By Hrushikesh Mishra
This time the Oscars Awards strengthened the notion that art appears in its finest form only when it is independent and has the courage to show the mirror to the establishment instead of being manipulated by it. This has always been the strength of Hollywood. The common tendency of the globally acclaimed entertainment hub has been to stand in favor of humanity, challenging the policies of American establishment whenever required. Hollywood has always been criticized by the American conservatives for giving priority to progressive and liberal values.
This time, from the selection of films to the presentation of awards, an undertone of dissent against President Donald Trump’s policies was quite cognizable.
Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the program, took a dig at the US Vice President Mike Pence in his opening speech. The award for Best Film and Best Director were given to ‘The Shape of Water’ and its director Giermo del Toro respectively. Giermo del Toro, who hails from Mexican origin, was awarded the most prestigious award in the field of cinema at a time when the mightiest politician in the world is planning to debar his entire community from entering into America by building a “big, beautiful” border wall.
Toro began his speech saying, “I am an immigrant.” What could a better way to resist the anti-immigrant hatred spread in America nowadays? “The greatest thing art does is erase the lines in the sand when the world tells us to make them deeper,” he said in his speech.
His award-winning film also endorses humanist values. In the film, portrayed against the backdrop of the Cold War, a mute, isolated woman, Elisa falls in love with a sea creature, who is the only living member of his own race. The tribes settled along the Amazon River worship it, but the government agencies captured him and put him in a classified lab so that they could conduct experiments on him. Elisa brings him out of the lab and gives him shelter, enraging the hostile government agency. Finally, Elisa escapes into the sea with that creature and starts living there.
This fantasy is the story of our society. Both Elisa and the sea creatures can be dubbed as symbols of marginalized sections, who are consistently exploited across the world. Unfortunately, the civil society turns a deaf ear to their cries. The inclusive spirit that stands against this situation has become an inspiration for Oscar awards. For the first time in the history of Academy Awards, a transgender actress from Chilean origin, Daniela Vega presented the award. Actor Gary Oldman received Best Actor Award for the role of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour’ while Francis McDormand won the Best Actress Award for ‘Three Billboards Outside Abing, Missouri’. McDormand in her speech said, “I have two words to leave with you tonight. Ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” Notably, ‘Inclusion Rider’ is a clause demanded by some film professionals in their contracts, insisting on a certain level of diversity among the cast.
The voice of diversity incited the conservative establishment for obvious reasons. The foreman of the establishment, President Trump retaliated immediately with a tweet and pointed out that the Hollywood celebrities and Academy Awards are losing popularity. But the message had already been conveyed. The damage had already been done. Last year also many celebrities used the platform to oppose President Trump. Seems like the flag-bearers of progressive values are not in a mood to surrender before the establishment.