Chris Rock’s opening monologue was brilliant – but bombarding Oscars viewers with four hours of social justice preaching was too much, and served the messengers far more than the causes they promoted
At the opening of Chris Rock’s excellent hosting of the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, the comedian made a joke which sets some very important and much-needed context for the #OscarsSoWhite and social justice-obsessed debate leading up to the star-studded ceremony.
From the New York Times transcript of Chris Rock’s remarks:
It’s the 88th Academy Awards. It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. O.K.?
You gotta figure that it happened in the 50s, in the 60s — you know, in the 60s, one of those years Sidney didn’t put out a movie. I’m sure there were no black nominees some of those years. Say ‘62 or ‘63, and black people did not protest.
Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest; you know, we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.
You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.
It is great to see Chris Rock – incidentally, one of the many high profile comedians who now refuse to perform on American college campuses because of the stultifying and censorious climate created by Social Justice Warrior (SJW) activists – making this point, which frequently gets lost in our climate of perpetual outrage.
(Though sadly, because everything and everyone is “problematic” these days – and because Social Justice Warriors ruin everything – the bien pensant criticism of Rock’s monologue is already gathering steam).
Is it perhaps unfortunate that there were no black nominees among the various acting categories? Maybe so – although it was hardly statistically unlikely, given the fact that African Americans make up just thirteen per cent of the US population. But the mere fact that we are now arguing about whether black actors (Hispanics and other minorities seemed to do quite well in terms of winning awards) are being systematically excluded from the ultimate expression of Hollywood elitism shows in itself just how far we have come.
This is not to negate the very real discrimination against black people which still exists, particularly in the criminal justice system and law enforcement – notably several high profile killings of unarmed black suspects by the police. This blog covered the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and I offered my own sympathetic perspective from having spent many months and years visiting the St. Louis area.
But one has to go back only a few short decades to encounter a time when the threat to “black bodies” (a strange term which is increasingly fetishised in the media – particularly through use by writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, whom I greatly admire even when we disagree) was far more universal, and not primarily the concern of black teenagers murdered while committing a minor misdemeanor, or black actors shunned by the movie industry.
What became increasingly concerning as the Oscars wore on, though, was the fact that Chris Rock’s excellent, light-hearted but pointed acknowledgement of the controversy and the shortcomings of Hollywood, was only the first salvo in a barrage of social justice virtue-signalling and white guilt self-flagellation which ultimately consumed the entire ceremony. Every segment between awards seemed to have to involve conspicuous references to the #OscarsSoWhite drama, which became grating and unnecessary after awhile.
Some people were quick to sanctimoniously declare that this was deserved:
Because not only does every occasion now have to be a teaching moment for the social justice agenda, the point must be laboured again and again. Not because it does anything to actually improve the availability of good roles for black actors in Hollywood, but because each presenter who touched on the theme was then able to imbue themselves with the same “I’m part of the solution, not the problem aura”.
This reached a heady climax when Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance on stage to introduce Lady Gaga and plug his campaign against sexual assaults at college. While every decent person should be able to get behind the idea that nobody should be raped while studying at university, or indeed at any other time, this was then followed by the pernicious idea that “It’s on us” (i.e. perfectly innocent members of the public) to prevent rape.
The organisation promoted by Vice President Biden, ItsOnUs.org, asks us to take the following actions in our own lives:
To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
The first pledge seems perfectly reasonable. But the remainder seek to transform us into perpetually vigilant informants and secret police agents, scanning crowds and charging to intervene in situations where we are uncertain that consent has been given, even when we lack critical context.
The idea that the average person will ever have the opportunity to “intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given” is particularly ludicrous – but these days, one can quite easily imagine squads of purse-lipped student “consent educators” roaming popular nightspots and breathalysing couples leaving bars and clubs to ensure that sexual relations do not follow the consumption of beer (heaven forfend).
But scroll to the end of the ItsOnUs website and you’ll see the only possible tangible outcome of the campaign – the ability to superimpose the organisation’s logo on to your social media profile picture, thus allowing those who take the pledge to ostentatiously parade their “I, too, am not a rapist” credentials before their equally vapid friends.
The idea that college campus rape can be prevented by mandatory sexual consent workshops, “raising awareness” or taking online pledges in a blaze of self-promotion is utterly ludicrous. Nobody who has been raised since childhood to disrespect women or act in a sexually entitled and bullying way is going to be reformed or turned away from committing rape by being lectured by an earnest Social Justice Warrior. The revolution which must happen is in our homes, our morals and our family life, and will not be accomplished through lectures from the stage of the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
But words are very much the SJW tool of choice, and the extent to which language is being weaponised in furtherance of a certain narrow agenda again became much clear later in the Oscars ceremony.
