#BlacknessTODAY: 12 Years A Slave Wins Oscar

One of the things I despise most is when something happens (be it small or large) and you take notice of it and then people lose their marbles at the very concept of you mentioning it. Because if they aren’t bothered by something then obviously anyone who would even mention it is an asshole. For example: During the Academy Awards the movie 12 Years A Slave won best picture. As a fan of the movie and a Black guy I was excited and surprised at the same time it won. When everyone hit the stage the first person on mic was Brad Pitt who was one of the producers. And while this is normal protocol for Best Picture I did notice it and found it odd because of the current circumstances that were at play. Around that same time I noticed someone on Twitter catching flack for mentioning it and I sent the following tweet:

And then…Twitter.

All sorts of folks got mad and one lovely person called me a piece of garbage for insulting Brad Pitt. (In all of the tweets I sent I never insulted anyone involved in the Awards. I only spoke of the optics.) As a result I decided to deal with this on the latest BlacknessTODAY. Check it out and let me know what you think. Even if you disagree or didn’t notice I hope you understand my overall point and where I’m coming from with it.

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116 replies
  1. 1
    Belafon says:

    Should Pitt have been on stage at all? How about the director, who’s not even American? Is it pronounced African-British or British-African?

  2. 2
    Cervantes says:

    Did not watch the ceremony but your mentioning the optics here made me look just now — and I agree, it was jarring, and unfortunate. On the other hand, I think Pitt fairly quickly invited the director to the microphone — so there’s that.

    Thanks.

  3. 3
    Joel says:

    @Belafon: Yeah, the producers get to collect the picture Oscars. Is and always has been that way.

  4. 4
    Richard Shindledecker says:

    I would bet the farm that they had discussed this point before the ceremony and consciously decided to bow to tradition first and change the optics as soon as possible. There are some mighty smart people in that crowd – I doubt much gets by them.

  5. 5
    jenn says:

    I agree to the unfortunate optics.

  6. 6
    Mandalay says:

    I know nothing about Oscars protocol, and I see where you’re coming from, but you seem to have defeated your own argument by acknowledging:

    Yes, when movies win best picture the producers accept the awards. This is not in contention.

    So what do think should have happened instead? Should Steve McQueen have accepted instead of Brad Pitt? Might not that have created a real shitstorm, that everyone involved in the film surely wanted to avoid?

  7. 7
    kc says:

    1) People on Twitter are ASSHOLES.

    2) The optics went over my head – really, doesn’t the producer always go first? I did notice that Pitt was very brief and handed it over quickly. I dunno, I thought it was handled well by the parties involved.

  8. 8
    max says:

    In all of the tweets I sent I never insulted anyone involved in the Awards. I only spoke of the optics.

    I think it would have been a fine time to break with tradition for once.

    max
    [‘I mean, jeez, Marlon Brando.’]

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    Yup, the recipient of the award accepting it is just so gauche.

  10. 10
    Belafon says:

    Is it not enough that a movie about the horrors of slavery won the top film award? Part of the reason I brought up that McQueen was British is that it’s not like McQueen has truly spent a lot of time in America to experience the trials blacks go through that is a continuing consequence of our slavery. Who would you put up there to be a truly representative black person?

  11. 11
    kc says:

    Reading those tweets makes me depressed.

    I guess we’ve come a long way when people can spend days on twitter arguing that the order in which rich producers speak when they pick up their Oscars is perpetuating racist something . . . oh, fuck it. There are other things to worry about.

  12. 12
    JGabriel says:

    Elon James White @ Top:

    During the Academy Awards the movie 12 Years A Slave won best picture. As a fan of the movie and a Black guy I was excited and surprised at the same time it won. When everyone hit the stage the first person on mic was Brad Pitt who was one of the producers. And while this is normal protocol for Best Picture I did notice it and found it odd because of the current circumstances that were at play.

    I’m white and I had pretty much the same immediate reaction. But then it went away, for me, because Pitt spoke for only 30 seconds, just long enough to acknowledge Solomon Northup, credit the film as Steve McQueen’s vision, and introduce him. Here’s Pitt’s whole speech:

    Thank you. Thank you all for this incredible honor you bestowed on our film tonight. I, uh, I know I speak for everyone standing behind me that it has been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon’s story. And we all get to stand up here tonight because of one man who brought us all together to tell that story, and that is the indomitable Mr. Steve McQueen.

    In the end, it played more as an introduction than an acceptance speech, and I thought Pitt handled it gracefully.

    That’s not to belittle your reaction, though. As I said above, it was my first reaction too. And yeah, it felt odd when Pitt spoke first.

    But, as you say, the Best Film award is for the producers – so one of them pretty much had to speak. and on further reflection, I thought it was probably better that Pitt introduced McQueen, than McQueen going first and introducing Pitt.

    What do you think, Elon?

  13. 13
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Belafon:

    Oh, I dunno…McQueen has roots that pass through Grenada and Trinidad. There’s a little bit of a history of slavery there, too….And it isn’t as if the UK is some race-blind utopia itself.

