Social media exploded on Sunday night when Patricia Arquette, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the movie Boyhood, used her acceptance speech as an opportunity for a call to arms on the subject of the hotly debated gender wage gap.
Arquette made a passionate statement, saying, “To every woman who gave birth to every citizen and taxpayer 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.”
Audience members, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, loudly shrieked in agreement and applauded, while other women cheered Arquette on via social media. But while many felt empowered by this speech, some found it to be not only redundant, but also unnecessary.
Awards shows such as the Oscars have a history of being a platform for celebrities to voice their opinions.
Take, for instance, Marlon Brando, who refused to accept his Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 in protest of the way that the film industry treated Native Americans. He instead had Sacheen Littlefeather, president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, attend the show in his place and state, on stage, why Brando would not accept the award.
At the 2014 Video Music Awards, Beyonce, known for incorporating her feminist views into her hit song “Flawless,” performed the song as lines from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous feminist TED Talk were displayed in the back along with the word “Feminist.”
Many actors used this year’s Golden Globe Awards to express their feelings on the Charlie Hebdo attack. Michael Moore used the stage to verbally attack George W. Bush after winning the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2003. John Legend and rapper Common also used this year’s Oscars to talk about racism in America.
The presence of political activism in awards shows has raised the question of whether or not awards shows such as the Oscars are the place to make strong statements.
Some argue that the answer is no. Awards shows are meant to celebrate celebrities for doing their jobs well, and besides, celebrities have it “made.” They don’t really care about the issues that they preach about, and who are they to preach in the first place, right? Not necessarily.
Being a celebrity does not equate to being an opinion-less statistic, and personally, I think that awards shows are the perfect place for celebrities to voice their political opinions. Often we stereotype celebrities as over-privileged brats with no cares in the world, but the reality is that they are also people, just like you and me. Perhaps the issues they talk about do not directly affect them – but does every issue the average person talks about directly affect them? Most likely, the answer is no.
While gossip magazines encourage us to look down on celebrities, it is important to remember that they too have hearts and minds, and that they can also take part in supporting the various causes the rest of us feel strongly about. An awards show, where they are guaranteed a short amount of time to speak, is the perfect place for celebrities to make political statements, because for once, we can hear their feelings directly from them, and not from a tabloid that is trying to diminish them and their thoughts.