Hollywood evening highlights some of the big problems of society

The American Oscars program was Sunday, and although I had not seen one single movie of those nominated, I watched the whole thing, waiting for Bette Midler to sing.  Besides having a lovely voice, Ms. Midler has the same qualities as Barbra Streisand as a singer . . . and you can understand every word she sings, unlike most of the popular singers of today who seem to be drowned out by the instruments or maybe they just don’t enunciate.

Finally, at 10 p.m., Bette sang “You are the Wind beneath My Wings,” following the tribute to the long list of people in the movie industry who have died this past year.

I thought the funniest part of the evening was the commercial for Pepsi Mini.

It was a huge production with several scenes and lots of action, including a building blowing up, to show people overjoyed to drink from a smaller can of Pepsi.  As a once upon a time copywriter, I would have done it all with a simple, “It stays cold until the last drop.”

Along with Bette, this was the year of the women and minorities. Ellen DeGeneres, of TV, and a role model for LGBT was the host for the program. Alfonso Cuaron of Mexico and mastermind behind the movie “Gravity,” won an Oscar.  Two first-time actors from Africa were nominated for their supporting roles, and Lupita Nyong’o of Kenya won.  African-American director Steve McQueen won as best director of the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave.”  Two of the nominees were women over 75, Judy Dench and June Squibb. The documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom,” featuring many black female singers, also won.

In spite of the encouraging outcome of the Oscars, neither women nor young black men will have achieved equality with the remaining population until the following conversation won’t enter our minds.

Michael Dunn was found not guilty of murder in a Florida Court, claiming self defense when he shot into a car of black teenagers 10 times, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn had told the teenagers to turn down their music and they refused. After covering the story, Esther Armah, political commentator and writer on Alternet, wrote the following:

“I hear an emerging and troubling “what do we tell our black boys about how to behave?” narrative. This framing is deeply problematic. It is the equivalent of asking ‘what do we tell girls and young women about what to wear and how to act so they don’t get  sexually assaulted?’ . . . .  ”It implies if black boys would just behave differently they would be less likely to meet the bullets from ‘stand your ground’ gun-toting white men equipped with irrational fear and backed by a law that legitimizes their feelings.”

And, I might add, how can women behave differently so they will not continue to be raped by soldiers in wartime and peace, attacked on the street, or college campus?

Until those questions are no longer a part of our thoughts, neither
women nor young black men will be entirely free and able to just be or realize their own potential.

Although there were also some excellent documentaries, some showing the violence and injustice and shameful actions of governments, the Academy seems to have had enough of violence and is now concentrating on greed and what someone in a court trial in Florida has call “affluenza.”  Loosely defined, affluenza is the state of being so rich you don’t appreciate the consequences of your criminal acts, which, if you are rich enough, are called mistakes.  So money and its loss seem to have captured the Academy. But the movie that won in the best picture category was “12 years a Slave,” and is the story of freedom and its loss.  In the movie, “12 years a Slave,” Solomon Northrup, a freeborn black man living in New York State in 1853, makes the mistake of going to Washington, D.C., part of the slave-owning South.  He is kidnapped and sold into slavery. His treatment is appalling and in some cases, justified, according to a plantation owner, by the Bible.

I have no idea what this has to say of the way of the world, if anything.  Just maybe the world, along with Hollywood, has had enough of war and its glory, of violence as a choice in solving problems.  You wouldn’t know it by the news, but humans have other serious problems on a personal level with which we have to deal. One of them is freedom.

We need a world where people who have every right to be free are not punished by others who object to behavior that happens to arouse their anger or lust.

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