  14. 14
    JGabriel says:

    @Richard Shindledecker:

    I would bet the farm that they had discussed this point before the ceremony and consciously decided to bow to tradition first and change the optics as soon as possible. There are some mighty smart people in that crowd – I doubt much gets by them.

    Seconded.

  15. 15
    srv says:

    I could have sworn Steve McQueen was an American and was dead.

  16. 16
    JGabriel says:

    One more thing: I wish McQueen had spoken longer.

  17. 17
    catbirdman says:

    Elon, would it have been acceptable if Brad let his daughter, Zahara Marley, accept the award?

  18. 18
    satby says:

    Didn’t watch, would have had the same reaction as you Elon. JGabriel seems to have worked out that they were trying to finesse both tradition and the optics, which sort of makes sense. I guess.
    I have noticed that the people most attached to a “colorblind” approach to everything are usually white. Keeps them from confronting the whole uncomfortable discussion around race and privilege (full disclosure: I’m so white I’m practically albino).

  19. 19
    ShadeTail says:

    @srv: Different Steve McQueen. You’re thinking of this one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_McQueen

    The one at the Oscars was this one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....irector%29

  20. 20
    Gopher2b says:

    Brad Pitt got up there as the producer (which always happens) and immediately introduced and handed it over to the Director (which never happens).

    What a non-story.

  21. 21
    Gopher2b says:

    @JGabriel:

    If McQueen had win for Director would they still have done it this way? I guess we’ll never know.

  22. 22
    ruemara says:

    I disagree entirely on the optics, I had no problem with it. That being said, I understood your point, even as I disagree with you. And you insulted no one.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:

    Really, what do people watch the Oscars to see? Celebrities and stars.

    Not a lot of cinematographers or hairdressers striding onstage to present awards.

    When there’s a group, the Big Name goes first.

    Also too, without Pitt’s name and financing being attached, would the film even have been made?

    Magic 8-ball sez: No.

  24. 24
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I’m certainly no Oscars expert but I thought the producers always got the Best Picture award. I’m pretty sure Steve McQueen would have been the first one to the microphone had he won Best Director. Was Steve McQueen even a producer on the film? If not, it was highly irregular to hand the microphone off to him on Best Picture.

  25. 25
    JGabriel says:

    satby:

    JGabriel seems to have worked out that they were trying to finesse both tradition and the optics, which sort of makes sense. I guess.

    Actually, not so much. There was no need to finesse tradition.

    I just looked it up and Steve McQueen is one of the producers for 12 Years A Slave.

    So there’s no reason, not even tradition, why McQueen couldn’t have gone first and spoken for the rest of the producers himself.

  26. 26
    Mandalay says:

    Heh….Villager idiot Howard Fineman tweets about diversity and tolerance at the Oscars….

    #AcademyAwards show diversity, tolerance, cultural creativity of US in Obama Era. Hard power matters, per Putin, but Oscars r as powerful.

    Our fucking media at work.

  27. 27
    Mandalay says:

    @JGabriel:

    I just looked it up and Steve McQueen is one of the producers for 12 Years A Slave.

    I did not realize that, and it does kinda change everything. Elon definitely has a point.

  28. 28
    blahblah says:

    I don’t have time for this shit.

  29. 29
    kc says:

    Move over, Jimmy Carter. Brad Pitt is history’s greatest monster.

  30. 30
    JGabriel says:

    @Mandalay:

    … Villager idiot Howard Fineman …

    Fineman is usually okay, or used to be – I haven’t really looked at much of his work lately. I know he and Franken were friends.

    In calling him a Villager idiot, were your maybe confusing him with Howard Kurtz. I know I’ve done that once or twice.

  31. 31
    Mandalay says:

    @NotMax:

    Also too, without Pitt’s name and financing being attached, would the film even have been made?

    Possibly not, apparently….

    If it weren’t for Brad Pitt, we may not have ever seen 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen’s new real-life pre-Civil War drama. It’s being called one of this year’s best films.

    The film’s star (and one of its many likely Oscar contenders) Chiwetel Ejiofor credits Pitt for getting the movie made. While Pitt has a small role in the film, he’s also one of its producers.

    I think the truth is we wouldn’t have been able to make this film without Brad Pitt, because of what he brings,” Ejiofor told me at the movie’s L.A. premiere. “He’s a movie star. He’s a huge figure in this profession, in this industry.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    I do think this is a tempest in a teapot, because McQueen was obviously being congratulated on all sides, talking to the cast and crew as they came onstage, etc., so Pitt stepped up so they wouldn’t lose their time. I think McQueen even had his back to the audience when Pitt stepped in.

    It also had some interesting optics in a different way: Movie Star Brad Pitt was introducing the world to a great young director, Steve McQueen. Basically, he anointed McQueen to make him Hollywood-safe. You can be annoyed that that’s even necessary, but that’s one of the things Pitt was doing.

  33. 33
    JGabriel says:

    NotMax:

    Yup, the recipient of the award accepting it is just so gauche.

    Gopher2b:

    Brad Pitt got up there as the producer (which always happens) and immediately introduced and handed it over to the Director (which never happens).

    What a non-story.

