Politics at the Academy Awards

Now that a couple of days have passed, I thought I would write briefly about the decision to have Michelle Obama present the Academy Award for Best Picture, and why I thought this was such a distasteful mistake.

I wanted to let some time pass to reflect on the matter.  Michelle Obama is not exactly my favorite public person, and so I wanted to try to prevent my dislike of her from biasing my view of the decision to have her present the award.

It is easy simply to conclude that this is an example of liberal Hollywood bringing its politics into an event where they should not be.  But is that really true?  After all, Ms. Obama is the First Lady for the whole country.  But I think that one must nonetheless conclude that it was quite partisan.

The first question is what justification was there for her to be given this role?  Had any other First Lady ever been given the job before?  Had any politician?  My guess is that the answer is no.

The next question, then, is why give her the role?  Certainly Jack Nicholson would have been an excellent presenter.  He needed no assistance.

The obvious answer is that those in control of the awards liked Michelle Obama (and the Obama White House) and wanted to give her exposure and status.

While there is no law against it and there shouldn’t be, this will obviously be alienating to those who dislike the First Lady.  It is one thing to hear “jokes” at your expense, but it is quite another to have the main event of the evening ruined.

So was there a reason to dislike the Obama presentation aside from political partisanship?  The answer is yes.  The awards should not be turned into a political event — to a kind of Obama campaign rally, if you will.  The Academy Awards should be for everyone.

Of course, liberal politics at the Academy Awards is hardly new.  But it was never so disruptive before.  I shall think long and hard before watching those Awards again.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. Daniel Artz says

    I couldn’t agree more that allowing Michelle Obama to present the Best Picture Award was distasteful and partisan. But those two characteristics have been a part of the Oscars for a very long time. For years, the Best Documentary Award has been given to blatant propaganda films with little connection to the “truth” that Hollywood says is representative of Documentaries. How else other than pure politics can one explain Oscars for “An Inconvenient Truth” or for ANYTHING produced by Michael Moore, a man who produces “Documentaries” on economic subjects when he couldn’t draw a demand curve to save his life. And completely apart from politics, the Oscars long ago became little more than an unseemly ego-fest, a stage on which the Hollywood Elite could offer themselves self-congratulatory blather on how wise, creative, and enlightened they were . But at least in the past, with Emcees like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, and others, we were at least entertained a bit to compensate for abiding the dreariness of the ordeal. Now we have Seth McFarlane??? And “helped” by William Shatner??? If that’s all there is, the event is unwatchable.


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