If you’re like me, you stayed up late Sunday night watching the 88th Academy Awards. As someone who has been obsessed with the Oscars since childhood, it’s a hotly anticipated and very exciting night for me.
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony was noticeably different than years before, though, and if you spend any time on social media, I’m sure you already know why. At the 88th Academy Awards, there was not a single black actor nominated in any of the Best Performance categories. This isn’t the first year that diversity has been an issue, but this year, it was at the forefront of nearly every discussion leading up to the show—even spawning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Celebrities used the show as an opportunity to address a variety of issues—from diversity in film to sexual assault to climate change. But how did that change the way that we watched the Oscars, and how can we do more as viewers?
The host of the evening, the superbly biting Chris Rock, took every opportunity to address the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. He didn’t mince words, either—even asserting that Hollywood is racist—in a nuanced and subtle way—but racist nonetheless. His performance was mostly well-received, although there has been some backlash about Asian jokes delivered by Rock and others that highlight the need for inclusion to go beyond black and white.
You’ve also no doubt already heard/watched/read about Joe Biden and Lady Gaga’s haunting tribute to survivors of sexual assault and their plea to young men and women to intervene in situations where someone has not or cannot give consent. At the end of the performance, there were tears at my Oscar viewing party; I was heartened to see politicians and super-celebrities committed to bringing such an important issue to the forefront of the show.
In the second to last award of the night, the anticipated Best Actor award, Leonard0 DiCaprio won a statue after over 30 years of incredible work in the industry. He dedicated his speech to the necessity and urgency of protecting our planet, and bringing awareness to the effects of global warming. But was anybody really listening?
While it’s important to feel angry on behalf of the survivors of sexual assault on stage—and hopeful that we can create a more supportive and safe world for women and men on college campuses—feeling just isn’t enough. I’m glad we all cheered when Chris Rock called out the lack of opportunity for black actors —but then we cut to commercial break and the cheering faded out. And while I stood up when Leo accepted his first gold man, I heard his call to address climate change…and then continued eating my popcorn. I’d love to say that I went home and immediately did some research on these causes—but I didn’t—did you?
At the Ad Council, one of our most important missions is to make social activation attainable for the greater public. Instead of spending the post-awards week sifting through Elton John’s after-party photos and E!’s best and worst dressed lists—what if you picked an issue that resonated…and did something about it?
1. If you felt outrage at the lack of movies made this year with parts for black actors…
Visit UNCF.org and consider donating to arts programs for young black artists, so we can work to ensure equal opportunity in the Entertainment industry. A mind—and talent—are terrible things to waste.
2. If the survivors on the Oscars stage with Lady Gaga brought you to a place of anger and resolve…
Visit ItsOnUS.org. All of us at the Ad Council are proud to be a partner of this important campaign. Take the pledge to be more than a bystander, and explore how you can become an advocate for survivors everywhere.
3. If you heard Leo’s message loud and clear and want to take action to prevent climate change…
We can turn our collective guilty pleasure of Award Show binging into actionable good for our society. We can use it as another excuse to re-examine some of the issues that impact all of us. Marchesa gowns and over-paid director jokes aside, let’s create some change on and off the Red Carpet this year.