disappointed and even felt that David Oyelowo was snubbed out of the Best Actor category. This was one of several controversies surrounding the Oscars, that culminated in Common and John Legend winning Oscar for Best Original Song. The two received the award immediately after performing the song. In what was an insightful and moving speech, the Chicago native Common made an impact by saying that the time for change is now, as he equated modern times to that of Selma. The speech the two gave was inspiring and thought provoking. There was a sense of disingenuousness, seeing as the two had just performed the song not ten minutes ago. It does give thought to whether or not the award could be seen as a pity award for the Oyelowo snub and not receiving the Best Picture award, which went to Birdman, instead.

The Oscars have had a long standing battle with race throughout its history. The problem with the almost-exclusive white event is that many children growing up watching, dreaming of the day they get to be at The Oscars. They, however, are watching it in All-white. Perhaps Latino Directors winning awards, and songs about overcoming struggles of racial inequality, and watching movies that depict other races in a brilliant light can lead to the future actors, directors, artists, and vote-casters for the Oscars to not only dream of one day being at The Oscars, but to dream in color.