On February 24th, the crème de la crème of the motion picture industry will gather in Los Angeles for the 85th time to celebrate the greatest cinema achievements of the past 12 months. This much anticipated event, watched by hundreds of millions of people, has long established itself as a major, international tradition, but… is it time for a change?
Jean Dujardin: the first French actor to receive an Oscar in a leading role… after Marion Cotillard.
Every year, the world-famous statuette is presented to the best individuals or groups of individuals in up to 25 categories, including best adapted screenplay, best costume design and best original song. But the top 3 categories, the ones which attract the most interest, are best leading actress, best leading actor and best picture. And every year those 3 awards are announced to us in that very order.
There is no question that the ceremony should culminate with the award for best picture, as it recognises all the efforts put into making a film: directing, acting, writing, editing, designing, etc. But is there a logical reason why the award for best actor should be announced after the award for best actress, thus suggesting that it is more important? I realise that it is probably just a case of “Ladies first”, but isn’t this considered a little old-fashioned and condescending nowadays?
As far as I am aware, every major film award ceremony announces its winners in that order. The problem I have with it is that it sends the following message to boys and girls around the world: men are better than women. This message may not be obvious to you, but it is there. We all share a long tradition of celebrating our top achievers in the following order: 3rd best, 2nd best and best; Bronze, Silver and Gold. Therefore announcing the award for best actress before the award for best actor suggests to the psyche that the latter represents a better achievement. A feeling which is reinforced by the fact that the ceremony concludes with its most important award: best picture.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a post against the Oscars. This isn’t a post against men either. By failing to question the order in which the awards are presented, women are just as responsible for the way things are. This is after all the 21st century. Women have a say… Or do they? Here in the West, we do. Men and women are considered equals and women’s rights are generally acknowledged and protected. But I was shocked to hear earlier this month that in countries like India rape victims are often forced to marry their attacker because of the shame it would otherwise bring upon their families. In many countries around the world, women’s rights are still openly violated and women are considered inferior to men.
What has this got to do with the Oscars ceremony, I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple. With its global prestige and its huge international reach, the Academy could send a positive message to hundreds of millions of people around the world by simply alternating the order in which the awards are presented: one year the best actor would be announced before the best actress, the following year it would be the other way round. It wouldn’t cost anything, it wouldn’t even disrupt the ceremony, but the message sent around the world would be clear: men and women are equal.
How would you feel if best actresses were announced after best actors at the Oscars? Would it be strange or unnatural, and if so can you identify why? It would be interesting to know how other people feel about this.
If you would like to see the order in which the awards are presented alternate, please sign my online petition. If I get enough signatures, my request will be sent to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Thank you for your support!
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