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Deeper Problems at the Oscars

by Paul Levinson 8 months ago in tv review · updated 8 months ago
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Freedom of Speech, Covid, and Ukraine

Most people are understandably talking about Will Smith really slapping Chris Rock in the face at last night's Oscar ceremony, after Rock made a tasteless joke about Will's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's hair (she has alopecia or hair loss). What Smith did was wrong, no doubt, but that incident uncovered more serious issues:

1. First, what Smith did was indeed not noble but wrong. We parents spend a lot of time teaching our little children to use words not hands to express their anger, however justified it might be. An actor resorting to violence on a world-wide broadcast sends out a very bad message.

2. Smith did also use words to express his outrage at Rock, shouting "Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth" to Rock several times. Unfortunately, we here in America were not able to hear that. ABC, ever fearful, like other broadcast networks, of FCC (Federal Communication Commission) fines, bleeped out the offensive tirade. This also happens every year at the Grammys when rap and hip-hop artists perform their songs. (Fortunately, Smith's voice was heard in Australia and other places with less repressive regimes than the United States.) And it also must be noted: the FCC does absolutely nothing about Fox News and its dissemination of outright lies about COVID and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine -- lies so grievous that it got Chris Wallace not to renew his contract with Fox (see Michael M. Grynbaum's "Chris Wallace Says Life at Fox News Became ‘Unsustainable’" in The New York Times), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to recommend Fox News ("Russian foreign minister praises Fox News coverage of war in Ukraine" in The Guardian). Surely, those lies are not broadcasting "in the public interest" -- the lies about Covid vaccines and bogus "cures" have literally cost human lives. And maybe the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) should investigate the very name Fox "News" as a form of false advertising. (I actually filed a formal complaint about Fox "News" with the FTC about this.)

3. Speaking of COVID and the Russian invasion, neither received much mention at last night's Oscar ceremony. COVID was actually the subject of an early joking skit. Ok, but the pandemic is no laughing matter to the more than six million people around the world who lost their lives, and the millions more in their families. Would've been very appropriate to say something about COVID in the In Memoriam segment, which was too short in any case, leaving out Ed Asner and Bob Saget, to name just two.

4. The same egregious oversight about the heroic Ukrainians fighting for their very lives and country marred the Oscar ceremony. Sean Penn strongly urged that Ukrainian President Zelensky be allowed to address the world via the Academy Awards ceremony. Not only did that not happen, there was no official mention of the Russian attack of Ukraine at all, other than some silent words briefly up on a screen. Ukrainian-born Mila Kunis alluded to but didn't mention by name the savage Russian invasion of her birth place. Were the presenters and winners told not to mention Ukraine? It was left to Francis Ford Coppola to defiantly proclaim from the stage, "Viva Ukraine"! did run a series of excellent ads urging everyone to do what they could to help the embattled people of Ukraine, but that didn't relieve the Oscar award ceremony from its moral obligation to do something big about the worst unwarranted aggression in Europe since Hitler started the Second World War. All in all, though there were many very worthy winners last night, it was a sad shambles of an award ceremony.

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About the author

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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