Yesterday I praised Viola Davis’ Oscars speech for being memorable without being explicitly political, just for talking about her work in a moving and well-written way. Twitter quickly let me know that I missed something. On social media and conservative-leaning news sites, Davis’s speech actually sparked outrage.
After explaining that he felt his mission was to “exhume…the stories of people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams come true, people who fell in love and lost,” Davis had this to say:
I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.
This statement has become one of the right-wing discussion topics on the internet after the Oscars ceremony. “Art is wonderful; art is enriching; art can connect us with each other,” writes Ben Shapiro in daily wire. “But the sheer arrogance of claiming that artists are ‘the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life’ is staggering. What about the doctors? What about stay-at-home moms, who help shape life instead of pursuing their own career interests? What about funeral homes? What if almost everyone in a free market economy gives themselves to others to improve their lives?
Variants of that sentiment have bounced around online, with Davis sometimes being misquoted as saying that only “actors” celebrate what it means to live a life or, worse, are the only ones who “know” what it means to live a life. life .
Do people have the right to be offended? Did they say that artists are better than anyone? Reading his words literally, within the context of his speech, and extending him the slightest benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to see the backlash against Davis as anything more than a symptom of our overblown culture wars.
Anyone “celebrates what it means to live a life” in their own personal way, but for whom could that be a primary function of their profession? Artists, definitely. Clergy, maybe. doctors Save lives instead of celebrating them, and it doesn’t denigrate them to say so. stay home parents aid others, and Davis might even agree that it is more noble, important, and essential than “celebrating” the meaning of life.
Her point was simply that artists fill a unique role in telling stories about the human experience, and that she’s glad to be a part of that.
It certainly could have edited itself to make a less controversial, if possibly less interesting, film., statements. If he had simply said, “I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we celebrate what it means to live a life,” the complaints might have been harder to come by. The “one and only” highlights a specific way that artists are special, but it’s also a whistle blower for anyone who has a strong grudge against Hollywood’s elitism and condescension. And there has rarely been a better time to vent such resentment than now.
On the right, reflexive disgust with the entertainment industry has taken on a new fervor under Donald Trump. during the fox and friends after the oscarsthe mess for which la la country Steve Doocy erroneously announced that Best Picture said, “Hollywood got the election wrong, and last night Hollywood got the Oscars wrong.” Guest Tucker Carlson agreed, but added that Moonlight “had to win” because the moralizing and politically correct establishment wanted it to. Yes, the Oscars were as much an out-of-touch catastrophe as they were an insidiously rigged game.
Donald Trump has given his own interpretation of the Academy’s mistake: “I think they got so focused on the policy that they didn’t get down to business in the end,” he said. beardas if the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant who gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope he did it because he had been criticizing Kimmel too much by tweeting the president “are you up?”
Liberals may complain that Trump takes credit for his critics making a logistical mistake. But of course, both sides see a lot of politics in entertainment these days – see all shots doing like Doocy and comparing the end of the Oscars to election night.
To many viewers Sunday, Davis’ speech seemed remarkable for how he almost transcended the partisan fray and simply spoke passionately about acting. But one word, “just,” was enough to make it a litmus test of the culture war. She perhaps wanted to start a fight about the place of art in society, or perhaps she was simply portraying her profession as she genuinely sees it. Either way, it was a challenging move in an era when artists are increasingly held to the same standards as candidates for office: They are expected to choose their words not for truth but for politics.