“Ladies, never let anyone tell you that your best days are behind you.” It’s been a week since 60-year-old Michelle Yeoh called out this combative phrase to the audience at the Oscars. Goes down like butter when a woman is over 60 herself. The first Asian actress Oscar winner rebuffed ageism. Women experience them more often than men, and not only in Hollywood.
Good reason for a look back at Oscar acceptance speeches by women: What do they reveal about women’s rights and images? Years ago, while watching the awards ceremony with friends at a San Francisco movie theater, Gwyneth Paltrow’s tearful performance in 1999’s best-of-Oscar cuts to fill the commercial breaks got the biggest laughs. No, that crybaby, the weaker sex overcome by emotion: how embarrassing, how funny.
Admittedly, Grace Kelly’s regrettable statement when she received the golden boy that this was a night she wished she would smoke and drink dates back to the dim and distant past of the 1950s. But it would be a long time before stars used the Oscars stage to give the lie to discriminatory attributions.
The gradual empowerment and shift in focus is interesting. The documentarian Yessica Yu commented on her short film Oscar in 1997 in a classically feminine way: “If the outfit costs more than the film, you have finally entered new territory.”
Halle Berry addressed the dual discrimination of being a woman and a person of color in 2002, citing those “who always have my back: Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox…”. In 2018, Allison Janney said, “It’s all because of me.”
Stars are role models, and they gain power in the limelight. The audience wants glamor and gets something else, listens to the idols, listens to them. Whether Patricia Arquette demands equal rights and equal pay in 2015 (and Meryl Streep cheers for her) or Frances McDormand asks all women in the room to stand up in 2018 so that the men can see whose projects should finally be realized.
Progress is a snail, Galas can help it along. A week ago, cameras also captured supporting actor Ke Huy Quan’s tear-streaked face. “Mom, I just won an Oscar!”: It wasn’t a bit embarrassing (and a lot of men are built closer to water anyway than they would ever admit). There can never be enough male crybabies for the cause of women.
To home page