    Again, to reiterate, Steve McQueen is one of the producers of 12 Years A Slave.

  34. 34
    Diana says:

    I understand but I’d also like to point out that while watching the actual movie the only character where you saw the movie star and not the character was … Brad Pitt. As in, you thought, OMG that’s Brad Pitt while you were watching it. It was only after the credits rolled that you could identify the rest of the cast as “all these famous actors.” Everyone became their role except for Brad Pitt.

    So, yeah, it didn’t strike me as odd that his was the identifiable movie star face for accepting the Oscar, even though after I thought about it I realized this was because he was the worst actor in it and not because I knew beforehand that he was the producer.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JGabriel:

    Generally, all of the producers involved get a few minutes at the microphone. So, really, we’re arguing about what the preferred speaking order of the producers was.

    I could see being annoyed if Pitt had hogged the mic and not let anyone else talk, but McQueen obviously (and deservedly) got the lion’s share of the allotted time.

  36. 36
    JGabriel says:

    Mnemosyne:

    So, really, we’re arguing about what the preferred speaking order of the producers was.

    At this point, sure. But as you’ll note in some of the previous comments, there were a few people who thought McQueen shouldn’t have spoken at all, or didn’t need to be accorded the privilege.

    I could see being annoyed if Pitt had hogged the mic and not let anyone else talk, but McQueen obviously (and deservedly) got the lion’s share of the allotted time.

    Agreed. I found it jarring at first, but dismissed my concern when Pitt spoke so briefly. But that’s easy for me to say – I’m white. So I’m not going to dismiss anyone else’s concerns about it.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too: up until Sunday night, McQueen was mostly known in Hollywood circles as “that guy who did Michael Fassbinder’s nude scene” (in Shame). So I think it was actually a smart and gracious move on Pitt’s part to essentially introduce McQueen to the rest of the industry as a smart, talented guy that they should all hire.

    We can get into the annoying optics of that being necessary, and the dynamic between actors and directors, but it seems to be something that Pitt thought was important and necessary for McQueen’s sake.

    And, as I’ve said all along, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Academy was comfortable giving Best Picture to McQueen because he’s British Black and not African-American, but that may be a different discussion.

  38. 38
    NotMax says:

    @JGabriel

    Again, to reiterate, Steve McQueen is one of the producers of 12 Years A Slave.

    So were more than a half-dozen other people. Should they all have played rock-paper-scissors? McQueen was not denied the spotlight.

    Entire thing is a non-controversy.

  39. 39
    ruemara says:

    This is way too much drama over something so small. Pitt is the powerhouse, the star mover & shaker, the senior management. It’s not untoward for him to get first go. In fact, he was so brief, I blinked & he was replaced by Steve “I Didn’t Star In Bullitt” McQueen. There’s more to be outraged about in Hollywood, like why the fuck most of these people won’t star in another film, why we can’t have a black superhero saga or the dearth of original films. This, this nothing.

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JGabriel:

    There were a few Twitter fights going on that night (including one between ABL and Patton Oswalt), so I think people were a little primed for an argument on both sides.

  41. 41

    Uh…folks?

    1) I explained why it ended up being the topic of this ep. I’m not claiming this is breaking news or something that needs boycotts and such. I was speaking of optics and sensitivity to things.

    2) The idea that some of y’all felt the need to tell me he’s the producer, the producer accepts the awards when I already acknowledged it seems…

    3) If you watched the clip I explained why the optics were as they were. I didn’t even claim that the Director was pissed. I spoke of how it looked and why some folks would have that response.

    Sometimes folks it’s not about arguing why something is wrong but understanding why the feelings were had in the first place. And the best part about all of this is that very few if anyone ever suggested that perhaps Pitt say nothing. If there were 7 producers and yet only 2 people spoke that implies that not everyone needed to speak. Pitt has the credit, the award, the money garnered from the movie. Would it have been the end of the world to simply nod and smile? Again–I’m not saying this is a crisis but there is another way of looking at it is all.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ruemara:

    Hey, now, my future ex-husband Chiwetel Ejiofor has already had a brilliant career co-starring in several high-profile movies (including Cuaron’s Children of Men). Michael K. Williams is enormously respected and doing really well on HBO series. Chris Chalk has major featured roles on both “The Newsroom” and “Homeland.” I think all three of them are well on their way to winning their own awards within the next 10 years at the most.

    The women, especially Lupita Nyong’o … well, the men are doing really well!

  43. 43
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Elon James White:

    Pitt has the credit, the award, the money garnered from the movie. Would it have been the end of the world to simply nod and smile?

    I guess I think Pitt had a different purpose — he was literally introducing McQueen to Hollywood at the biggest event of the year and putting his personal stamp of approval on McQueen.

    That has its own set of weird racial optics, but I really think that’s what Pitt’s purpose was in doing it the way he did. And I don’t necessarily think it was the wrong thing to do as far as McQueen’s career and acceptance in Hollywood goes.

    ETA: I’m not trying to argue you out of your initial feeling, because it’s not wrong, but I think there’s a different reason Pitt did it than to be a glory hog.

