Why Last Night's Oscars Felt Like Redemption

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The Oscars seemed to have been on a mission last night. It was a mission that ironically reflects the goals of many liberal white people and institutions these days, however misguided it may be. The Academy Awards wanted to make sure that no one could call them racist or “so white.” They had to jump over some hurdles to get there: a less-than-perfect host in the form of Jimmy Kimmel, an uncomfortable surprise tour that felt really exploitative, and the biggest mistake in the show's history: #OscarGate. But symbolically bloodied and battered as the Academy may be, it managed to acknowledge people of color and other marginalized groups at the biggest night in Hollywood.
In terms of winners, the show got off to an amazing start. Moonlight star Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an Oscar (and quite possibly the newest dad to do the same, his baby is now only 5 days old). Alessandro Bertolazzi represented for immigrants everywhere when he accepted the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in Suicide Squad alongside Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Allen Nelson. And then female costume designer Colleen Atwood took home a win for dressing the cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Viola Davis won her first Oscar, for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. And then there was the epic fiasco that ushered in Moonlight’s win for Best Picture. I’d be lying if I said a Black film taking home the highest honor of the night didn't feel particularly satisfying.
Following a season of unexpected, your-good-isn't-quite-good-enough snubs against people of color, the Oscars felt like a measured dose of redemption. First it was the election that blindsided us with Trump as the victor; then it was the Super Bowl, where the New England Patriots defeated the Falcons from Atlanta — a hub for Black people and culture — in an epic comeback; then it was Beyoncé’s painful Album of the Year loss to Adele at the Grammys, which we should all be able to recognize as the result of racial bias.
The short of it is, people of color have been taking L's in pop culture since November. Our investment in the success of films like Moonlight, Fences, Lion, and Hidden Figures at the Oscars were deeper than the awards. It was us waiting for any kind of validation that our work, culture, and lives matter. For those of us who live for life's petty moments, the theatrics around Best Picture didn’t hurt, either. Hopefully this is only the beginning of an epic clap-back season.

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