As Christians, award shows can be frustrating to watch. We often feel as though our values are being contradicted or even attacked by entertainers. Whether it’s environmentalism, feminism, abortion, or LGBT issues, they always seem to push a progressive political or social message, and most of it is unchristian. It might be easier to turn away and ignore these creatives, but I think there is some good in hearing what our storytellers say. Like it or not, stories, regardless of their medium (books, movies, TV, comics, music, video games, etc.) have a profound effect on our culture. Let’s also remember that our savior Jesus Christ used many stories (parables) to illustrate theological points and convict hearts. Stories can be powerful, and, thus, storytellers are powerful. Regardless of whether we like these creators’ opinions, they have influence. Here are three ways in which I hope the 92nd Academy Awards influences us for good.
Not the Diversity We Expected
On one hand, Hollywood loves to talk about diversity. On the other hand, they often find themselves in the middle of controversies regarding how non-diverse they are. In 2015, the Oscars dealt with the #OscarsSoWhite complaints due to the lack of minority award nominees, an issue that came to light again this year when there was only one non-white acting nominee. There was also an uproar about how Greta Gerwig (Little Women) had been “snubbed” from a Best Director nomination, a category in which the five nominees were all male.
But in the midst of the controversies, a unique winner emerged this year. The Korean film Parasite took home four statues, including Best Director, and became the first ever non-English language movie to win the top prize, Best Picture. This win was actually the most inclusive thing that could have happened at the Oscars. So often when we think about diversity, we think about diversity of Americans. But let’s not consider only people of different colors, but also people from different continents. There’s a whole world of artists out there. They might not all have the money and markets Americans do, but they have been gifted with the same human imagination, which is all you need to tell a story.
Every time Parasite writer/director Bong Joon Ho got on stage, he made me smile. Why? Because he won with joyful humility. Most people are thankful after winning an Oscar. They thank producers, coworkers, and their families. Sometimes their gratitude appears genuine, but other times their words come across as forced as they set up their inevitable self-righteous 40-second political speech.
But Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho seemed different. It was a pleasure to watch a non-American win, because he talked about his craft, not U.S. politics or society. He wasn’t preachy. He was humble. After winning the Best Director Oscar (his third trophy of the night), Bong used his speech to honor his fellow directorial nominees, particularly the iconic Martin Scorsese (The Irishman).
“When I was in school, I studied Martin Scorsese’s films. Just to be nominated was a huge honor. I never thought I would win,” Bong said. Scorsese reacted with a laugh and then possible tears.
Next, Bong turned toward another fellow nominee, Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). “When people in the U.S. were not familiar with my films, Quentin always put my films on his lists. He’s here. Thank you so much,” Bong said through his translator and then added in English, “Quentin, I love you.”
Bong also complimented directors Todd Phillips (Joker) and Sam Mendes (1917) and then finally stated that we wished he could cut the trophy into five parts and share it with all of them.
Contrasted with the seedy and prideful characters in his film, Bong Joon Ho provided an example of how to handle success with sincere gratitude.
Speaking of giving of thanks, there was a lot of thanking parents on Oscar night. Best Supporting Actor winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) expressed gratitude to his parents for taking him to drive-in theaters when he was a child. Best Actress winner Renee Zellweger (Judy) thanked her “immigrant folks who came here with nothing but each other and a belief in the American dream.” Taika Waititi, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for his film Jojo Rabbit, specifically thanked his mother for giving him the book Caging Skies, on which he based his screenplay. Actors Laura Dern, Juaquin Pheonix, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, and Cynthia Erivo all brought their moms as dates for the evening. At the end of her speech, Best Supporting Actress winner Laura Dern (Marriage Story) said, “Some say you never meet your heroes, but I say you’re really blessed if you get them as your parents. I share this with my acting hero, my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. You got game. I love you.” Best Original Screenplay winner Han Jin Won (Parasite) and Best Original Score winner Hildur Guðnadottir (Joker) both thanked their mothers as well.
It was a pleasant surprise to see people in the progressive entertainment industry appreciate family and those who came before them. No matter where we end up in life, we must remember that the command from God still stands, “Honor Your Father and your Mother” (Exodus 20:12).