  44. 44
    gorram says:

    I mean, is everyone going to pretend this is wholly unrelated to Pitt’s role in the film, which is in the only role that can conceivably be misread by White audiences as a White savior?

    Like others have said, his centrality to the project – as a financial backer, as a star that secured funding/attention, and now as the figurehead receiving the Oscar for best picture – is essentially an assurance to White people that the project, even if critical of White history, is one that we can still effectively shut down.

    These reactions (that McQueen should have been grateful just to be allowed to attend, namely) are a part of that line of thinking.

  45. 45
    NotMax says:

    @Elon James White

    Also could just be that the others were gracious enough to acknowledge Pitt’s contribution to getting it made by having him go first.

    (If one is looking to make future films, them’s some durned good optics.)

  46. 46
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gorram:

    is essentially an assurance to White people that the project, even if critical of White history, is one that we can still effectively shut down

    See, I think that’s totally backwards. I think Pitt’s presence is meant to reassure other white people that it’s okay to talk about unpleasant parts of white history. Spielberg tried to do a similar thing with Amistad and Lincoln, but because he’s Spielberg and a director, he ended up taking those films over with his own point of view.

    I’ll take my theory even further — I think the person who made the space safe for 12 Years to be made was Quentin Tarantino, because he was able to show that you can make a movie that revolves around slavery and make a profit. Pitt and his other producers were able to point to that and say, See, you say movies about slavery are money-losers, but Quentin made $160 million! It basically took the excuse away that a studio can’t make a profit with a movie about slavery.

    ETA: To be clear — his presence as a producer, not his presence in the film. I have a screener on my desk ready to take home but haven’t watched it yet.

  47. 47
    Keith G says:

    @Gopher2b:

    What a non-story.

    That concisely tags it. Imagine the stories if Alfonso Cuarón had been the one accepting the award.

  48. 48
    Keith G says:

    @Elon James White:

    2) The idea that some of y’all felt the need to tell me he’s the producer, the producer accepts the awards when I already acknowledged it seems…

    Seems what?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  49. 49
    Mandalay says:

    @Elon James White:

    The idea that some of y’all felt the need to tell me he’s the producer, the producer accepts the awards when I already acknowledged it seems…

    Seems what? I think you are taking things personally way too personally when they are not meant that way. If you acknowledge a point that pretty much destroyed your own argument (IMO), that doesn’t mean we are going to ignore it.

    It’s unfortunate that you didn’t know that McQueen was also one of the producers, because that would have allowed you to make a much more persuasive case.

    Given that Pitt is a massive star, he spoke only briefly, and his acceptance of the award can only help McQueen and the film, I’m now inclined to think that things were handled pretty well. And given that the film probably would not have been made without him, it really doesn’t seem too outrageous that he accepted the award. And maybe that was what everyone else involved had wanted – who knows?

  50. 50
    NotMax says:

    @Mandalay

    and his acceptance of the award can only help McQueen and the film,

    Really good point about celebrity coattails. How many watching who hadn’t seen or avoided the film might now be inclined to see it because Pitt showed up on their TV?

  51. 51
    JGabriel says:

    Elon James White

    The idea that some of y’all felt the need to tell me he’s the producer, the producer accepts the awards when I already acknowledged it seems…

    Elon, I’m saying McQueen was a producer, just as much so as Pitt.

  52. 52

    @Mandalay:

    Um. I did know he was a producer. But that wasn’t actually my point. And I’m not taking anything personally. I just find it weird that I explain a point while acknowledging a counterpoint but explaining as to why that counterpoint doesn’t negate the point I’m making and the response by some is to just re-state the counterpoint.

    The whole “It’s unfortunate you didn’t know…” is also a bit condescending. You could’ve asked me if I knew as opposed to making an assumption.

  53. 53
    Paulk says:

    I had the same reaction as Elon. And I’m a white guy, and I understood completely in the moment that it was Pitt’s award to accept according to tradition. It just immediately struck me as a problem of reinforcing the same white power structure that grants status to Blacks.

    And it’s entirely possible they discussed how to deal with that before they went up—and I think Pitt handled it about as well as possible given that he did stick with tradition. But it still disappointed me. Maybe more white people will end up seeing it because the realize that Pitt is a part of it, more than might otherwise if it were relegated to the typical place of “a Black film.” That could very well have been the calculation.

    But if ever there was a moment for a producer to step aside, this was it. Pitt has had his many moments in the sun (unlike most producers) and the story and the man whose vision brought it to life probably deserved to be the first to the mike.

  54. 54
    JGabriel says:

    Elon James White:

    Um. I did know he was a producer.

    Sorry, my bad. From the post, it seemed like you thought Pitt went first because he was a a producer and McQueen directed but didn’t produce. That’s what I thought when I was watching the awards. I didn’t realize McQueen was also a producer until I checked the credits.

  55. 55
    Mandalay says:

    @Elon James White:

    The whole “It’s unfortunate you didn’t know…” is also a bit condescending. You could’ve asked me if I knew as opposed to making an assumption.

    It wasn’t condescending. It’s bindingly obvious that you didn’t know, or you would have mentioned it. It was pretty damn relevant (as I pointed out in post #27).

