Was that the Oscars, or a Bernie Sanders campaign speech?
When Chris Rock stormed the stage for his opening monologue spitting fire on racism in America it was clear that this would be an Academy Awards like no other. This was to be an awards show in which the designer dresses and group selfies took a back seat to sociopolitical issues. The fact that the three biggest moments of the night were flagrant illuminations of the most crucial problems facing America today shows the pop-culture relevance and resonance of the message being preached by Bernie Sanders.
Chris Rock – Opening Monologue:
“Is Hollywood racist? Is it burning cross racist? No. Is it ‘fetch me some lemonade’ racist? No. It’s a different type of racist”. So “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist”
“You see all these writers, and producers, and actors…they don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on earth. They’re liberals”
“This year in the ‘In Memoriam’ package is just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies”
“It’s not about boycotting anything it’s just… We want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors, that’s it.”
With the ‘Oscars so white’ controversy front and center leading up to the show, most people expected Chris Rock to address the issue. But damn did he come strong! Like the true comedic legend that he is, he effectively unpacked the labyrinth of racism as it exists in America today in just a few short jokes. His ‘In Memoriam’ joke was a forceful allegory for the grotesque and broken law enforcement and criminal justice systems. His comments on a “different kind of racist” and “opportunities” beautifully and subtly referenced the manifestation of racism in today’s politically correct culture. This is not the racism of burning crosses, lynching, and the N-word. Rather it is the racism of the unprecedented Congressional obstruction of President Obama. It is the racism of news media portraying activists as thugs, and victims as criminals. It is the racism of economic inequality for people of color. And yes, it is the racism of black actors being passed over for jobs.
Additionally, as Rock speaks on the perpetrators of these types of racism he does not focus on the hateful and bigoted, but rather the “nicest white people on earth”, that is “liberals” so ensconced in their white privilege that they cannot see the system operating around them. When Hillary Clinton, a self-professed liberal and at times progressive, has a Black Lives Matter activist thrown out of a fundraising dinner so she can get “back to the issues” with her room full of opulent white guests, this is precisely what Rock is talking about.
Policing and the criminal justice system, economic inequality, jobs vs. jails, people before profits. These are issues which Bernie Sanders speaks on relentlessly at every campaign stop. And as Rock so brilliantly points out, they are issues which politicians must break free from their systems of privilege to address.
Adam McKay – Acceptance speech for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’
“If you don’t want big money to control government don’t vote for candidates that take money from big banks, oil, or weirdo billionaires. Stop!”
Oligarchy, thy name is America. For years, the subversion of democracy through billions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying has been publically ignored by politicians, much in the same way that drug addiction is usually ignored by drug dealers. It is difficult to imagine those getting rich off of a problem speaking out against said problem. Of course, anyone familiar with Bernie Sanders is familiar with his voracious attacks on this corrupt system, and his campaign funded by individual donations averaging “$27”. And how one prominent voice can legitimize. Suddenly a man stands on the stage at the Oscars accepting an award for a movie about Wall Street corruption, and rails against the pseudo-oligarchy America has become. His statement makes the journey from tinfoil hat conspiracy to genuine option, through the existence of Bernie Sanders.
Leonardo Dicaprio – Acceptance speech for “Best Actor”
“Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
During the first Democratic debate, the candidates were asked what the most important issue facing the planet was. Bernie Sanders said simply “climate change”. It was a powerful statement crucially backed with an aggressive platform. The fact is that from the platitudes of Democrats to the outright denial of Republicans, Americans continue to pour billions of dollars every year into the fossil fuel industry. Dicaprio, like McKay before him, has a pretty firm grasp on the root of the problem; politicians sadly obligated to represent “big polluters or the big corporations” instead of the majority of their constituents. The crisis of climate change is immediate enough to be spoken on by an actor during the crowning moment of his career, but so is the crisis of the “politics of greed”.
Oscars So Bernie
Bernie Sanders may or may not be the next President of the United States. But the legacy of his revolutionary campaign is already being seen. It can be seen through the tens of thousands of Americans spontaneously marching in the streets, and the millions becoming engaged or re-engaged in the political process. It can be seen through a new generation of progressive politicians running for office. And yes, it can be seen as an audience of 40 million watches the platform of Bernie Sanders laid bare at the Oscars.