While the race issue and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s boycott of the show due to lack of diversity among the nominees were constantly brought up, Oscar’s most powerful moment tackled another subject altogether: sexual abuse.
When Lady Gaga came out to perform best song nominee “Til It Happens to You”(co-written with Diane Warren) I couldn’t help but be moved. The song was from “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary on sexual assault in US campuses.
Forget the set pieces or dancers—Lady Gaga came out in an elegant white outfit and played a white piano and she sang:
“Tell me, how the hell could you talk,
How could you talk?
Cause until you walk where I walk,
It’s just all talk.”
As the song continued, a group of young women and men quietly joined her on stage: all victims of sexual assault and abuse. On their arms they had written messages like: UNBROKEN, SURVIVOR, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
At the end of the song, they all joined hands.
The audience of the motion picture industry’s best and brightest gave Gaga and her kids a standing ovation. Others gave out hugs to the survivors.
While this song did not win (the Oscar went to Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall”) in other ways, it was a huge triumph.
What’s more, US Vice President Joe Biden introduced the song. He encouraged the audience to take the same pledge he and President Barrack Obama took, “Let’s change the culture. We must and we can change the culture. So that no abused woman or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they ever have to ask themselves ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing wrong. I really mean this, take the pledge. Visit itsonus.org.”
According to CNN, the site crashed after the performance—which is probably a good thing.
For all the division the race issue may have caused, it was great to see such support on an issue that often gets swept under the rug, an issue where the victims go through so much trauma and then have to deal with being misunderstood or worse, judged.
Spotlight, which won for best picture on its own merit and not because of subject matter, has also brought abuse within an institution to our attention.
There’s so much inflexibility in the world, so much shouting on social media, so much heat during election season, so much de-humanization going on, it was really moving to see a gesture of courage, healing and community.
To add to the tender moments at the Academy Awards ceremony—having Dave Grohl, alone on stage with his guitar singing a beautiful Beatles classic, Blackbird was a fitting tribute to those lost in the past year: including favorites David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Leonard Nimoy.