Fame and celebrity

Oscars mishap a lesson in how to lose graciously

Amid political divide in the US, producers of La La Land and Moonlight show how easy it is to right wrongs and heal wounds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 1:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 1:32am

Losers should be gracious and winners humble. That advice was remembered by the producers of the multi-award winning film La La Land at the Oscars ceremony when it was revealed that they had been given the coveted gold statue for best picture by mistake. Unflinchingly and with the appropriate accolades, they handed it to the disbelieving team behind the actual victor, Moonlight, who returned the compliment. It is a lesson in decency that many Americans, President Donald Trump most prominent among them, have still not been able to grasp since the divisive campaign and election last year.

Outwardly, the mistake involving a mix-up of envelopes containing the winners’ name, could be perceived as a comment about the state of the US film industry. Cinema-goers are in decline and studios are struggling to remain relevant. Trump is at loggerheads with many entertainers over their liberal-leaning politics, as was on show throughout the ceremony. To some, the blunder spoke of disarray, even chaos; for those with a political bent, there could even have been the interpretation that American soft power is in decline.

Debacle at Oscars: Moonlight wins best picture after La La Land is mistakenly announced

The global popularity of La La Land, which took six Academy Awards, including those for best actress and director, shows that American films still have a wide reach and influence. Moonlight similarly proved that Hollywood is able to create serious cinema; director Barry Jenkins’ film about a young, gay black man is a controversial topic and especially so in an environment of hatred whipped up by Trump’s conservative rhetoric. It was a fitting award given the criticism levelled of late at the white-dominant Academy for failing to recognise minorities. It made a measure of amends by giving the best supporting actor Oscar to Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, who became the first Muslim to ever win an Academy Award.

Swipes at Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims and migrants punctuated the ceremony, noticeably from the Iranian winner of the best foreign film award, who refused to attend. But as noticeable were the calls for tolerance and compassion. Those on both sides of politics need to heed that or risk the nation’s decline.