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The Biggest Breakthroughs and Controversies at the 2019 Academy Awards

It seems as though from the start, the 2019 Academy Awards were bound to be an eventful night. Since 2016, there has been a major upheaval in the reality of the lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominees. This year, would-be host Kevin Hart stepped down after the surfacing of homophobic tweets in December. Though surrounding a number of this year’s controversies, there also were a number of necessary breakthroughs and standout moments. Hopefully, the Academy Awards will continue to work towards improving their stance on social and racial politics.

On the red carpet, Broadway star Billy Porter was one of the first celebrities to catch the attention of viewers, adorned in a brilliant ballgown.  Porter presented a well-executed challenge of traditionally masculine stereotypes, in an interview with Vogue Magazine he describes his personal experience with gender stereotypes:

“When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question. I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices. [Even] when I had my first working contract at A&M Records, I was silent for a long time. I was trying to fit in to what other people felt I should look like. When I landed a role in Kinky Boots, the experience really grounded me in a way that was so unexpected. Putting on those heels made me feel the most masculine I’ve ever felt in my life. It was empowering to let that part of myself free.”

Porter’s statement was even more profound given the nature of Kevin Hart’s tweets. Due to Hart’s statements, the Oscars proceeded without a host at all. Shockingly, this made for a more interesting night. Instead of a recurring individual providing entertainment for the night, there was a slew of well-known comedians and performers left to fill the regular duties of an awards show host.

The show opened with a performance by Adam Lambert and Queen, honouring the nominated film Bohemian Rhapsody. Other memorable moments were a comedy bit between Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy dressed in a gown covered in bunnies and the much-awaited performance of “Shallow” from A Star is Born, by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. (Also there was an unforgettable Mary Poppins moment with Bette Midler!)

As for some of the most memorable awards of the night: Ruth E. Carter became the first black woman to win Best Costume Design, Spike Lee won his first Academy Award for BlacKkKlansman and voiced his concern about the American political climate in his acceptance speech, saying “the 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilise, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.” This later spurred on a series of tweets from President Trump. 

Lee also shared his distaste of Best Picture winner Green Book. This film has been at the centre of much controversy given the way that the story itself, and the production team has handled race relations. It is suggested that the story itself is an exaggerated tale of the friendship between a musician and his driver and consequently boasts the narrative of the white man, not the queer black star or intended protagonist.

There is no doubt that the 2019 Academy Awards were a night filled with much more than just the glamour of Hollywood and its stars. If anything, the awards show has opened a bigger platform for the need for representation in different media forms. and the recognition of true artists.

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Sarah Abernethy is a seventeen year old writer from Toronto, Canada.

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