March 13, 2016
By Matt Petras
A lot of good came out of this year’s Oscars despite the highly problematic lack of people of color nominees for awards. Chris Rock did a solid job of slamming the Oscars and Hollywood for treatment of people of color, Joe Biden appeared to discuss the crisis of sexual assault before introducing Lady Gaga’s song on the matter, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar and used the platform to discuss pressing environmental issues, and more. The disingenuous failures of Hollywood liberalism did certainly seep through the cracks, however, most evident in Sam Smith’s acceptance speech for his song “Writing’s On the Wall.”
“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, and even if this isn’t the case, I dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world,” Smith said in his acceptance speech.
As McKellen has clarified on his Twitter account, what he actually wrote was that no openly gay *actor* had won an Oscar. Dustin Lance Black, one openly gay man to have won an Oscar in the past (for his screenplay for Milk, an excellent movie about the real life Harvey Milk, a legendary gay rights activist), criticized Smith on Twitter, prompting a very weak apology from Smith.
“Second openly gay man to win an oscar or third or fourth or 100th, it wasn’t my point,” he said in on tweet. Then: “My point was to shine some light on the LGBT community who I love so dearly.”
It was only after two tweets defending his statement, in which he still seemed confused about the history of openly gay Oscar winners, that he apologized for it.
“Apologies for the mix-up [Dustin Lance Black] I’ll be sure to check out your films now x Belated congrats on the Oscar x.”
It is genuinely good to have an apology and a promise to learn more, but the apology is just an aside to a defense of what he said. The truth is that what he said reflects the ignorant understanding of liberal politics plaguing the industry. Smith claims to care about the LGBT community but didn’t seem to care that he doesn’t actually know what he is talking about when he gave his speech. He admits in the speech that he may be spewing misinformation that erases gay accomplishments but clearly said it anyway.
This implies a certain detachment from the LGBT community, coming from a rich, successful artist who doesn’t really get it. Smith was the cinderblock weighing down the Oscar’s rather successful attempt to embrace wholesome progressivism following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.