Genuine Talent or Political Correctness?

Penn Wins Oscar for Milk Performance

The 2009 Academy Awards event this Sunday was in many ways impregnated by a sense of self-controlling polite modesty (with the contenders half-expecting Slumdog Millionaire to win all of the awards), with winches of indisputable grief (the whole audience was left in mourning tears when the late Heath Ledger was awarded the Oscar for his marvelous performance as Joker in The Dark Knight), but also the omnipresent political connotations of the show.

The instance that stands out most was, perhaps, the Oscar given to Sean Penn for his performance in Milk. The movie portrays the story of Harvey Milk, who was the first (openly) homosexual to be elected to a public office in the United States back in the 1970s. This theme comes very contextually close to the political mindset that is sweeping California (and especially Hollywood) on the topic of gay marriages. Proposition 8, a measure ballot that was voted on in November of last year, restricted the concept of marriage to heterodox couples in California, thus placing a question mark on the validity of marriages between same-sex couples previously allowed in that state. The proposition was attacked by many demonstrations, and a hearing on its constitutionality will be held this year in the California Supreme Court, which has the power to overrule it.

Sean Penn’s victory in the most prestigious movie contest in the world shows the tremendous support against Proposition 8 in Hollywood. Milk also received a second Oscar for the most original script, whose author (Dustin Lance Black) is a homosexual. He praised Penn’s performance, stating that

Sean physically inhabited the body and soul of Harvey Milk.

Apart from the moral debate over gay marriages, this nomination once again shows how much the Academy cherishes its self-created image of political activism. The integrity of the institution, and of the actors in general is put in the uncomfortable situation where people would begin to ask whether Sean Penn’s Oscar was awarded based on artistic performance, or rather on political grounds… This certainly would take away from the image of Sean Penn’s work (an undeniably fantastic actor overall), for one could not precisely understand what was the real reason behind Penn’s victory; as some would argue that Mickey Rourke would have genuinely deserved the award instead.

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2 Responses

  1. I didn’t realize that “Oscar bridesmaid” and “comeback kid” storylines were a part of the Oscar judging criteria? Doesn’t seem right.

    Won’t some always argue that someone else deserves the award more, no matter who wins?

    I knew nothing about the “self-created image of political activism” in this awards show…always good to learn something new.

  2. Ok, its a vote by the Academy members…I get why the storyline is of any importance now. A democratic process focusing on the trivialities as substantive criteria…big surprise!

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