In the US, we are attached to our traditional events, notably, award shows. So, this year, the Academy Awards served as a reminder of familiar and long-standing traditions. However, the way in which the award ceremony addressed the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been subject to heavy controversy.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor, director, and producer before becoming a politician. Given his experience in the field, Zelensky has a substantial understanding of the power celebrities hold in influencing public opinion, especially during times of conflict. This year’s Oscars Ceremony gathered many of the most notable figures of the film industry, and millions of people watched it on television. As such, Zelensky requested a video appearance at the Oscars to spread information and speak about the war, but was not granted permission; instead, the conflict was given a short slideshow, a moment of silence, and the ever-present #supportukraine.
Mila Kunis, a Ukraine-born actress, and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, raised over thirty-five million dollars through a GoFundMe in support of Ukrainian refugees. When Zelensky’s request for an appearance was turned down, Kunis spoke about the war instead when she went up to introduce Reba McEntire. “When you witness the strength and dignity of those facing such devastation, it’s impossible to not be moved by their resilience,” said Kunis.
Brian Keith Etheridge also helped with communication between the Oscars and the Ukrainian government. Etheridge said that the ceremony’s directors did not want to “overly politicize the event.” This is an easy excuse that replaces the most likely answer: the Oscars prioritizes views over raising awareness and funds for this war. Etheridge noted, “If Zelensky just says ‘thank you’ it will remind people and it could raise millions of dollars. It’s such a giant platform just to have his face show up.”
The fear of over politicizing things is one that prevents many people and events from having a significant influence on current issues. Instead, these conflicts are turned into trends and hashtags, so we can easily avoid doing something that has a real impact. If you are someone who doesn’t have the means to donate, posting on social media is an ample contribution and might help to raise awareness. However, if you are producing a massively influential event that is viewed by millions of people and attended by some of the most well-known and wealthy figures of media culture, then there is no excuse for not doing more than promoting a hashtag.