Leo finally won an Oscar! Chris Rock was hosting! This past Sunday marked one of the most politically driven Oscars celebrations to date. This year, there were absolutely no black nominees in any category. With the recent twitter trend of #OscarsSoWhite, in addition to numerous boycotts amongst celebrities, notably from Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, audience members were waiting in high anticipation for Rock’s opening monologue. There was a lot to take in just during this opening speech, which was preceded by a montage made up predominantly of actors of color. The only singular term to describe Chris Rock’s monologue was that it was purely so odd.
The issue of black representation and diversity as a whole in Hollywood and at the Academy Awards has been highlighted annually in recent years. Chris Rock attempts to address a lot of these issues with decontextualized jokes and mostly unhelpful, generalized comments about racial representation in the movie industry. Taking on the burden of hosting one of the most politically charged Oscar ceremonies in recent history is difficult. However, many of his jokes appeared to fall flat, especially towards a mostly white audience. His joke about using Asian children as accountants seemed in bad taste, as did his joke where black people were “too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.” Having Stacey Dash pop in for a second and wave to the crowd to say “Happy Black History Month” also seemed to confuse the mostly white audience. The Stacey Dash joke had a little more wit to it, as Dash remains a conservative pundit on Fox and has deemed Black History Month unnecessary.
Alongside all the criticisms the Oscars has been receiving about racial representation, the presenters at the event were fairly diverse. Presenters included Kevin Hart, Priyanka Chopra, Sofia Vergara, and Byung-hun Lee. But obviously, having a few Oscar presenters of color do not address larger issues of racial representation in the industry. Overall, the Oscars were strange. It seemed like Chris Rock was making light of a serious issue or his jokes were not aimed at the correct audience. The 88th Academy Awards felt awkward and very staged. There was this surreal acknowledgement of the larger issues in the background yet, but nothing was actually addressed.