We’re Living in a Post-Envelopegate World

I didn’t watch all of the Oscars this year for the first time in my life. I had an improv practice — my team is headling a show at Second City in Chicago tomorrow night! — and made it home just in time to see Lin-Manuel rap. And it seemed like I didn’t miss much. It was kind of boring. Until the last two minutes.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those last two minutes. About the announcement of Best Picture. About #envelopegate. I’ve watched this annotated video of the moment from Slate about a dozen times.

I feel like I could write a book about that moment.

There’s so much to unpack here.

  1. First of all, there’s Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. I know, it was not their fault that they were handed the wrong envelope. But, the drunken look on Beatty’s face as he passed the card off to Dunaway is a look I think we’ve seen a few too many times before as men toss off responsibility and mess to the women next them.
  2. Then, there’s the ridiculous nature of awards shows as a whole. They’re fun and they connect people, but it’s also absolutely toxic and absurd to pit artists against each other in a contest that is entirely subjective and political. Never was that more clear than when one group of perfectly talented and deserving filmmakers (albeit ones who made, in my opinion, an overrated movie) had to hand over their trophies to another group of perfectly talented and deserving filmmakers. That’s simply silly, and speaks to the arbitrary frivolity of the whole thing.
  3. There’s the unraveling of the facade. Hollywood is a town built on movie magic, on the big spectacle and high production value. Every piece of a a movie is carefully constructed, as is every piece of a Hollywood event. When one of those pieces breaks and you get to witness the natural chaos underneath the glitz, well that’s just mesermerizing.
  4. It must have been an incredibly devastating moment for the La La Land team. Thinking you’ve received the highest honor in your field only to have it taken back moments later is quite the emotional roller coaster. The entire La La Landteam, especially producer Jordan Horowitz, handled the whole mess very gracefully. But also, like… they did the basic, decent thing. What else were they going to do, run off the stage with the statues and hope no one ever caught them? (Hey, it worked for Joey Tribbiani, so maybe it could work for Damien Chazelle too.) Lots of people painted Horowitz as the real hero of the Oscars, which seems like a very bit title to betstow upon someone who just plainly didn’t take what wasn’t his.
  5. There’s some kind of profound symbolism in the visual of an almost entirely white group of people being kicked off the stage in favor of an almost entirely black group of people. And, the white group produced a fun, candy-colored Hollywood movie about the problems of people with privilege– but the true winner of the night was the black, gay fantasia that represents people who hsitorically don’t get this sort of mainstream attention. In my opinion, Moonlight was simply a better movie than La La Land. But then you layer on the social implications and the striking visual of changing of the guard on the Oscars stage, and it makes the win all the more sweeter.
  6. But, there’s also the point that La La Land will forever be a part of Moonlight’s victory narrative. It sucks that we can’t just talk about Moonlight’s win and how wonderful it is; we also have to talk about this whole debacle. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to just revel in the joy of the Moonlight cast and crew.

Some links about the Best Picture craziness:

And one bonus link: Billy Eichner talks about his childhood obsession with the Oscars.


This originally appeared in Pop Warrior, Issue №18 on March 2, 2017.

Pop Warrior is Sarah Halle Corey’s bi-weekly email newsletter about feminism, feelings, pop culture, and everything in between. Subscribe here.

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