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Oscar acceptance speeches deliver messages of equality

“I stand here, I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day.” -Sam Smith

Sam Smith, the English singer-songwriter, Grammy winner, and as of last night, Oscar Winner for best original song, has lots to say on what it means to be a gay man in Hollywood. What Mr. Smith said isn’t exactly accurate or consistent, but contained a much-needed message and reflected the overall theme of the 2016 Oscar awards: the need for diversity in Hollywood.

Smith, with co-writer Jimmy Napes, won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “The Writing’ On the Wall,” the theme track to last year’s James Bond film, Spectre. Smith was visibly emotional as he took the stage to accept the award and deliver his acceptance speech.
“I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar, and if this is the case, even if it isn’t the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world,” Smith said. “I stand here, I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day.” Backstage, the press informed Smith that he was not the first openly gay man to win an Oscar. Sir Elton John, Dustin Lance Black, Howard Ashman, and Scott Rudin all received Academy Awards before Sam Smith’s nomination last night.

Smith, though short on facts, was clearly trying to spread a message of empowerment Sunday night: “I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day,” he said. Smith was not the only one to spread his hope for an equal future.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu also made a push for equality on Sunday night as he made history, winning his second consecutive best director award. The Mexican-born filmmaker is the first director to win back-to-back Oscars in 65 years. In his acceptance speech for The Revenant, Iñárritu noted that he is “very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately, many others haven’t had the same luck.”

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Best Director, The Revenant. Source: EW.com

“So what a great opportunity to… make sure for once
and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”

“There is a line in the film that [Glass says] to his mixed-race son, ‘They don’t listen to you, they just see the color of your skin,’” he continued. “So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”

Obaid-Chinoy, receiving her Oscar for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness in the category Best Documentary – Short Subject, thanked those who fight for “a more just society for women.” She shared that this film, which follows a teenage girl who survives an honor killing in Pakistan, is helping change a law on honor killings. “That is the power of the film,” she concluded, effectively reminding everyone just how influential movies — especially movies about real-life issues — can be.


As a follow-up, Smith’s inspiration for the false note in history, Sir Ian McKellen, clarified his past statement while trying to make peace on Twitter.

Sir Elton John won an Oscar in 1995 for Best Original Song for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King, while out screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won for Best Original Screenplay in 2009 for Milk, and out songwriter Howard Ashman has earned two Academy Awards; one in 1989 for “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, and one 1991 for “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast (both of those awards are shared with Alan Menken). Out producer Scott Rudin also won an Oscar for Best Motion Picture in 2007 with No Country for Old Men, an award he shared with the Coen brothers.

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