by Gabrielle Bianco ’21
In recent years, the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, has taken a turn toward the political, with movements such as #OscarsSoWhite causing the event to be not only a source of entertainment, but a rallying cry for social justice and change. This year at the 90th Academy Awards held on March 4, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements took center stage, taking a stand against sexual abuse and harassment in the work place.
Though the political atmosphere was nothing new, there seemed to have been a tonal shift from past events. This most likely comes as result of the fact that these movements cut right to the heart of Hollywood.
While the Academy Awards are meant to be a celebration of the best work in film throughout the year, there was no way of avoiding the elephant in the room. Several careers were destroyed as allegations of sexual assault and harassment came to light in reference to stars such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Dustin Hoffman. The reiteration of these movements’ ideas at this year’s Academy Awards was important to keep the movements alive and continue the call for change.
The effects of these movements were felt in the months leading up to the awards show. Prior to the start of the awards season, Harvey Weinstein was expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Weinstein is only the second person to ever be expelled, following actor Carmine Caridi, who was banned for sharing movie screeners. The name Harvey Weinstein had become almost synonymous with success in film. His name has been mentioned more than anyone else’s in past years’ acceptance speeches, and this year his name was noticeably absent.
The Academy’s decision to take such strict action against the media mogul shows that sexual abuse will no longer be swept under the rug or tolerated in Hollywood. While there was no mention of Weinstein in acceptance speeches this year, winners such as Frances McDormand chose to speak about the importance of women and equality in Hollywood.
The red carpet this year was also marked by controversy. Television host and producer Ryan Seacrest was accused by a former stylist of subjecting her to years of sexual harassment. While Seacrest emphatically denies the claim and an investigation performed by E! News indicated that he was not at fault, there was significant fallout on the red carpet. Seacrest’s red-carpet coverage lost 34 percent of its viewers from the previous year. There was speculation leading up to the red carpet that many actresses would refuse to be interviewed by Seacrest. While many actresses did stop to speak with him, it was noted that the attention paid to Seacrest was less than in years prior.
The ceremony itself was altered in response to the #MeToo movement. Traditionally, the awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Leading Role are presented by the year’s previous winner in the opposite category. Based on this precedent, Casey Affleck was due to present the Award for Best Actress. However, following backlash from his win last year as a result of his past sexual misconduct allegations and in light of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, Affleck pulled out of presenting. He cited not wanting to take attention away from the lauded female performances as his reasoning.
The Academy Awards this year proved to be the culmination of a season stoked in controversy. Actions taken against sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood sparked movements across the country and in many fields of work. “Time’s up” on these issues being suppressed or ignored.
After seeing the difference that even just one year can make, it causes one to think about what the dynamics of next year’s Academy Awards will be like. As the movement continues it is in the hopes that its message will be shared truthfully and genuinely, and that people, such as those in Hollywood, will not allow it to lose momentum.