Kristen Meinzer is the producer of The Sporkful podcast, culture producer for The Takeaway, and co-host of The Takeaway's Movie Date podcast.
Over thirty-five years ago, a woman in traditional Apache dress named Sacheen Littlefeather accepted Marlon Brando’s Oscar for “The Godfather.” But do you remember why Brando chose her to take his place?
Twenty years ago, the red AIDS ribbon was every star’s favorite Oscars accessory. But almost as quickly as it became trendy, it disappeared. Do you remember the last year all the celebrities wore red ribbons?
And a mere two years ago, the Kodak Theatre exploded into thunderous applause when Sean Penn said protestors outside the venue should be ashamed of themselves. But do you remember the reason for the protests?
The answers, in order:
Brando objected to the narrow depiction of American Indians in Hollywood films and on television.
The last time red ribbons were the rage was 1994, the year Tom Hanks won best actor for “Philadelphia.”
As for those protesters, they were opposed to gay marriage, and the support that many celebrities at the Oscars showed that year for gay rights.
And the reason I’m giving you this quiz? To remind you that politics and causes are as trendy at the Oscars as sequins and fishtail gowns (and like the gowns, they can be forgotten very quickly).
All this begs the question: Do causes belong at the Oscars? Do audiences like to see a celebrity, best known for her cleavage or his pecs, on a soapbox? Do we consider their entreaties a call for action? Or do we just wish they would stick to what they know best: looking pretty and playing dress up?
I’ll speak for myself here and say, it depends on two things: 1) the cause and 2) the celebrity.
Specifically, if it’s a cause I agree with and it’s presented articulately by a celebrity that seems to have critical thinking skills, then I don’t mind it (and in some cases, I even like it).
But more often than not, politics at the Oscars are like babies at a bar ... occasionally adorable, but usually out of place.
Of course, if you’re Sean Penn, you may disagree with me.