Politics Disrupt Oscar 2017 Awards Show

Jacob Legallais, Layout Artist

Along with this year’s celebration of Hollywood’s most talented actors and actresses came the disappointing, yet expected, political sound off that has become commonplace throughout mass media events. Academy Award presenters as well as boycotters such as Gael Garcia Bernal and Asghar Farhadi, respectively, found it necessary to share their personal political beliefs with millions of worldwide viewers. These opportunists face little opposition. Political ideology throughout the American film industry is painfully one-sided. Although I defend every person’s right to their freedom of expression and the necessity of free speech, the Oscars awards ceremony is the last place biased politics should be on display.

The Academy Awards show is meant to be a time where actors, actresses, filmmakers, producers, writers, and fans can come together to celebrate the creation of art they have contributed to. It is not intended to be a gathering of comfortable millionaires publicly railing the President and his every administrative decision. Alas, this is what the show on Sunday night devolved into, much to the dismay of folks worldwide eager to simply enjoy a convergence of cinematic brilliance. Not all award winners took on the role of a political preacher. Mahershala Ali deemed it more important to talk about his wife and newborn child rather than his opinions, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, political thought overshadowed the humble award recipients.

While presenting the award for Best Animated Feature, Gael Garcia Bernal remarked, “Flesh-and-blood actors are migrant workers. We travel all over the world. We construct families, we build life, but we cannot be divided. As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.” Bernal is certainly entitled to this viewpoint. That being said, there is no reason for him to declare his political sentiments to the audience and viewers of the Oscars– why should they care?

Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesmen, considered it necessary to boycott the Oscars to display his discontent with President Trump’s travel ban. Despite his nonattendance, Farhadi wanted his voice heard by all: “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and from the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law which bans immigrants’ entry into the U.S. Dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.” This bold declaration has no place at the Oscars, intended to be an apolitical event. Strangely, backed by some money and with the cameras rolling, celebrities seem to think the world values their beliefs more than anybody else’s.

As significant as American politics have been recently, there is no need for the topic to encroach on more aspects of our lives than necessary. I predict the chances are slim, but perhaps at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony, viewers will be free from unwarranted and excessive political rhetoric.