Oscars Offer Lessons and Opportunities

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The 2018 Oscars are part of the past, and many viewers may have already forgotten the winners and losers of that coveted Oscar statue.

But in a year where Hollywood played a pivotal role in addressing important social issues, did we learn valuable lessons from the show?

Most viewers are not likely contemplating many issues that were overlooked. The Oscars are an opportunity to view beautiful people wearing designer clothes and jewelry. It can be enjoyable to watch as a fashion show and to listen to the lists of nominees.

At the same time, it would be helpful to contemplate some overlooked issues, including the resilience of age, how men and women can respect each other and work together in society, and the importance of certain discriminated groups.

Ageism is prevalent in our society.

Discrimination toward older persons can be seen when individuals in certain age groups aren’t hired for jobs. Unfortunately for many, the age group classified as elderly begins in our 50s.

Certain industries, including marketing, fashion, acting and athletics, consider individuals too old for job openings. This issue of ageism can especially be seen in athletics, where one may be considered old once she reaches the age of 30 or 40. Why are we surprised that Serena Williams still plays tennis at age 36?

Christopher Plummer at the Miami International Film Festival in 2014 | Rene Guirola via Wikipedia

Why was actor Christopher Plummer’s age the butt of many jokes at the awards show? Why wasn’t his resilience instead recognized for replacing Kevin Spacey in the movie All the Money in the World, learning and performing his Oscar-nominated role in a short period of time?   

Another overlooked lesson is that all men are not evil while all women are not good. Of course, it is important to recognize harassment in the workplace and take immediate and appropriate action.

Wouldn’t it also have been appropriate if best actress winner Frances McDormand asked both men and women to stand up and be recognized when she said “look around because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.” There are many men in the world who believe that women should have equal rights and be treated with dignity. At the same time, there were most likely men in the room who had “stories to tell.”

The Oscars also could have been an opportunity to recognize the many mothers, fathers, grandparents and teachers who teach boys the importance of treating women respect in both personal and work relationships. Even though it was clearly a joke, what message was sent to young boys when host Jimmy Kimmel stated that the Oscar statue was “the perfect man” since it was asexual? This joke may not send the appropriate message to young men.

Another issue not addressed was that there are many actors and supporting staff who have faced discrimination in real life.

Actor Richard Jenkins, brilliant in The Shape of Water, portrayed a man who was struggling with his identity during a time when it was unacceptable or extremely challenging to be honest about one’s sexuality.

During an interview in the Los Angeles Times, Jenkins discussed the struggle of gay men and women in the 1960s. He pointed out that “we didn’t have anybody gay in my school until our 40th reunion.” The role played by Jenkins in the movie reinforced an important message that may have been overlooked by the complexity and artistic plot.

During this fight for equality and respect for women in the workplace and beyond, there are many other key issues and messages overlooked during the Oscars. This, of course, should not take away from the many brilliant performances and exciting plots, cinematography and music.

But when watching or re-watching many of the creative movies of the past season, consider taking a moment and think about many of the important messages included in the films. 

Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., is a staff psychologist at Abramson Center.

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