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The Oscars’ Time’s Up tribute was too polite for its own good

The montage focused on representation and ignored systemic abuse.

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

The official line on the Oscars this year is that it would be about movies, not politics, and that unlike January’s fiery Golden Globes, it wouldn’t spend too much time on the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. Instead, the ceremony confined most of its acknowledgment of TIme’s Up to a single montage that amounted to a decorous, polite missed opportunity.

The montage featured movie clips with uplifting images of women, people of color, and gay and transgender people, interspersed with interviews from filmmakers like Greta Gerwig, Barry Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, and Kumail Nanjiani, all enthusiastically discussing the importance of representation in the movies. Jenkins talked of how powerful it was to see women crying in the theaters during Wonder Woman as they finally got to experience the empowerment white men get to feel at every other superhero movie; Nanjiani advised straight white men that they could empathize with movie stars who didn’t look like them. “It’s not that hard,” he said. “I’ve done it my whole life.”

It was a worthy and entirely correct montage. As the hashtag goes, representation does matter. It’s exciting that people who are not straight white men get to see themselves represented onscreen more now than they have before, and it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

But representation is also something that’s much easier to talk about politely and decorously than the other issue that the industry has been discussing in the months leading up to the Oscars: the system of misogyny that has allowed powerful men to sexually harass and abuse the women of Hollywood with impunity, a system that ultimately cost some women their careers.

That’s why the most powerful part of the whole package was the introductory speech from Time’s Up leaders Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra. Sciorra is one of the women who was allegedly blacklisted by Harvey Weinstein, and as such, she’s been largely absent from industry events over the past few decades. So as she took the stage, she murmured quietly into the microphone, “It’s nice to see you all again. It’s been a while,” and then delivered the rest of the introduction with tears in her eyes.

Sciorra’s presence is a powerful reminder of how many women have been robbed of their careers by predators in Hollywood — and how much great art the rest of us have missed out on because of it. It’s a less uplifting reminder than the message of the rest of the montage, but it’s well worth keeping in mind as we remember just why the Time’s Up movement is so vital.

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