    You made a three minute video and an FP complaining about a “white guy” accepting the award, but acknowledged that it was tradition for the producers to accept the award. Yet now claim that you CHOSE not to mention that a black producer, who was also the director, could have accepted the award?

    If you truly knew that McQueen was one of the producers, yet you thought it was appropriate to omit that fact in your video and OP, then you need to find another line of work.

  56. 56
    Sourmash says:

    Steve McQueen was also a producer.

  57. 57
    NotMax says:

    @JGabriel

    Am NOT saying it is necessarily the case here, but it’s far from unheard of for a director to negotiate a producer credit in lieu of some portion of salary in order to advance getting a film made.

  58. 58
    Sourmash says:

    Steve McQueen was also a producer on the film.

  59. 59

    @Mandalay:

    Dude. So now I’m a liar? This all played out on social media with all sorts of information being posted and sent around. And it’s a pretty dick move to decide something isn’t condescending when the person who SAID IT already said “my bad.” I’ve already said that him also being a producer wasn’t the point. Just like Brad Pitt BEING a producer didn’t negate my point. And now I need to find another line of work? Yeah. Kick rocks, sir.

  60. 60
    Cassidy says:

    @Mandalay: Pretty typical suburban liberal response: “if only that dark skinned fellow would shut up and let me speak for him…”

  61. 61
    Waspuppet says:

    … very few if anyone ever suggested that perhaps Pitt say nothing. If there were 7 producers and yet only 2 people spoke that implies that not everyone needed to speak.

    True, but I don’t think we know who did what among the 7, do we? Maybe it would’ve been too weird for Brad Pitt not to say anything. And if that’s the case, then by speaking first he’s letting Steve McQueen close it out.

    I get the optics problem; I really do. But I also trust that of all films, the cast and crew of 12 Years a Slave knew what they were doing. Either that or it was a huge muckle on stage and Pitt went for the mike because no one else was.

  62. 62
    Cervantes says:

    @Mandalay: Howard out-stupided himself, I see.

    Well, hooray for Howard.

  63. 63
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Hopefully, we’ll all live long enough to see people of color overcome the tyranny of bad optics.

  64. 64
    NotMax says:

    @Elon James White

    If there were 7 producers and yet only 2 people spoke that implies that not everyone needed to speak.

    In reality, it implies nothing more than technical minutia. There is a countdown clock for total time allotted before the orchestra revs up to drown the speeches out for each Oscar awarded (along with green, yellow and red bulbs to signal when time is up) visible to the recipient(s).

  65. 65
    Cervantes says:

    @JGabriel:

    Fineman is usually okay, or used to be – I haven’t really looked at much of his work lately.

    Well, de gustibus non est disputandum and all that, I suppose, but do you recall any of his descriptions of Bush? Here’s one:

    If he’s a cowboy he’s the reluctant warrior, he’s Shane … because he has to, to protect his family.

    That was on Hardball, March 6, 2003, two weeks before Shane invaded Iraq.

    In calling him a Villager idiot, were your maybe confusing him with Howard Kurtz.

    Intriguing possibility, but no.

  66. 66
    Mumbles says:

    This seems to be a lot over nothing – and I’m not blaming you, Elon. It’s not calling Brad Pitt evil, or attacking the Oscars voters themselves. It’s just noting that, given that the oscars are known for shunning black people in general, and that 12 Years a Slave is, essentially, about a black man during slavery, it’s …odd that the first person to take the mic is a white guy. Sure, Pitt handled it as well as he could have, given tradition. But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken. That’s all.

  67. 67
    Mumbles says:

    This seems to be a lot over nothing – and I’m not blaming you, Elon. It’s not calling Brad Pitt evil (if anything, he should be applauded for getting this movie made), or attacking the Oscars voters themselves. It’s just noting that, given that the oscars are known for shunning black people in general, and that 12 Years a Slave is, essentially, about a black man during slavery, it’s …odd that the first person to take the mic is a white guy. Sure, Pitt handled it as well as he could have, given tradition. But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken. That’s all.

  68. 68
    Mumbles says:

    This seems to be a lot over nothing – and I’m not blaming you, Elon. It’s not calling Brad Pitt evil (if anything, he should be applauded for helping to get this movie made), or attacking the Oscars voters themselves. It’s just noting that, given that the oscars are known for shunning black people in general, and that 12 Years a Slave is, essentially, about a black man during slavery, it’s …odd that the first person to take the mic at the highest awards ceremony is a white guy. Sure, Pitt handled it as well as he could have, given tradition. But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken.

  69. 69
    Mandalay says:

    @Elon James White:

    Dude. So now I’m a liar?

    If you truly knew that McQueen was also a producer when you created the video and the FP, then your line of reasonnig makes no sense.

    I understood your argument to be along these lines: I fully accept that it’s traditional for a producer to accept the award, but couldn’t we have made an exception in this case because of what the movie was about, and the optics of a “white guy” receiving the award? (I honestly don’t mean to put words in your mouth; that was my takeaway and definitely correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Now why would you even concede the point that it was traditional for a producer to accept the award if you actually knew that McQueen was a producer? Why didn’t you just ask whether the optics would have looked better if the black producer had accepted the award rather than the white producer?

