Oscars 2020: Why A Woman Would Never Win An Oscar If They Behaved Like Joaquin Phoenix

We smell double standards...


by grazia |
Updated on

The Oscars are almost here, and while we don't yet know who will be walking away with the golden statues, some categories seem more clear than others. Take the Best Actor race. It seems like Joaquin Phoenix is practically a given, thanks to his performance in last year's hit drama Joker. But one would be forgiven for thinking that the actor had eliminated himself from contention years ago, thanks to comments he made in 2012.

Back then, he was asked what he thought of the Oscars/ 'I think it's bullst,' he said. 'I think it's total, utter bullst, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it.' He did not stop there, adding: 'It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life. I don't want this carrot. It's totally subjective. Pitting people against each other...it's the stupidest thing in the whole world.'

At the time, he had been nominated twice. In 2000, for Gladiator, and in 2006 for Walk The Line. Since then, he has been nominated twice more, for 2013's The Master and now, of course, Joker. It's not his fault that he's nominated, of course. The studios behind the films pay for the campaigns which beg members of the Academy to vote for performers - and anyone else involved in the film. But he is not obliged to show up at the parade of ceremonies. He could stay away.

His turnaround has been noted before. In 2015, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler opened the Golden Globes with a sharp duologue, pillorying the stars in attendance, including Joaquin.

'Joaquin Phoenix is nominated for Inherent Vice but obviously isn't here tonight because he has said publicly that award show are total and utter... Oh hey Joaquin!'

The camera cut to Joaquin, who smiled and waved in acknowledgement.

If Joaquin has had a rethink that just so happens to have corresponded with his probability of actually winning 'the worst-tasting carrot' that he's ever seen, then that's great. But a woman would never get away with it. Men can win Oscars even if they are anti-social, if their method acting has portrayed them as grouchy or mean, or even if they are genuinely disliked in Hollywood. Daniel Day-Lewis shuns the glitz of Tinseltown. He does not court publicity, keeps a low profile, and his approach to acting could easily be described as anti-social. He has two Oscars. Casey Affleck won his - for Manchester by the Sea - amidst accusations of sexual harassment. Christian Bale got an Oscar in 2011, for The Fighter, two years after making headlines when footage of an expletive-laden rant he delivered on a film set went public.

The Oscars recognise acting talent, not moral compasses or ethics. Maybe it's right that Joaquin's statements mean nothing. But I don't think a woman would get away with it. Only likeable actresses win Oscars.

Olivia Colman spent the first two months of last year seemingly beside herself with surprise at even being in the same room as other nominees. Jennifer Lawrence gave goofy 'what am I like' interviews, ate burgers before walking the red carpet and even fell over on her way up to collect her Oscar. When Meryl Streep last won, for Iron Lady in 2012, she modestly walked up to the stage and joked that everyone at home would be thinking 'Not her again.' These women deserved their accolades. They are wonderful actors. But if Olivia had blasphemed the Oscars as 'bulls**t', she would not have won. If Meryl Streep developed a reputation for being a bitch, she'd be shunned. If Jennifer Lawrence was filmed on-set shouting at a crew member, she would never work again.

In the past decade, twenty women have been acknowledged with an Academy Award for acting. Olivia, Jennifer, Meryl. Frances McDormand, Emma Stone, Brie Larson, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Alison Janney, Viola Davis, Alicia Vikander, Patricia Arquette, Lupita Nyong'o, Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Melissa Leo and Mo'Nique. They are all gracious and media-friendly. Not one of them had been attached to a controversy anywhere near the levels of the men. No alleged assaults or particulaly inflammatory opinions had been expressed in profile interviewes. Not one of them were known for being mean or diva-like, even if they were method acting. All of them put on their gowns and smiled for the cameras. To win an Oscar, women have to be relatable, kind, funny and well-dressed. Men can be rude, distant, dismissive and dishevelled. (I should acknowedge that this doesn't concern all men. Let's call it The Tom Hanks Exception.)

When (it seems like when, not if, at this point) Joaquin picks up his Oscar on February 9th, he will cap off a successful awards season and an impressive, nigh on 40 year career. But he will also reaffirm what women in Hollywood have known for years: men are offered infinitely more chances to mess up than their female counterparts. As Joaquin so eloquently puts it, it's 'bulls**t.'

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