On Sunday night, Hollywood's elite came out in droves to the Dolby Theatre to attend the Academy Awards. The famous (or infamous for some) awards show drug on for about four hours before one fiery, short-haired blonde named Frances McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri".
As we all know, in this past year Hollywood has been riddled with sexual harassment and assault accusations against prominent, powerful people, most notably Harvey Weinstein. So, the night had already been abuzz with commentary from several celebrities, presenters, and winners on social issues like the #MeToo movement, the Time's Up movement, or standing with the Parkland High School shooting survivors before Ms. McDormand gave her speech. She had been the frontrunner to win the award since the nominees were announced, as she gave a truly amazing, heartbreaking performance as the foul-mouthed, incredibly strong mother of a girl whose murder remained unsolved. And sure enough, her name was called by presenters Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence as the winner.
McDormand rushed onto the stage, "hyperventilating" with excitement and pride. But she didn't let that stop her, or as she said, "Pick me up if I fall over a little bit, because I’ve got some things to say...”. From there we all knew we were in for quite an interesting ride for the next 90 seconds. She thanked everyone in her life that helped her win the award, as is the standard in these scenarios, but went on to do something unexpected: she asked all the female nominees in the audience to stand.
Meryl Streep, the queen of them all, popped up and applauded, and the rest of the room began to stand as well. McDormand appeared to giggle almost hysterically at the sheer sight of all these women (and cuz she just won an Oscar lol). “Look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said.
She rounded out her inspiring, convicted speech with "two words: inclusion rider". An inclusion rider is basically a proposed line in an actor's contract that says they will only work on a project that makes a conscious effort to represent minorities in its cast and crew. The crowd roared with applause and gave her a much-deserved standing ovation.
I don't know about you, but I walked away from this speech feeling uplifted and empowered. I felt like I, as a woman, am forging ahead into a renaissance of female accomplishment and success. I believe McDormand wanted this effect, but moreover to show the entertainment world and the millions of people watching that our work has only just begun. Sure, this Oscars was much more inclusive and diverse in its nominees and winners, but we still have a long way to go.
Kobe Bryant of all people took home an Oscar that night for his animated short film "Dear Basketball". Not only is this win all around strange because an NBA legend won a film award, but this win is problematic, and proves McDormand and the Me Too movement's point. Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in 2003. He was charged, but the case was dropped because the accuser allegedly would not cooperate. But Bryant isn't the only winner of the night that has been accused of abuse. Gary Oldman, who won for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "The Darkest Hour" was accused of emotionally and physically abusing his ex-wife in 2001.
In the year of Me Too and Time's Up, you'd think the Academy would be abundantly aware of who they were giving awards to, nominating even, but apparently, they didn't see this as much of an issue.
And that my friends, is why I believe Frances McDormand's speech will go down in history. She gave a speech about female empowerment and minority inclusion in the year where we thought the tides had turned, but in truth haven't much at all. McDormand stood and took advantage of her platform to stand for something she believes in and thinks is only fair and just. She did all this in a year where two alleged abusers were awarded the same honor she was. She did not cower when the spotlight shone on her, instead, she boldly told the world that she and the rest of the females of the world are here to stay, and you better be ready.