ALTHOUGH IT’S NOT FEASIBLE, I wish Academy voters had been able to see Lady Gaga’s Oscar performance of “Til It Happens To You,” the song she co-wrote with Diane Warren for Oscar-nominated campus sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground, before they voted for “Best Original Song.” I bet they regret handing the Oscar to Sam Smith for Spectre‘s “The Writing’s On The Wall” now, don’t they? (On that note, Dustin Lance Black really spelled things out for Sam Smith in a late-night tweet after the awards show. You may not have sent for him, Sam, but Dustin sure as hell came for you last night.) Gaga’s performance was easily the most interesting and emotional moment of an otherwise-monotonous evening, and blew the other musical performances so far out of the water that they can’t even remember the last time they were wet.
Gaga, in an all-white Brandon Maxwell jumpsuit/gown combo, sang her heart out while beating the hell out of some ivory keys, which was all the more impressive since she spent half the performance gesticulating wildly with her right hand (probably in a bid to dethrone current Queen of Crazy Hand Gestures Mariah Carey). At the song’s vocal climax, a diverse number of men and women walked out on stage and stood around Gaga, with phrases and words like “It Happened To Me,” “Survivor,” and “Unbreakable” written with black ink on their arms and defiant stares etched onto their faces. At the end of the performance, Gaga, who has been forthcoming about her own experience being raped at the age of 19, joined hands with these fellow survivors of sexual assault and faced the audience in stoic silence, in a bid to draw national attention to the issues explored in The Hunting Ground. The performance received a standing ovation, and when the camera panned to the audience, viewers could see that many of the members were moved to tears. Don’t take my word for it, though — check out the clip below:
Gaga has taken a fair amount of flack in the past for collaborating with alleged rapist R. Kelly on 2013’s “Do What U Want,” which critics decried as a glamorization of rape and sexual assault. To add fuel to that particular fire, the music video’s director was Terry Richardson, who has also been accused of sexual assault and harassment by women he has worked with in the music and modeling industries. Gaga has said, in her defense, that she was unaware of the allegations against Richardson and stopped working with him when she found out about them, and then declined to release the video for the song out of solidarity with the models who started coming forward to the media with their allegations.
While this information may complicate how authentic Gaga’s Oscar performance and stance on sexual assault is for some people, it’s important to note that the crux of the controversy surrounding the collaboration and the video was whether or not Gaga was in the wrong for working with these two men, instead of whether or not it’s ethical for the industry to be hiring alleged rapists and sexual harassers and whether or not society should feel comfortable consuming their art. I personally think that having the latter conversation is more important than trying to crucify an artist who has consistently proven to be a staunch supporter of LGBT people and women in the past but, regardless of my opinion, standing with other rape and sexual assault survivors and explicitly stating that sexual assault is not their fault, in front of 50 million viewers and backed by Vice President Joe Biden, no less, firmly places her in the “ally of sexual assault survivors/denouncer of rape” category. Other celebrities with platforms as large and far-reaching as Lady Gaga’s have stayed conspicuously mum on the subject; anyone who is willing to bring these topics into mainstream conversation is welcome to do so in my book.
Other highlights from the show and its aftermath include:
- Host Chris Rock introducing Triple-R (right-wing, religious, and racist) nutcase Stacey Dash — who has spoken out against #OscarsSoWhite and Black History Month — as the Academy’s “minority outreach program director” (Was she in on it? Did the audience even understand the joke? All I know is that the evil cackle she lets out when she walks on stage will haunt my dreams forever.)
- Chris Rock comparing Hollywood to a bunch of white sorority girls
- Jenny Beavan accepting the award for Best Costume Design in a bedazzled outfit she designed and made herself in homage to Mad Max (and doing so with style and grace, regardless of the haters in the audience)
- Amy, the critically-acclaimed documentary on Amy Winehouse’s life, career, and struggle with addiction, winning Best Documentary Feature
- A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, detailing the story of a Pakistani women who survived a religiously-motivated honor killing, winning Best Documentary Short (More than 1000 woman are victims of religiously-motivated honor killings in Pakistan every year, and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said in her acceptance speech that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to change the laws surrounding honor killings in Pakistan after viewing the film.)
- Leonardo DiCaprio finally getting his Oscar (!!), and remembering to bring attention to climate change in all the excitement he must have been feeling
And now some lows for you:
- Total Beauty tweeting a picture of Whoopi Goldberg in a gown at the event and confusing her with Oprah (God, there really are no words. None at all.)
- Sacha Baron Cohen’s insensitive Ali Gi bit in which he butchered the name of Black actors and made fun of Asians, and the fact that poor Olivia Wilde had to be on stage next to him for its entirety
- Sam Smith cockily insinuating that he’s the first openly gay person to receive an Oscar (which prompted Dustin Lance Black, winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar for 2009’s Milk, to take him down a few pegs, see opening paragraph)
- Chris Rock’s Asian joke for being tone-deaf and culturally-insensitive
- Chris Rock’s Girl Scout cookies bit, for being way, way too long
- Chris Rock for not sticking it to the white Hollywood man harder, IMHO (Oh well, he did as much as he could… I guess.)