Sunday night marked the first Oscars ceremony since a series of exposes on Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates regarding accusations of sexual misconduct against major Hollywood figures — famous names from both behind the camera and in front of it, from boardrooms to editing rooms.
Chastened, Hollywood took the opportunity to stop acting as if it were America’s moral arbiter. They stepped back, acknowledged their sins, and noted that they would rebuild that eroded trust by listening to people of all — oh, wait, no. They did nothing of the sort.
Instead, they turned up the dial to 11 on the general liberalism and Trump-bashing in particular, and let all the little people who had the brazenness to disagree with them know just how much contempt they held them in.
There were plenty of moments that illustrated just how deep the scorn in Hollywood for anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders was, but if you were to pick an exact moment, you could do worse than the quietly turgid lecture given to the viewing audience by actress Lupita Nyong’o and actor Kumail Nanjiani on the issue of illegal immigration and DACA.
Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for her role in “12 Years a Slave” and also starred in “Black Panther,” and Nanjiani, who co-wrote and starred in “The Big Sick,” are both immigrants — legal immigrants. However, the two used their time on stage for some hammer-blunt preaching about DACA.
“Good evening, we are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing,” Nyong’o began, according to The Daily Caller.
“Actually, I have to come clean,” Nanjiani told the audience. “Kumail Nanjiani is my stage name. My actual given Pakistani name is Chris Pine. So you can imagine how annoyed I was when the other — the white — Chris Pine showed up. The ‘real’ Chris Pine.”
Hee-larious. Keep in mind, Nanjiani was one of the co-writers of one of the better comedies of 2017, the aforementioned “The Big Sick.” This raises three possibilities: a) he had no part in writing this segment, b) he tossed this one off while in a somewhat altered state, or c) he scribbled all of his contributions to the script of “The Big Sick” in crayon and his co-writer entered them into Final Draft while simultaneously writing actual jokes into it.
But I digress. Nyong’o went on to say that she immigrated from Kenya while Nanjiani immigrated from Pakistan.
“And like everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers,” Nyong’o said. “We grew up dreaming of one day working in the movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood and dreams are the foundation of America.”
“So to all of the dreamers out there — we stand with you,” Nanjiani said, to applause from the audience.
First of all, it’s worth noting again that these were legal immigrants to the United States. Nanjiani came to the United States to study at Grinnell College in Iowa and Nyong’o came to study at Hampshire College in Massachusetts — both of which have yearly tuition well over $45,000 before you consider room and board. So, for the both of themselves to claim the mantle of “dreamers” is patently farcical. These are the most privileged of the most privileged. Dare I say what they did on Sunday night was … appropriation?
Furthermore, exactly what analysis of a complicated issue did this digression show? The issue here isn’t immigration, it’s illegal immigration — or rather, whether the president has the authority to essentially craft an amnesty proposal out of whole cloth without consulting Congress because he knew that the measure would never pass either house.
Instead, their proposal took on these three premises: a) We’re actors that some of you likely have affection or respect for, b) We’re going to call ourselves dreamers (even though we’re not) and express our support for other dreamers, and c) If you have respect or affection for us, you’ll support dreamers, too.
This is ostensibly emotional blackmail. There was no actual discussion of the issues at play here. This was a naked appeal to emotion and to authority — although the authority, in this case, was nothing more than stardom.
There was plenty of politics on Oscar night — what would the Academy Awards be without politicizing, anyhow? — but this was one of the more retch-inducing moments. Surely both of the principals behind it realized how utterly preposterous the whole thing was.
Thankfully, these sorts of ridiculous soapbox moments don’t really change anything except for the trajectory of the home audience’s eyes, in which they impart a marked tendency to do a roll. In the post-Weinstein era, where the entertainment industry’s hypocrisy has been fully exposed before the eyes of America, that’s doubly true. For Hollywood, however, the siren call of this kind of moralizing is simply too strong for them to resist — even as America tunes them out.
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