Brendan O’Neill

This year’s Oscars was the biggest gathering of smug, self-important asses in living memory

This year's Oscars was the biggest gathering of smug, self-important asses in living memory
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The American comic Toby Muresianu put it best: last night’s Oscars felt like ‘three hours of being told to eat your vegetables’. If there has ever been a more grating gathering of smug, self-important asses keen to educate the TV-watching blob about Serious Stuff, then I’m struggling to remember it. Hollywood has clearly forgotten what its job is: to make us squeal and swoon, not raise our awareness about rape and paedophilia and the heat death of the planet and all the other misanthropic bilge the beautiful people spouted last night.

Black people must have been counting their blessings. Sure, being shunned by the 2016 Oscars might have seemed a bit iffy at first, but what a stroke of luck it turned out to be to be left out of a political freakshow in which Lady Gaga sang a ditty about campus rape and Leonardo DiCaprio did his best impression of an earnest but dim sixth-former in his infantile speech about evil polluters plotting against poor Mother Earth. That he did this while accepting the Best Actor gong for a film that is literally all about how mental Mother Nature is — The Revenant — confirmed that he really is just a pretty face.

‘Climate change is real, it is happening right now’, said Leo, to vigorous applause, of course, since believing in climate change is to the 21st century what believing in God was to the 14th: do it or you’re screwed. If an actor had taken to the stage and said, ‘Meh, I’m not convinced by this climate-change lark’, he’d have been elbowed out of Hollywood polite society faster than you could say ‘Joseph McCarthy’.

We shouldn’t ‘take this planet for granted’, decreed DiCaprio. Mate, your award is for a film in which a bear nearly kills you, the cold almost consumes you, and you have to sleep inside a horse just to keep warm. If you had any sense your speech would have been: ‘Nature is a bitch. Seriously. The more mankind can do to tame her, the better. Industrialise everywhere.’

Amazingly, DiCaprio’s dimness was outdone by Lady Gaga’s self-importance. Lady Gaga is self-importance made flesh. Her facial features seem permanently moulded into a look of know-all pomposity. Last night, she thankfully spared us her dress made of meat (the entertainment industry reduces people to flesh, yeah?) and those selfies she took that time she was a bit fat (fat is a feminist issue, right?), and instead treated us to the song ‘Till It Happens To You’. Which is about rape. Crikey. Bring back the meat dress.

‘Till It Happens To You’ is the song Gaga wrote for the documentary The Hunting Ground, which is about the alleged epidemic of rape on American campuses. Gaga spread the movie’s message on the red carpet, when she looked down TV lenses at the blissfully ignorant masses and said with her pompous face: ‘One in five women will be raped before they [finish] college.’

Does it matter that this isn’t true? Or even close to being true? As serious number-crunchers in the US have pointed out, The Hunting Ground’s one-in-five college rape-victim stat is a product of researchers cynically lumping together everything from a drunken grope to actual rape in their questionnaires. Official figures suggest that actually around 6.1 per thousand women at college will be raped or sexually assaulted. So Gaga lied. Her face might say ‘I know everything’, but her words say ‘I haven’t the foggiest what I’m talking about’.

Not content with bashing us with overblown tales of planetary doom and rape epidemics, the Oscar worthies also gave us a generous dollop of identity politics. Everyone tried to outdo each other in the race and gender stakes. ‘I care about black people!’ was the undertone of petty much every statement of the night. Madly wealthy actresses, dripping in diamonds, complained about their pay. Sam Smith dedicated his award to the ‘LGBT community around the world’ and suggested he was the first openly gay man to get a gong. Not true. Sir John Gielgud got one in 1981, 11 years before Sam was born. Facts were the biggest loser last night.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Blimey, sounds like a heavy night! Still, at least they didn’t talk about paedophilia.’ They did. The producer of Spotlight, a film about priestly child abuse in Boston, a flat, tension-free, washed-out drama that mystifyingly won Best Film, thanked the Oscars for ‘ampli[fying] the voice’ of survivors of clerical sex abuse, and said the voice might now become ‘a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican’. Yep, it’s Oscars vs Vatican now. Saving the planet, rescuing women from harm, overhauling one of the oldest religious institutions on earth — is there anything the luvvies can’t do?

What a nasty night. It was like a bad week on Comment is Free made flesh. Every right-on box was ticked, every hollow PC platitude uttered and re-uttered. Guys, you’re meant to entertain us, not hector us about how awful the world and its inhabitants are. Next year, zip the lip, look good, and accept your awards with old-style Hollywood grace rather than with a tinny PC screech.