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Oscars 2018: Time is up, not just for harassment, but also for exclusion

The Oscars night is by no means an apolitical event. Unlike film award ceremonies in India, for Hollywood stars and film makers who gather for the ceremony are not averse to expressing their opinions on controversial subjects

editorials Updated: Mar 06, 2018 00:06 IST
Hindustan Times
Oscars 2018,Oscar awards,Harvey Weinstein
Meryl Streep (left) congratulates Frances McDormand on winning the Best Actress Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Hollywood, California(REUTERS)

The Oscar awards transcend cinema. They are not just about the arts and sciences that the Academy of Motion Pictures celebrates, they are the one night in show business when dreamers and dream merchants remark in unison about the problems of the day and the dominant issues of the time. The Oscars is by no means an apolitical event. Unlike film award ceremonies in India, Hollywood stars and film makers who gather for the ceremony are not averse to expressing their opinions on controversial subjects.

This year, the big theme at the Oscars was expected to be sexual harassment at the workplace — in the backdrop of the giant shadow that producer Harvey Weinstein has cast over the film industry. It was meant to be an occasion when, like the Golden Globe awards in January, #MeToo and #TimesUp would be the dominant themes. While that issue was addressed on Sunday, the Oscars picked up a different, not entirely unvisited topic with renewed vigour. Inclusivity emerged as the theme of the night, both in actions and words. A Chilean film, Una Mujer Fantastica (A Fantastic Woman), inspired by and starring transgender icon Daniela Vega, won the best foreign language film award. Vega also came on stage as a presenter; she was the first transgender person invited to do this in the 90-year history of the Academy Awards.

But it was Frances McDormand, the best actress in a leading role for Martin McDonagh’s sparkling Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, who drilled the point home with a typically ‘rad’ acceptance speech. “I’m hyperventilating… If I fall over, pick me up because I’ve got something to say!” she started, before asking every single woman nominee in the audience to stand up, and pointing at them, said: “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects that need to be financed.”

McDormand, who won her second best actress Oscar after Fargo (1996), finished her speech by saying, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.” An inclusion rider is a clause in film contracts that allows A-list actors to insist that the cast and crew of their film meets a certain level of diversity. With those “two words”, the message was clear. Time is up, Hollywood was saying, not just for harassment, but also for exclusion.

First Published: Mar 05, 2018 19:49 IST