The 2019 Academy Awards show, due to take place on February 25th, is just over two months away. Still a while away in the grand scheme things, but for those of us who care, not that far away at all. Now’s the time to watch all the movies likely to be nominated for the year (and in the case of a masterpiece like A Star is Born, to watch it more than once). Now’s the time to choose the film you’re rooting for. And equally important, the film you’re rooting against.
I’m an Oscars fangirl.
I also happen to be queer.
While the Academy hasn’t always been great to the queer community, certain factions of the queer community have long been loyal to the Academy Awards. And while I happen to consider Oscar night one of the most fun of the year, let me still get all the disclaimers out of the way. The Oscars are, indeed, a fluffy, self-congratulatory pat on the back, long dominated by white people (and in particular, white men). They’re an essentially meaningless party, that spends too long on the boring bits, and has historically made some very bad calls.
In addition to this, at least 52 straight people have nabbed Oscar noms for ‘playing gay’, while very few queer actors have ever taken home the gong.
And yet, despite all that preamble, it’s fairly well acknowledged that (some of) us gays bloody love the Oscars. Going off the last few ceremonies, it seemed the love was beginning to be reciprocated.
Moonlight made history in 2017 by becoming the first-ever queer-themed film to take home Best Picture. (An honour should have gone to Brokeback Mountain in 2006 but didn’t after some Academy members refused to even see it.)
This year, the ceremony was graced with its first openly trans presenter in Daniela Vega. Her film went on to win Best Foreign Film that same evening.
Even the award for Best Adapted Screenplay has now been won by gay men for two years in a row. (Tarell Alvin McCraney, in 2017 for Moonlight and James Ivory, in 2018 for Call Me by Your Name.)
All of this is fantastic. It’s also vital.
Here in NZ the community’s been dealing with a nasty and exhausting debate around the Pride Parade, in which the straight mainstream has, in my view, basically suggested that we shut the hell up. And even more recently, two gay men were called ‘fags’ and told to ‘get back in the gas chamber’ at a Herne Bay café.
That last story reminded me of the time, about a year ago, when a man in a Waiheke Island café yelled at my girlfriend and I for holding hands over the table. I remember my stomach dropping. I remember looking away in confused embarrassment. I remember feeling oddly discombobulated and ashamed of who I am.
People are allowed to be offended by violently homophobic ‘jokes’. The reason I don’t find rape jokes funny is because rape culture is real and endemic, and making jokes about rape victims only galvanises rapists. I feel the same way about ‘fag jokes’. I especially feel that way about jokes that make light of beating one’s son if he turned out to be gay. If we lived in a world where no child was ever beaten, disowned or killed for their sexuality, that joke might – maybe – be funny (though I doubt it). But we don’t live in that world. And we’re a long way from it.
There’s no evidence that any learning (or unlearning) has taken place in this situation. This comedian has simply said he wouldn’t make those jokes anymore because people are too ‘sensitive’ these days.
The Academy Awards, while yes, fluffy and silly, mean a hell of a lot to a very loyal contingent of queer people. They have an obligation to do right by us.
There are also going to be a lot of super-gay celebrations when Gaga wins her first Oscar next year. This is not the time to get in the way of a great party!Support Villainesse