    Your whole line of reasoning in the video and the OP was based on the assumption that there was no black producer who could (and arguably should) have accepted the award.

  70. 70
    Mumbles says:

    This seems to be a lot over nothing – and I’m not blaming you, Elon. It’s not calling Brad Pitt evil (if anything, he should be applauded for helping to get this movie made), or attacking the Oscars voters themselves. It’s just noting that, given that the Oscars are known for shunning black people in general, and that 12 Years a Slave is, essentially, about a black man during slavery, it’s …odd that the first person to take the mic at the highest awards ceremony is a white guy. Sure, Pitt handled it as well as he could have, given tradition. But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken. And this is one of those times.

  71. 71
    Gopher2b says:

    @Waspuppet:

    I’m sorry but it was almost definitely this: ” and Pitt went for the mike because no one else was.”

    I’m always amazed how nervous even pros get when they’re in stage like this. Everyone just stands there like deer. Pitt took control and immediately used the platform to introduce McQueen (someone he probably thought should have EIN best director, and didn’t). The idea that Pitt speaking first, where he used the moment to introduce someone else reinforces a “white power structure” – as someone put above – is ridiculous. Tell me, every time a local white politician introduced our President, does that reinforce a white power structure?

  72. 72
    Mumbles says:

    This seems to be a lot over little – and I’m not blaming you for this, Elon. It’s not calling Brad Pitt evil (if anything, he should be applauded for helping to get this movie made), or attacking the Oscars voters themselves. It’s just noting that, given that the Oscars are known for shunning black people in general, and that 12 Years a Slave is, essentially, about a black man during slavery, it’s …odd that the first person to take the mic at the highest awards ceremony is a white guy. Sure, Pitt handled it as well as he could have, given tradition. But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken. And this is one of those times.

  73. 73
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Paulk:

    It just immediately struck me as a problem of reinforcing the same white power structure that grants status to Blacks.

    It’s a little trickier than that, though, because there’s an additional power dynamic going on: Brad Pitt, Movie Star, is granting power to Steve McQueen, Foreign Director of Art Films, and introducing him to the rest of the power brokers within the industry of Hollywood.

    It’s a very common dynamic in Hollywood for a powerful person to mentor/introduce a less powerful person — George Clooney does it quite often. But I think the power differential is much more obvious when it’s a white guy introducing a black guy.

    @Mumbles:

    But this is one of those times when skin color does matter, and perhaps tradition should have been broken.

    I think Pitt was using a different tradition that non-industry people watching realized, though — as I said above, Pitt was in many ways throwing his power behind McQueen to promote McQueen in the eyes of other industry people. It was basically, This guy Steve McQueen is great and you should hire him. I know that’s a squicky thing because of race, but there are multiple power dynamics going on, some of which are about power within the industry of filmmaking, which is something that Brad Pitt, Movie Star, has more of that McQueen currently does.

    ETA: Shorter me — I think Pitt was going for a specific optic, but it’s not the one people assumed at first look.

  74. 74
    Cervantes says:

    @Mandalay:

    I understood your argument to be along these lines: I fully accept that it’s traditional for a producer to accept the award, but couldn’t we have made an exception in this case because of what the movie was about, and the optics of a “white guy” receiving the award? (I honestly don’t mean to put words in your mouth; that was my takeaway and definitely correct me if I’m wrong.)

    For what it’s worth, that’s how I understood the argument also.

    And for what it’s worth, my not-very-profound response to that argument is above.

  75. 75
    kc says:

    @Elon James White:

    OK, I don’t necessarily share your point of view on this one, but I do see it, I think.

  76. 76
    Mumbles says:

    Wait, stop. This isn’t an attack on Brad Pitt, or on the Oscar voters. I’m glad to see 12 Years a Slave win, and I’m actually fine with Pitt producing this movie. However, there is a history here, of shunning black directors, writers, and actors/actresses. And that history should be acknowledged. And yes, Brad Pitt did his best at the award ceremony.

    But it’s still…odd…that the first guy to step up for a movie about US slavery, which was entirely about subjugating black people, was a white guy. Sure, Brad Pitt can’t control his skin color. And yes, he did pass the mic to McQueen quickly. That’s great. But why was he on stage in the first place?

  77. 77
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @Mnemosyne: I think the only thing dumber than the Elon’s take on this is your take. Congrats!

  78. 78
    kc says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    as I said above, Pitt was in many ways throwing his power behind McQueen to promote McQueen in the eyes of other industry people.

    And non-industry people who know who Brad Pitt is and whose viewing choices might be influenced by his, I hate to use this phrase but . . . star power.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mumbles:

    But why was he on stage in the first place?

    Because one of the statuettes had Pitt’s name on it. He was one of the four producers who jointly received the award.

    I mean, seriously, were Michael Fassbinder and Benedict Cumberbatch supposed to stay in their seats when the film they worked on won Best Picture because they’re white and didn’t deserve to celebrate with the rest of their castmates?

