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Hollywood in need of a reality check

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The Oscars: Hollywood’s biggest, most glamorous night. A night where the brightest stars in film shine, questionable fashion choices are made (sorry Saoirse Ronan), and of course, someone has to get political.

Political speeches at awards shows are nothing new. Granted, they seem to happen more frequently in this politically divisive era, but they are no strange sight on the award ceremony stage.

This year, a handful of people did not hesitate to use the Oscars as a political platform. Brad Pitt, who won the Oscar for best supporting actor, made a quick but sharp jab at the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Trump: “They told me I have 45 seconds this year, which is 45 more seconds than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.”

Joaquin Phoenix, who won best actor for his lead role in Joker, also made a political speech. Rather than directly criticizing any specific person, he talked about commonalities in the fight against inequality: “We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control, and use and exploit another with impunity.”

Phoenix also made political statements during his rambling, expletive-filled Golden Globes speech. He began by thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press for “recognizing and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change”, applauding them for making the evening’s meal entirely plant-based. He also urged his colleagues to show decisive action to stop the Australian wildfires and to take more responsibility for their actions, such as not flying in private jets to Palm Springs for the awards show.

The boldest political move of the Golden Globes came from host Ricky Gervais. He made it clear at the beginning of his monologue that he would hold nothing back during his last time hosting the event. A few bold sparks included calling the Hollywood Foreign Press Association racist for the lack of people of color nominated and calling Jeffrey Epstein a friend of Hollywood. He criticized Apple TV+ on how their hit The Morning Show revolves around doing the right thing, yet their company runs sweatshops in other countries. The fiery final minute of the monologue completely throws Hollywood under the bus: “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God and fuck off, okay?” Regardless of one’s opinion on politics or Hollywood, it was incredibly bold of Gervais to attack Hollywood on their home turf. While his criticism may seem outrageous and over the top, he sheds light on something worth examining: hypocrisy in Hollywood.

Several Hollywood elites have come under scrutiny for not practicing what they preach, such as Leonardo DiCaprio. A visit to his Instagram will show you his passion for protecting the environment. He posts almost daily about various climate crises like the recent Australian fires, endangered wildlife, rising temperatures, and the need for cleaner energy. When he accepted his 2016 Oscar for The Revenant, he wasted no time in calling for action: “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our species, and we need to collectively work together and stop procrastinating.”

Yet his actions do not always match his words. Later in 2016, DiCaprio was seen taking a helicopter to his private jet to travel home from hosting his climate and biodiversity fundraising gala in Saint-Tropez. DiCaprio was also among travelers who took a combined total of 114 private jets to Google Camp’s three-day meeting to discuss topics such as climate change. The meeting took place last July at the Verdura Resort in Italy and cost Google roughly $20 million. DiCaprio also reportedly used six private jets in six weeks in 2014 to travel between New York and Los Angeles.

Two-time Academy Award-winner Jane Fonda is another outspoken environmental activist. Fonda has been arrested multiple times in recent years for climate protests. Perhaps climate protests aren’t too stressful when you have 5,730 square feet of living space, three bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, and servants quarters to relax in afterward. Maybe she waved to some of the 50,000+ homeless people in Los Angeles on her way home.

This year, only one person of color was nominated for one of the 20 acting awards at the Oscars. African-American Cynthia Erivo received the Best Actress nomination for her role as Harriet Tubman in Harriet but lost to Renée Zellweger. For the award for best director, all five nominees were male. Coming from a corner of the world that preaches the importance of diversity, these nominations are not diverse at all.

In 2018, actor James Franco wore a “Time’s Up” pin to the Golden Globe awards, showing solidarity with the women of the #MeToo movement. However, Franco has been accused of sexual assault by five women, even before the pin incident.

These few incidents come from a long list of hypocrisy found among Hollywood. Many actors and actresses are openly liberal and support equality, denounce racism, and preach about climate change. Yet they mostly live in energy-consuming mansions, pollute the air with their private jets, and praise an academy that lacks diversity and representation in its nominees.

This begs the question: When an actor uses an award acceptance speech as a political platform, how seriously should we take them? Draw your own conclusions, but I say that Hollywood has to get in touch with reality.