"Tonight, we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — I mean brightest," cracked Neil Patrick Harris, referencing one of several elephants in the room at last night's 87th Annual Academy Awards. Throughout the night, many Oscar winners took their moment at the mic to shine a spotlight on something much bigger than their film. Both explicit and indirect, rarely a speech passed without a reference to racial equality, women's rights, suicide, or sexuality — some more successful than others.
"To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America," declared Best Supporting Actress Winner, Patricia Arquette. Her brief but potent statement brought the room to its feet, and Meryl Streep shouted her own support from the audience.
However, her following comments in the press room
brought justifiable ire. "It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women, and all the gay people and all the people of color that we've all fought for, to fight for us now." In this tone-deaf comment
, Arquette appeared ignorant herself of the economic and cultural disparity
between women of different ethnicities. Well intentioned though she may have been, many thought the problematic statement seemed to bely an enduring tone of straight, white privilege.
Suicide awareness was a consistent theme throughout the night, beginning with Robin Williams' appearance in the In Memoriam segment. The issue was addressed in two separate speeches. Graham Moore told the story
of his own suicide attempt as a teenager while accepting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere," Moore concluded
. "You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message along."
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, a film which
highlights the alarming rate of suicide among former servicemen and women, took
home the prize for Best Documentary Short. Producer Dana Perry dedicated the
award to her son, Evan, who committed suicide at age 15. "We should talk
about suicide out loud. This is for him."
Alejandro González Iñárritu called
out U.S. immigration policies while accepting the Best Picture award for Birdman. Iñárritu's win follows Alfonso Cuarón, who
took home the same award last year for Gravity, marking back-to-back wins for Mexican directors. "Maybe next year the government will inflict immigration restrictions," he joked. "Two Mexicans in a row. That's suspicious, I
guess." Turning serious, Iñárritu said he hoped that this generation of U.S. immigrants "can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who
came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."