Monday, February 23, 2009

Last Words on the Oscars

Maybe I was a little harsh on the Oscars, last night. I say that, because two award winners proved how relevant the awards can be.
The first, Dustin Lance Black, won for his screenplay, Milk. Mr. Black's moving speech was truly inspirational. Wearing a White Knot, Black spoke about growing up in a repressive Mormon household and then moving to California, where he first heard about Harvey Milk, many years after Milk's death, and how Harvey inspired him to be true to himself. He then said some of the most poignant and important words broadcast on national TV in recent memory: “…to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight, who have been told that they are ‘less than’ by their churches, by the government or by their families, are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value.” If Dustin's win prevents just one gay teen from committing suicide; if he inspires just one gay youth to stand up and declare his or her value as a member of society; if he makes just one homophobic person think "Hmmm... Maybe I'm wrong," then his struggle to be heard was well worth it.
The second, Sean Penn, won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. I've not always been a fan of Mr. Penn. For a while, I thought he was an eccentric, violent person who couldn't handle the pressures of fame, despite how talented he may be (of course, marrying Madonna early on didn't help). Then he won his first Oscar for playing a death-row inmate in "Dead Man Walking" and I saw the glint of compassion and humanity in his eyes. He won his next award as a grieving father in "Mystic River," displaying an ability to reach down inside and reveal the kind of pain no one ever wants to experience. This year, he won for playing Harvey Milk, a gay activist who refused to lie down and let the system (or anyone else) walk all over him. In his acceptance speech, Penn said (referring to anti-gay protesters outside the Kodak Theatre): “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think this is a good time for them to reflect on their shame.” Wow.
The tide is slowly turning, my friends. The voices of hate, no matter how loud they may be, are beginning to be silenced. Those who cling to antiquated belief systems are slowly realizing how wrong they have been. Soon - not tomorrow, or next week, or next month or even next year - but soon, we won't have to fight to be recognized as valued members of society. The more folks in positions of power and influence take a stand, the more we will share the same basic rights as everyone else.
I just read that the Indian government censored the Oscar telecast to exclude all references to Milk. Is that crazy? No - it's just a product of ignorance and fear. Ignorance and fear, spread by people like Utah Senator Chris Buttars, must be turned into education and understanding. Only then can we reverse opinions, fight fear and reduce ignorance. And that is why the Oscars are still relevant.
I know... I'm on my high-horse again. Back to movies, and nonsense soon. I promise.
More, anon.

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