I watched the Academy Awards ceremony under protest; my wife wouldn’t let me near the wine bottle if I didn’t. I succeeded in getting to it often enough, and made such liberal use of the DVR, that I might have missed something. But as far as I could tell, there were few if any overtly political references. If anything, the latent political content was conservative. My impressions in this respect are confirmed by Roger Simon, who knows something about Hollywood politics.
Compare last year’s awards show, when the Oscar for progressive speechifying by an actor in a leading role went to Sean Penn. Liberal Hollywood was still celebrating Barack Obama’s election, but feeling a little cantankerous over the passage of Proposition 8 outlawing same-sex marriage in California. Penn captured the mood perfectly when he used an occasion usually reserved for self-effacing professions of gratitude to lecture same-sex marriage opponents as if they were cranky six-year-olds. He brought the house down when he declared: “I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone.”
This wasn’t like Marlon Brando handing the podium over to a representative of the National Native American Affirmative Image Community to make a case most Americans hadn’t heard before in the 1970s. Making a case was the last thing on Penn’s mind. Why bother arguing with political opponents when you’re sure you can just wait them out?
Last night it sounded for a moment like Penn was trying to say something suitably progressive before identifying the Best Actress nominees. But half-way through he apparently decided that speaking intelligibly was too much trouble so he let the moment pass.