Why Chris Rock's Opening Speech Was the Best And Worst of the Oscars

The Academy Awards have always been one of the highlights of many American viewers’ February when they can curl up in front of the television and be beguiled by famous celebrities in dazzling designer formal wear as they prance around on the red carpet and are on display for the world to admire. Many slayed the red carpet, including Charlize Theron, in a sleek and simple red Dior Haute Couture dress, Cate Blanchett emulating a nymph in her sea foam floral Armani Privé, and the ever-experimenting Rooney Mara, sporting a lace and provocative Givenchy dress.
But something about this night was different. Yes, while the most important night of the fashion and movie season has come to pass, there is something about this year that was more special than its predecessors and will forever change the vision of Hollywood. And no, I’m not talking about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar win for "The Revenant" (although congrats to him!). No, I’m talking about something above the Oscar winners and the killer fashion. I’m talking about something that directly affects society as a whole, regardless of whether or not you tuned in to watch the 88th Academy Awards. I’m talking about Chris Rock and his opening speech regarding diversity.
I know what you guys are thinking… (or at least I hope I do). While I’ve always enjoyed Rock’s comedy shows like "Everybody Hates Chris" and his indie film with Julie Delpy, "2 Days in New York," I’ve never envisioned him as someone who would make a bold political statement. Chris Rock is and always was a comedian in my eyes and therefore slightly incredible when the time came to be an orator on change. But he used his comedic abilities to not only prove me wrong, but to make me think. For those of you who did not watch, Chris Rock’s monologue touched on numerous topics. The first one was racism.
“Well I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job! You’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”
While this was the catalyst for laughter from a large part of the crowd, it got even better when he threw shade at Jada Pinkett Smith for boycotting the Oscars over the controversy regarding zero African-American nominees. Then he asked the most important question: Why? Why this year? His answer was simple: Because back then, in the 50’s and 60’s, black people had better things to do than care about who won Best Cinematographer (his words, not mine). The underlying truth began to emerge to the surface, like Rock’s joke about the tribute section of the Oscars containing only pictures of black people being shot by the police on the way to the movies. He even went as far to say that if people wanted more African-American Oscar nominees, then there needed to be “black” categories, like "Best Black Friend":
“You already do it with men and women. Think about it. There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting... [laughter] Come on! There’s no reason! It’s not track and field! You don’t need to separate them!"
While his off-colored humor rightfully warranted applause and laughter from the audience, his monologue spoke truth that may have gone over some viewers’ heads. He was not trying to get us into formation, or to boycott the Oscars, or to arm ourselves against the “sorority” racist Hollywood, where they, "like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa." NO. He was trying to explain the difference between barking for attention, and identifying the real problem in our society, which is equal opportunity (or lack thereof) in film and television. And not just for blacks. He was the voice for all the minorities that night, and while exposing Hollywood as a prejudiced albeit liberal community might have offended people, especially the sorority joke that incited ambiguity amongst the Greek community, it definitely opened people’s eyes. People have lost touch on what’s important.
Yes, we live in a world where being African-American is still a restricting life, and the hypocrisy of the media allows this to fester, but people have dedicated themselves to shouting so they can be heard while, ultimately, they aren’t actually addressing a specific cause or topic. This fanatical blogging and posting epidemic has essentially ruined civil rights as a whole because no one actually knows what they are talking about. Whether or not you agree with me is really your own opinion.
But isn’t that what the First Amendment is all about? Free speech - regardless if you can concur or not?