  81. 81
    kc says:

    @Cervantes:

    If he’s a cowboy he’s the reluctant warrior, he’s Shane … because he has to, to protect his family.

    Oh, my God. I had forgotten about that.

  82. 82
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader:

    Which one of us actually got to hold an Academy Award yesterday because they work in the business? Oh, right, me.

  83. 83
    kc says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I want to ask you about this alleged John Ridley/McQueen feud I saw mentioned somewhere, but I worry about the optics of going OT on this thread. So, next open thread . . .

  84. 84
    NotMax says:

    Mnemosyne

    Dunno if you saw the Disney thing I linked to here.

  85. 85
    Gopher2b says:

    @Mumbles:

    “But why was he on stage in the first place?”

    Lord Jesus. We really haven’t come very far as a people, have we.

  86. 86
    Cervantes says:

    @kc: Just to veer back on topic (barely): Shane won an Oscar, too (Best Cinematography).

  87. 87
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kc:

    I haven’t seen anything about it, but I’ll try to Google and see if I can get caught up. Only thing I’ll say from Ridley’s history is that he frequently argues with directors, so I wouldn’t be all that surprised. Ridley’s also from a TV background where the writer vs. director power dynamic is much different. Add in the fact that McQueen is himself a writer (he co-wrote his two previous features) and conflict is going to happen.

    @NotMax:

    Didn’t see it before, but watching it now. I love NPH.

  88. 88
    MaximumMary says:

    I went back to the Tivo and undeleted the Oscars to watch this bit again. My original interpretation stands. Brad Pitt has been to many Academy Awards ceremonies. He knows the drill. The prize is announced. He stands up, hugs Ejiofor and turns around to find McQueen hugging someone. He walks back to McQueen, gets his attention to go to the stage. It’s actually a bit funny, because the camera passes right by Pitt’s face a few times and you can see “guys, guys, we have to get up on stage and give our speech” running through his mind. Pitt heads up the staircase, looks back and sees McQueen accepting congratulations from someone else. Pitt accepts the first of the Oscars. Stands waiting for McQueen. McQueen takes his from Daniel Day Lewis, pulling him into some sort of sports spiking of the Oscar. McQueen and Day Lewis share a laugh. Pitt is ready to give the speech. He waits a bit longer, turning his back to the audience, to see that McQueen is now accepting congratulations from someone else. You see Pitt pause a moment, unsure, and then he steps up to start the joint acceptance speech.

    I thought Pitt’s introduction was brief and respectful. He’s put in a long time in the industry and this may well be his only Oscar acceptance speech, so I didn’t begrudge his words. My best guess is that the original choreography was be standing together and embracing, with Pitt speaking, then stepping back and leaving McQueen to give the main speech. Yes, the optics would have been better. But life and adrenaline got in the way.

    Can you tell I’ve worked as an assistant and behind the scenes on this sort of thing? The boss fucks it up every time!!!!

  89. 89
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cervantes:

    Also, weird Oscar connection I think I mentioned on the night: John Ridley wrote the original story for Three Kings, which co-starred Spike Jonze, so it’s an interesting coincidence for them to both win for screenwriting on the same night.

  90. 90
    Cervantes says:

    @Gopher2b:

    Lord Jesus. We really haven’t come very far as a people, have we.

    Not since most of our ancestors came out of Africa, no.

  91. 91
    kc says:

    @Cervantes:

    I know “Shane” is a classic, but I’ve never seen it.

    When I finally do see it, I hope that Fineman quote has left my memory again . . .

  92. 92
    kc says:

    @Mnemosyne<@Mnemosyne:

    Thanks! I thought you might have some insider scoop.

  93. 93
    kc says:

    @Mnemosyne<@Mnemosyne:

    Thanks! I thought you might have some insider scoop.

  94. 94
    Mnemosyne says:

    Last thing because I really do need to try and get some work done:

    Elon, I’m not trying to talk you out of your initial reaction to the optics of it. But I am pointing out that there are some additional optics going on, and they mean that McQueen is a made man now as far as Hollywood studios are concerned (assuming he wants to take his career in that direction, of course). Not just because he now has a Best Picture Oscar, but because he has the full support and backing of Brad Pitt, Movie Star.

  95. 95
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kc:

    Sadly, no. Different studio, and live action (I’m in animation, so it’s a totally different world).

  96. 96
    patroclus says:

    Brad Pitt is in that movie!!?? I think I’ll probably rent it on cable now because he’s good looking and a bona fide movie star. I generally like all the good slavery genre films (Gone with the Wind; Planet of the Apes; the original made-for-TV Solomon Northup film, and of course Django), but if frickin Brad Pitt is endorsing the genre, I guess it’s worth transferring some of my wealth to major media company for the pleasure of watching it prior to next year.

  97. 97
    Debbie says:

    @Belafon: FWIW, it’s always been the producer accepting for Best Picture.

  98. 98
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    @Mnemosyne: That response makes you look even dumber, if that is possible.

