Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let 'em talk! What're ya afraid of? - Belated Oscar Night Reflections

I had a great time on Sunday night with a bunch of friends over at Bad Mom's house. We ate incredible hors d'oeuvres and desserts, drank champagne, and watched the Academy Awards.

I loved the glamour, the clever opening number, the comraderie of chums watching artists getting well deserved recognition for their work and the enjoyment of listening to the heartfelt acceptance speeches. Good times!
Except for the loss of Robert Downey Jr. for Best Supporting Actor. He wuz robbed.

An acquaintance bemoaned the goings on at the Oscars in her blog yesterday, writing "Keep The Art - Drop the Politics." She called out Sean Penn for his acceptance speech when he received Best Actor for Milk. She admonished the actor and others who "use the Academy Award ceremony to push their political agenda," listing what they should and should not talk about whilst at the podium. It was almost like an etiquette lesson. She wrote "Do not talk about politics which divide."

I've been rolling that one around in my mind ever since I read it. It's basically the same thing my own darling mother used to say when she complained about someone "spoiling the Oscars with all that political talk."

Here's Sean, talking about those pesky politics:

Life is political. Art is political. This film is VERY political.

And it is timely. Prop. 8 sucks. See here for my thoughts on that.

Democracy is messy. Things would be so much easier if they would just make me Queen. I would make darned sure that people's civil rights were respected. I think most of the audience at the Academy Awards would appreciate that, based on their resounding cheers in response to Penn's speech. But I don't think my acquaintance would be very happy. I don't think she's keen at all to have gay marriage. I've read over her blog pretty carefully and noted that she avoids discussing politics as if she fears any confrontation. But she lets slip more than a bit of her conservative religious views now and again. I'm not saying that if Sean Penn had spoken in favor of Proposition 8, she'd have cheered. But there might have been a tiny nod of her head in agreement before she chided him for not thanking his wife.

In contrast, I'm pretty open about my political views. I am not afraid to have a discussion about controversial issues. Of course, I am always very sure that I am totally right and anyone who disagrees with me is a victim of unclear thinking. Hee hee hee!

I'm reminded of two quotes:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
widely attributed to Edmund Burke, but brilliantly disputed here
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
naturalist Henry David Thoreau, whose quote about slavery is well discussed here

I don't know whether Thoreau would say that Sean Penn was hacking at the branches or striking the root in his acceptance speech.

But this I know: He is a good man who is speaking out against evil.
So I'm glad he spoke up. And I trust that he will continue to do so.

Oh, and that not thanking his wife thing? She is totally okay with it. They talked about what he would say in his speech if he won, and she knows he thanks her. And he loves her. She doesn't need him to say it in front of everyone.

But other people who love each other appreciate him speaking up on their behalf.


Jen said...

I thought his words were perfect! I mean, obviously the man is passionate about this. I secretly wonder if that was the clincher for him winning (that Hollywood was disappointed in the passage of Prop 8).

Sean Penn is truly one of the most dedicated activists. I still remember after Hurricane Katrina, how he was paddling around in a boat trying to help people.
He's come a far way from the being married to Madonna days. :D

Bee said...

I'm so glad that you posted these many links! I didn't get to see Penn's speech, and the BBC has only excerpted his crack about "I know how hard I make it to appreciate me."

Prop.8 was a travesty and I'm so glad that Penn spoke out against it. The current political situation makes the "historical" MILK so relevant. I do understand why people refrain from expressing their political views, whether in blog or acceptance speech form, but there are times when it is important to state one's opinion.

Such a great post, FF.

I do, however, think that he DID have time to thank his wife.

bushtool said...

We need more Sean Penns in this world, not less.

This is certainly much better than Palance's pushups (although I have nothing against Jack). Can you imagine a world where no one speaks out against the injustices around us?

Freedom of speech means sometimes hearing things you do not want to hear.

Great post btw fantasticforrest.

Shana said...

I missed the Oscars AND I missed the party! Double loser. Of course, New Orleans was pretty cool, hee hee.

I set my tivo to tivo the Oscars, but since the demise of our satellite TV, I had not done some kind of reconfiguring of our new channel set up and YADA YADA YADA it didn't Tivo and so now I am having to watch acceptance speeches on You Tube.

Technology is my best friend/most evil foe.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Jen - Obviously, you and I are in complete agreement. He is a principled person who's in a position to make a difference. And what better venue than the much-watched Academy Awards? I'd argue that his film role required that he speak up. I mean, I get it if someone has some cause that is totally unrelated to their movie (although I still like that free speech thing), but Penn was spot on. :-)

Fantastic Forrest said...

Bee - Glad you enjoyed this and the links. Make sure you check out the final link in the post - an interview with Sean and Robin.

In some ways, I think it was a very calculated move to get people talking about what he said - Oh, he didn't thank his wife! Gasp! - then the two of them get to say that what he did say was more important and his time on stage was limited, and she doesn't need public recognition for their private relationship. An ironic twist, I think.

Fantastic Forrest said...

bushtool - thanks!

Shana - I expect you at next year's party, missy. Almost as much fun as Mardi Gras parades, without the random shootings.

Becky said...

Great post. And I thought it was a great moment, the "commies and homos" one. Even more so because he was kinda self-deprecating, the line about "how hard I make it to appreciate me." Like he was saying, I'm not going anywhere, and I'm going to keep saying what I think.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I am most at ease with people speaking their minds in the acceptance speech when it matches the reason for their award - a la Sean Penn, and Michael Moore when he won for "Bowling for Columbine."

While of course I am for free speech, it is important to still recognize appropriateness when planning to speak (can you tell I'm in the midst of my Speech class? heh).

So bravo for this one. [And I thought the omission of Robin had something to do with their separation...But none of my business, really]

Fantastic Forrest said...

Becky- YES. Self deprecation and self awareness win my heart every time. I'm so glad I discovered your blog - love it! - and that you came to visit here. :)

Stephanie - Yes, it is more natural when it flows from the work that's recognized. I guess that's why I really took exception to this "leave out the politics" blogger. In voting for Penn in that role, it was like Academy members were saying "here is your license to speak on the issue." I mean, they know he's not a shy person...

Adrian LaRoque said...

I love the Oscar Night, specially when they cry...
Thank you for the comments and visits to my blog, also thank you for the nice words.