The BBC reported:
And oh, were there causes! A whole smorgasboard of enlightened liberal issues, as if everyone thought they had to live up to the tone of noble chastisement set by the diversity issue. Lady Gaga, seated at a starkly lit white piano, sang ’Til It Happens to You, the song she wrote for the campus-rape documentary The Hunting Ground, and though it’s a lugubrious number, her goggle-eyed manner seemed like an attack on the audience.
The movement for transgender rights was propped up by several mentions of the forward-thinking phrase “gender confirmation surgery”.
This, of course, is in relation to the film “The Danish Girl”, the biographical portrayal of the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first recipients of sex change surgery, who transitioned from male to female.
Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar nominated performance was by all accounts outstanding, and the issues raised about the prejudice, discrimination and abuse suffered by many transgender people are real and worthy of serious discussion. But this cannot come at the expense of our language and our shared perception of reality, and unfortunately the attempt to shoe-horn the new phrase “gender confirmation surgery” (as opposed to gender reassignment surgery) into the Oscars ceremony does just that.
You may recall attempts in the more conservative, right-wing media over the past decade to re-name suicide bombings as “homicide bombings”. This seemed to stem from the feeling that to focus on the suicide of the perpetrator gave undue prominence to the terrorist and detracted from the victims, which was of particular concern to conservative news outlets covering terrorist attacks against Israel and the West.
Unfortunately, the phrase “homicide bombings” also sows confusion, obfuscates reporting and makes it much harder for people to understand what has taken place. All bombings (or all successful ones, anyway) are homicide bombings by definition, since their purpose is to kill people. But not all bombings also involve the deliberate suicide of the perpetrator in the explosion. This is a characteristic unique to suicide bombing, and is what makes it distinct from, say, the IRA’s bombing of the 1984 Conservative Party conference in Brighton, England, where the bomber set the explosive device a month prior to the attack and was well out of harm’s way when it took place.
Regular bombing versus suicide bombing – an important distinction in terms of terrorist tactics is mirrored and emphasised by a difference in language. In the case of suicide bombing, the language rightly calls our attention to the unique aspect of that style of attack. Calling it “homicide bombing” makes such attacks indistinguishable from any other terrorist attack, and actively decreases our understanding. Some conservatives believe that this mangling of language is nonetheless desirable in order to express our particular disapproval of suicide bombing. Most sensible people would scoff at such a fatuous and superficial idea.
And this is exactly what we saw take place on stage at the Oscars last night. Not a suicide bombing, thank God. But an attempt to forcibly change the language we use, stripping away the most descriptive part of a commonly used phrase like “gender reassignment surgery” by substituting the word “confirming” instead, in order to bestow our further approval on the act.
Prevailing sentiment dictates – quite probably correctly – that transgender people are born into the wrong bodies, and that surgery which physically changes their genitalia and appearance is therefore merely correcting a mismatch between physical reality and mentally experienced reality. But now, it is no longer politically correct to talk about somebody changing their gender through means of surgery, because that sounds too drastic. Now we must say that the surgery merely “confirms” their existing, mentally experienced gender. Surgically removing a penis and creating an artificial vagina can no longer be described truthfully as a medically significant and life-changing physical alteration, but merely a “confirmation” of someone’s inner being.
Regardless of one’s thoughts about transgender issues, there should be no disputing that forcibly mutilating our shared language just to signal our approval or disapproval of an act – at the expense of clear meaning – is not merely an act of wishful thinking, trying to conjure a new reality by stating it loudly enough, but is also a bleakly totalitarian way to approach the issue. And yet this, too, was preached to us during the Oscars ceremony.
All in all, it was quite an evening.
White privilege-shaming in nearly every segment. Sexual consent shaming from no lessa figure than the Vice President. All capped off with a deliberate attempt to wrest control of the English language, bending it away from reality and toward to the will of the Social Justice Warriors and their remarkably intolerant form of tolerance.
And this is just Hollywood – that bastion of progressive opinion – talking to itself, preaching fervently to the choir.
If this is what they are prepared to inflict on themselves, God only knows what forms of indoctrination, shaming and corrective punishment lie in store for the rest of us.
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