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Politics Take Center-Stage at the Oscars

Ah, the inevitable Oscars post-mortem, where anyone and everyone provides their take on Hollywood’s biggest evening—the winners, losers, snubs and stumbles. I’ll spare you yet another Academy Awards rundown, because the evening was rather tame—bordering on stale, to be honest. John Legend and Common caused a collective jaw-drop in the Dolby Theatre with their performance of “Glory” from Selma, John Travolta made Vegas happy by being weird again, and Birdman rightfully took home the award for best picture.

The biggest takeaway from the 2015 Oscars was the handful of stars using their winners’ platform as a vehicle for activism, and it is causing quite a stir throughout the political spectrum. Documentarian Laura Poitras reignited the traitor-or-whistleblower debate when thanking Edward Snowden while accepting the Best Documentary Oscar for CITIZENFOUR, and Patricia Arquette championed wage-equality during her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech for Boyhood.

Oh boy.

The public always has strong reactions—and in turn—strong opinions when Hollywood goes Washington, and Monday morning was no different. Arquette is being lauded for the statement she made for women’s rights, but she is also being raked over the coals by certain corners of punditry. Whether for or against Patricia Arquette’s comments, the commonly held belief is that events like the Academy Awards should remain politics-free, and actors should “stick to what they do best: acting”.

This line of thinking is frustratingly wrong. Like their opinions on political issues or not, a stage like the Oscars provides an incredibly visible platform for—in the very least—sparking a public conversation about those issues, and a career in Hollywood does not automatically invalidate an actor’s knowledge or opinion. The “stick to acting” mindset is commonly held by those in opposition to what they are hearing; there would probably be cheers from those same people given the opposite belief.

Point being: it’s all relative, and whether you feel the Oscars should be insulated from all-things-politics, it does not mean it is an ineffective forum for broadcasting political belief.

Art is born of chaos, pain, resistance—and politics. When political landscapes are the inspiration for art, there is no dividing line where one stops and one starts. The 87th Academy Awards celebrated achievement in motion pictures, but also illuminated the societal struggles that influenced them.

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