  99. 99
    ShadeTail says:

    I didn’t watch the Oscars, because I had some very important not-caring to do at the time. That said, from what I’ve seen of this video…yeah, it’s an understandable reaction on your part, Mr. White. But between the explanations of Oscar tradition and the fact that Mr. Pitt seemed in quite a hurry to get the spotlight onto Mr. McQueen, I can’t feel the same way about this. Racial optics were certainly happening there, no question, but there were other issues going on as well that someone outside of Hollywood might not know about. All things considered, there really was no good way to do this that wouldn’t have offended someone, and it seems to me that Mr. Pitt did the best he could under the circumstances.

  100. 100
    Elie says:

    Oh–this is a predictable but sad set of arguments… arguments somehow are necessary for this. And on other sites, the arguments and bad blood between McQueen and the screen writer Ridley.

    Please. Just PLEASE.

    Why discredit this achievement with such noise… please.

  101. 101
    Xantar says:

    Look, guys, it’s actually possible to have a multitude of reactions to this and have them all be valid. They’re just reactions. We can’t help how we react to things.

    It’s when you start saying, “No you’re wrong to be feeling the way you feel” that it gets insulting.

    To sum up:

    1. Elon saying, “Hmmm, that was odd” = cool
    2. Others saying, “I see what you mean but I have an alternate explanation” = cool
    3. Others saying, “What are you talking about? And why are you talking about your reaction to me? Stop talking about it!” = not cool

    There is value in talking out your reactions and your point of view. It’s possible to disagree with someone while still acknowledging that they come by their viewpoint honestly. A lot of people in this thread have been trying to do that.

    But a lot of the reactions I see here remind me why minorities don’t like talking about race issues with even the most well-intentioned white people.

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Xantar:

    I do think that Elon picked up on a real power dynamic on display where Pitt has more power that McQueen. I just think it included more elements than just race.

  103. 103
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader:

    Sorry, I had to go look at the Oscar again. It’s so pretty. And it’s true, it really is heavier than it looks.

  104. 104
    Central Planning says:

    How something looks (optics) vs. how something is (reality) are not necessarily related.

    For example:

    – Palin’s optics on mom pants vs. wrestling bears.
    – Russian skater wins because of sympathetic judges vs. doing my jumps and a more technical program.

    I understand Elon’s point. I get tradition. I understand that there’s much more about producers, hierarchy, money, and credit that we probably don’t understand and probably played into the whole thing.

    Maybe the goal of the post was to get people to think about race, history, privilege, etc. by using optics to get it started.

    So, do we know how the Best Picture producers decide who speaks first?

  105. 105
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Central Planning:

    And MaximumMary is probably right, too — Pitt is thinking, Guys, we need to get up to the stage to accept the awards and McQueen is thinking, HOLY SHIT I JUST WON A FUCKING OSCAR!!

  106. 106
    Heh says:

    No offense, Elon, I’m a fan, but come on, comments like this are what turn off the vast majority of Americans. It’s like those people hating on Jared Leto for getting Best Supporting Actor playing a transgendered individual when he himself is not transgendered. Don’t be a tumblr SJW, you’re above that.

  107. 107
    Mandalay says:

    @Mnemosyne: I have to admit that is the best comment I have ever seen on BJ.

  108. 108
    patty \ says:

    go back and look at the clip again from when everyone got up on stage. brad pitt obviously was reluctant to take the mic and he kept looking around at everyone else up there but the ones closest to him had their back to the audience celebrating with the group. it was only when it was obvious no one was going to speak that he took the mic. he looked very uncomfortable about it to me.

  109. 109
    Lee says:

    You’re an idiot.

    The Best Picture goes to the producer (Pitt) so he gets the Oscar first.

    How much hell would you have raised if McQueen had won best director and Pitt has gone up first?

  110. 110
    Rex Everything says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I agree with Elon on this one. Yes, the optics are problematic. And I know Best Picture goes to the producer. Still the fact remains: a movie about American slavery wins the most prestigious award, and the blue-eyed blond guy takes the trophy. Come on. Precedent or no precedent, there’s something fucked up about that; Elon knows it, you know it, and Pitt apparently knew it too.

  111. 111
    Rex Everything says:

    And come to think of it, I never liked the idea that the money-man should take the Best Picture award anyway. It’s like praising Pope Julius II for his wonderful work on the Sistine ceiling. But when the very subject of the film is racial dominance and exploitation it’s that much uglier & more obvious.

  112. 112
    ruemara says:

    @gorram: Christ on a cracker, that’s one effed up interpretation of what people are saying.

  113. 113
    Lee says:

    And come to think of it, I never liked the idea that the money-man should take the Best Picture award anyway.

    That is not all that producers do.

  114. 114
    Rex Everything says:

    @Lee: Yeah I know man, I really love Dino Delaurentis’s work. Nights of Caberia, King Kong, Blue Velvet, there’s so much continuity there.

  115. 115
    ruemara says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader: spoken like someone who knows nothing but is desperate for his hit of belittlement for the day.

  116. 116
    eyelessgame says:

    Well, I’m a total white-privilege gringo and I thought it was off that the first guy up there grabbing the trophy was Brad Pitt’s ego. And then I realized that wasn’t it, and he was the producer. But it was still weird, and it’s just how Oscars work, and and.

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