And The Oscar Goes To…Social Justice

BY KACIE GROSSMEIER

In case you missed it, the 87th Academy Awards was by no means mindless entertainment. Speech after speech jarred the viewers into recognizing multiple social justice issues plaguing our country today. From wage equality to immigration, Oscar award winners had more than just thank you’s to say.

Of course, the Oscars and its nominations were the whitest in years. There were no nominations for people of color in the categories of best director, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor or best supporting actress. Yet the calls for social change were stronger than ever before.

Award winners could have stood at the mic and listed off names of people nobody knows, yet many instead chose to dedicate their time to speaking out against issues that Americans deal with on a daily basis.

There was a general call for solidarity and compassion in many of these speeches that were wrapped up in little packages and launched at the millions of viewers. It appears that even though these Hollywood buffs may live in Tinseltown, they actually know and care about the injustices plaguing our country and world today.

We often forget that these glamorous celebrities living in the Hollywood bubble are still American citizens, just like us. Even though the media may not show it, these celebrities can and do believe in something greater than themselves and are made up of more than scripts and Oscar de la Renta dresses. Even if they aren’t going to rallies, marching in the streets or protesting en masse, they have the ability to make waves in ways many of us cannot—by means of a microphone and 36.6 million viewers on social media.

These types of shows just beg livestreaming on social media via live tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photo hashtags, just to name a few. Whatever happens on shows like the Academy Awards will be happening online. When the Oscars throw in a commentary about wage equality, racial justice, suicide, self-acceptance, whistle blowers or immigration, those are the topics that the online population starts commenting on, too.

Once we start talking, a fire can ignite and that fire can lead to social change. These speeches were not made in place of active social change. They were made to ignite the fire. They were made to remind people that we should care about more than who it is holding the award.

What the Oscars proved is that these celebrities don’t have to do much to start conversation. Just look at Reese Witherspoon. All she had to do was post on Instagram before the show and the #AskHerMore trend exploded on Twitter.

Now, we can get upset that it takes a celebrity to say something in order to get us thinking about issues that we really should be concerned with every day. Or we can accept the fact that this is modern day America and that the Oscar winners used an effective tactic. If we approach their statements from the latter angle, we can use their calls for social justice as a launching pad to reignite a fire and make change happen.

Besides, if we really believe in equality, like all of these social justice movements do, then we cannot pick and choose who gets to speak up about what issue.

If there’s one thing we can all agree upon about the Oscars, it is this: all it takes is one person to speak up to get people talking. Famous millionaire or not, even I can tip my hat to that.

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