clock menu more-arrow no yes

Janelle Monáe’s opening number for the Oscars featured Mr. Rogers and Nazis

We honestly can’t decide if the opening number at the Oscars was good or bad.

ABC

In future years, audiences will look back at the opening number of the 2020 Oscars as either a delightful high-water mark for the hostless ceremony or an infamous travesty — and in all honesty, I am not sure which one it will be.

The whole musical performance was mixed from the beginning. We start with an unimpeachable concept: Janelle Monáe as Mister Rogers! How can we go wrong! But as soon as she started undoing her tux jacket to don a classic Fred Rogers red cardigan, a button on her shirt popped open — and she found herself stuck in her jacket for longer than she wanted to be.

Still, Monáe, who is one of our greatest live performers, soldiered through without a major wardrobe malfunction, and commenced to figuratively light the stage on fire through the sheer force of her charisma, with an assist from special guest star Billy Porter. But as background dancers filed onto the stage behind Monáe and Porter and began twirling, it was time for the next kind of weird and iffy moment.

Were those dancers dressed as … Nazis? And were the Nazis kind of doing, like, a … jazz goose step?

Yes and yes! In a tribute to Best Picture nominee Jojo Rabbit, some of Monáe’s backup dancers were dressed up as Nazis, and those Nazis were indeed doing a move that could be best described as a jazz goose step. They were joined by flower-crowned dancers in a nod to Midsommar, plus a few Jokers and some red tracksuits in reference to Us.

The “this is maybe great or else terrible” vibes continued even after Monáe finished her number, when Chris Rock and Steve Martin took the stage to deliver a tight five minutes of back-and-forth. Their dialogue was a surprisingly biting bit of awards show banter — Rock took a moment to joke that Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo was so good at hiding black people in her role as Harriet Tubman in Harriet that she’d hidden all the other black nominees from the Academy — but it was also a bit out of place. It felt like a hosting monologue, which is not what Rock and Martin were ostensibly there to give.

Technically, the 2020 Oscars aren’t supposed to have a host. But Rock and Martin had just done about as much as an Oscars host ever does. Rock even took a moment to joke, “It’s been great not hosting for you tonight.” So … oprahwhatisthetruth.gif?

I’m too confused to figure out whether any of this is good or not. See you in 10 years to figure it out.