Earlier this year, Ricky Gervais used his Golden Globes opening monologue to take a swipe at what he saw as hypocrite celebrities. His speech put all the attention on him as the carefree jester, stealing the headlines from the nominees and rubbing their face in the mud at the same time. Taking the piss in a way that he is one of the world leaders.
His plea for the winners to “thank their God” and “Fuck off” pointed a lazer at the influencers who use this pedestal to increase their social capital. The silver spoon, white saviour, patronising elite kinda argument. Could the people sat before him really understand the worries of average Joes, or are they just as good at acting as their nominations suggest?
Whilst, at some level, Gervais’ criticism makes sense; the kind of “you know what, he’s got a point” chuckle you would hear from your Grandad at the pub. However we must ask, when celebrities hold so much authority does it really make sense to ridicule them for wanting to use it positively. Selling diet shakes is one thing but when they are really working for a cause, why should we stifle it?
There’s already been some goodens
The Oscars and elaborate acceptance speeches come hand in hand. Everything from thanking your mum to asking every female member of the audience to stand up, people normally have something planned. The only constant is you will probably be told to “wrap it up” by the evil people in charge of shortening your ultimate limelight.
Two that come to mind are the speeches of Halle Berry and Lupita Nyong’o, in 2002 and 2014 respectively. Two speeches that had a very similar rhetoric; making clear to any young girl of colour that they could do whatever they like and they shouldn’t give up on their dreams because of who they are.
The first came from the first African-American to win an academy award for Best Actress. 18 years have passed since that landmark win. Children have been born, grown, made mistakes and are now moving into the pessimism of adulthood in that time. But questions still remain on inclusion within The Oscars.
There is a very easy argument to suggest Lupita Nyong’o may not have had the confidence to stand up, if Halle Berry hadn’t came before her, but whatever the case may be the fact that Nyong’o still uses that platform for that cause it shows we still have a long way to go.
Now there will be a small sample of analytical weirdos who will suggest because Berry’s speech was 18 years ago and there is still problems then it mustn’t have had much effect. There will be a different section of xenophobic freaks who will suggest, due the changes that have been made, people of colour should stop complaining and be happy with how society has changed.
What needs to be made clear in this instance is that just because more people are talking about these issues it doesn’t necessarily mean people are becoming more sensitive, the ultimate sin of a certain generation. It just means many have the confidence to finally speak out against the prejudice they’ve endured. This is the inspiration award speeches can add to. It doesn’t make it into a personal attack on you or your way of life, stop being so sensitive. Unless you are racist of course, then it is.
“I wish they’d stick to music”
The irony behind this statement is great. What is music? What is art? Is it just for enjoyment? Is there any point? Is this too deep? What’s the point?
Music and politics can’t be detached because music is an integral part of how politics shapes our lives. How we spread a message. Yeah love songs are good but we can all think of some beautifully powerful songs that are only there to bring attention to a particular topic. Feed the world, Imagine, Where is the love? They’re everywhere.
The idea of an artist not having something to say is the real thing that we should worry about. And this is even more integral within film. A money making obsession within our society is slowly trying to rip all human quality away from the art we love. Like draining the colour from a priceless Van Goth painting. We can’t let that happen.
Whether it be the origins of rock n roll or the constant battle of validation within hip-hop, the politics of music can be a lot easier to see. This being said, portraying someone else’s story is surely the perfect way to have an opinion. Without opinion how can you carry a message and without a message what does the film even do. These actors have a voice that can get a lot further than little Ricky gives them credit for.
Sometimes it is all doom and gloom
I think the point I’m trying to get at here is that sometimes what you see in the media can add smoke to the screen that is everything is fine. We see these happy people, with their bleach white smiles, putting up their golden Instagrams and everything is just la-de-da. If they want to smash their moment and rant about something they think is more important, then let them.
Joaquin Phoenix gained a lot of criticism from both sides of the woke-sphere with his effort to ‘fight climate change’ and wear the same suit to every ceremony. Even though this seemed a bit ridiculous it did restart the conversation about fast fashion in some circles, so isn’t that some kind of silver lining? What he went on to do in his next winning speech, a forthright and confident plea for equality, hit new bounds.
On the other side, I really enjoyed Gervais’ speech. It was entertaining and done exactly what he and The Golden Globes wanted it to do. That is Gervais’ calling card though, not everyone is painted with the same brush. He was playing up to the anti-woke movement to belittle those that came afterwards.
What he may or may not realise though is that even if the people of Twitter loved his faux-honest speech all it will do is bring more attention to those that follow. The irony is that in the same way Gervais’ speech gained traction online so will the things that the rest of the big stars say, except they’ll be preaching for hope rather than his brand of snobbery.
Those who choose to take the attention from the corporate machine are the real artists. So lets carry on giving them their 2 minutes to be honest, crank up their microphone and see if they can do a little bit more good for the world.
Featured image cartoon is by Tim Peacock