A More Progressive Oscars

Progressive issues were front and center at last night's Academy Awards.

Progressive Issues Were Front And Center At Last Night’s Academy Awards

The 87th Academy Awards were last night, and while Birdman led the pack with four wins including Best Director and Best Picture, it was what happened after the Oscars were handed out that resonated the most. In a number of cases, artists used their acceptance speeches as a platform to promote progressive issues and call attention to the work that needs to be done for a strong, just, and free America. While the Academy itself has received significant criticism this year, we thought these award winners’ messages deserved special emphasis.

Immigration: Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won an Oscar for Best Director for Birdman, hoped that the “latest generation of immigrations … can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.” That’s exactly what the President is trying to do with his executive orders on immigration, keeping families together and treating them with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, many Republicans, including those in Congress and governors and attorneys general, are seemingly dedicated to tearing families apart through increased deportations that would cost over $50 billion. They are even willing to threaten a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (a move that would force 200,000 people responsible for our national security to work without pay) in order to get their way.


Justice Reform: The singer John Legend, who won an Oscar with the rapper Common for the song “Glory,” produced for Selma, followed an emotional performance with a particularly impassioned speech. “Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago. But we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. … We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then there were under slavery in 1850.” Legend is right: today’s criminal justice system is broken. That’s why CAP has joined with a bipartisan group of organizations to create the Coalition for Public Safety to fight for a more just, more fair, and more effective criminal justice system.

Equal Pay: Actress Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her part in Boyhood, said, “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality in the U.S.” Indeed, the gender wage gap remains wide in this country, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gap is even wider for women of color. And the issue effects women at all levels: Charlize Theron negotiated a $10 million dollar raise after the Sony hack of The Interview revealed her male co-star was being paid millions more than she was.

Voting Rights: Legend also gave an impassioned speech for voting rights, saying that “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now, in this country, today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real.” Even before the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, voting rights were under threat; ever since, the threat has become that much more concrete. Last week, playing off of the Oscars, we at CAP Action released our own “Academy Awards of Voter Suppression” that details how conservatives have waged a vicious war against voting rights.

BOTTOM LINE: While the Academy has faced some scrutiny addressing progressive priorities, these strong progressive statements (and others not included here) from so many entertainers last night show how important issues like immigration, voting rights, criminal justice reform, and pay equity are.

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