During the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, celebrities used their time in the spotlight to make social and political statements. From their speeches on stage to the stitching on their gowns, the stars in attendance highlighted a number of contemporary issues.
Steve Martin and Chris Rock opened the night by poking fun at the Iowa Caucus voting mishap. The duo then moved the banter forward by addressing one of the most pressing issues of the night: the lack of female nominees.
“I thought there was something missing from the list this year,” Martin said.
“Vaginas?” Rock asked and received loud applause from the audience.
Sophomore film production major Cassie Howell believed that female directors were short-changed in this year's nominations and found Martin and Rock’s comments offensive.
“I thought it was a little bit ironic of the Academy to continually dismiss female talent and then utilize it as a point to kind of get views on YouTube or make jokes and poke fun,” Howell said. “It really kinda defeats the point—it’s not a joke.”
On the red carpet, Natalie Portman paid a unique tribute to these snubbed directors, embroidering the names of female filmmakers on her Dior dress: Scafaria (“Hustlers”), Wang (“The Farewell”), Gerwig (“Little Women”), Diop (“Atlantics”), Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim”), Har'el (“Honey Boy”) and Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”).
Howell expressed her appreciation for women like Portman who made subtle statements and refused to “kiss up” to the Academy. “It is unfortunate that the Oscars chooses to not acknowledge female talent especially when it comes to directing,” Howell said. “There were a lot of deserving women, especially Lulu Wang.” Wang directed “The Farewell” and was overlooked for a Best Director nomination. The category was composed of an all-male cohort of directors with Bong Joon Ho taking home the award for “Parasite.”
“It’s not about just nominating women to nominate women. It’s about acknowledging women who are very talented who are deserving,” Howell said.
In the midst of an election season and following Trump’s impeachment, politics took center stage during the awards. Brad Pitt received the first award of the night for Best Supporting Actor and used his time on stage to address his disappointment with the Senate impeachment trial by noting the lack of witnesses during Trump’s trial in his speech.
"They told me I have 45 seconds this year, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week," Pitt said, referencing the former national security advisor’s claims that Trump ordered Bolton to help pressure Ukraine to investigate the Democrats.
Joaquin Phoenix utilized every second of his time on stage. The “Joker” star and recipient for Best Actor addressed issues of inequality, racism, the environment and animal rights.
"I've been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues we've been facing collectively. Sometimes we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes, but for me I see commonality," Phoenix said.
Freshman business administration major Pia Rodriguez expressed her gratitude to Phoenix for using his platform to address these issues and believed the Oscars are a great place to voice your beliefs.
“It’s a great place to speak your mind,'' Rodriguez said. “It creates historical moments and a lot of memorable moments that create an impact.”
Sophomore public relations major Yasmin Nowzad believes the selection of “Parasite” for Best Picture was well-deserved, and that the selection helped avoid further conflict.
“I think if any of the other qualifiers would have won it would have started more political turmoil—especially this time,” Nowzad said. “Celebrities should definitely use their platform, but I do see how it could become controversial.”
Sophomore business administration major Charlie Johnson took a stance on the opposite end of the spectrum, expressing his belief that political statements don’t deserve air time.
“There is just so much controversy over it,” Johnson said. “People think they’re voicing their opinions in a positive way, but in reality, it could be affecting others in a negative way. It’s just something that I think they should steer away from because it kinda takes away from what is actually going on and why they’re all present.”
But these celebrity messages may not have reached as many viewers as they may have hoped for. The awards shown reached all-time low viewerships, with 23.6 million viewers compared to the 29.56 million at the 2019 ceremony, according to The Hollywood Reporter.