2017 Oscars confront issues that matter to students

Miyoki Walker, Entertainment Editor

Lights, cameras, Oscars.

This Sunday, as political tensions run high, the 89th annual Academy Awards raises questions about equal representation, social justice and rape culture.

“Every year we get some Oscar-bait films, some historical biopics, and of course, a few exceptional films that everybody goes nuts for,” junior Craig Johnson says. “There’s some variety every year, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing.”

Although the awards are filled with glitz and glam, the importance of fair representation is at the forefront of Oscars talk this season.

“After last year, I don’t know if I even want to watch the Oscars. There were barely any black actors nominated, which was shameful,” Moviegoers Club sponsor Elizabeth Hartley says. “There is so much good art out there, and it is definitely not all white.”

“When women and people of color are awarded for their work it shows kids that you don’t have to be a white man to be successful,” Moviegoers Club president Marjie Erickson says.

However, race representation isn’t the only issue being debated. Acting opportunities for transgender people, as well as the extent of their nominations, are often very limited.

“The academy should get rid of gendered categories,” senior Laura Romano says. “It’s unnecessary and excludes actors that don’t identify with a gender.”

The categories are a small part of the problem. In past years, movies like Dallas Buyers Club and The Danish Girl casted cisgender men in transgender roles, ignoring the already limited acting opportunities for transgender people.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), of the 114 film releases from major studios in 2014, a mere 17.5 percent contained characters that identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

While this year’s nominations include a record number of people of color, the Academy has a long way to go before last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy is corrected.

Another topic of controversy this year involves the nominations of Casey Affleck, previously accused of sexual assault, and Mel Gibson, a man with a history of antisemitism and bigotry.

“Their nominations are normalizing crime,” says Erickson. “It tells kids that it’s okay to do whatever you want, even break the law and hurt people, as long as you’re rich and successful. These people should not be exalted by the Oscars.”

Although the star power of the Oscars is appealing, students can also gain insight into issues that impact the entire country by watching.

“The Oscars are a beautiful forum to see what’s going on in the world,” Hartley says. “The show has evolved into a political platform as evidenced by Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech.”