Despite toxic masculinity, the real Oscar winners were…

(Courtesy Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. CREDIT: Michael Baker / A.M.P.A.S.)

It was the slap that took center stage at the 94th annual Oscars ceremony— and the world at large—  in which Will Smith publicly assaulted Chris Rock. And now today, Will Smith has been banned from any Academy event for 10 years.

Smith will be 63 before he can attend another Oscars.

After two weeks of nonstop media attention, endless social media memes, “too little too late” carefully crafted PR apologies, and an ongoing investigation per the Academy, it’s long overdue we take the spotlight away from the industry rewarding toxic masculinity with golden statues and talk about the well-deserved winners whom to fell into the wings of the Dolby Theater that evening.

There were culturally groundbreaking outcomes at the 94th Oscars that seemed to get lost in the sidelines by an actor’s narcissistic and violent tantrum. To redirect the spotlight back where it belongs: it was a wonderful year for women, the deaf community, The LGBTQ community, The Latin community, the black community, and minorities on screen.

Jane Campion became the third woman of all time to win Best Director. After being nominated in 1994 for Best Director for The Piano, in which she won Best Writing for a Screenplay written directly for the Screen and much critical acclaim in her long career, she finally became a rarity as one of three women behind the camera in the director’s chair to win the historically “boys club” prize.

REELated: Academy makes its decision on Will Smith

Coda broke first-of-all-time barriers as the first and only film with a predominantly Deaf cast to win Best Picture. Sian Heder, the director and writer of the Best Picture winner, became the 8th female of all time to win Best Adapted Screenplay with Coda.

The beloved star of Coda, Troy Kotsur, became the one and only Deaf male actor to win an Oscar in almost a century. All these first of their kind wins have given a platform like never before to the deaf community.

Additionally, Spielberg’s Anita in West Side Story was played by half-Latina, half-Black, openly queer actress Ariana DeBose who took home the gold for Best Supporting actress, making way for many underrepresented groups.

This Best Supporting Actress made history as the first Afro-Latina, openly queer actor of color to win an Oscar. The Latinx story Encanto won Best Animated Feature Film, performed their hit number “Bruno” at the awards, and were nominated in many other categories along with Latin filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda. The list goes on…

With a track record of being exclusive, it is truly astounding how much inclusivity, and interesting work was given the glimmering spotlight at the 94th Academy Awards, only to have all this light of progress dimmed with toxic masculinity. 

It’s time that we shine the light back on those who deserve it: the winners who broke barriers, whom act with authenticity, and lead their lives with grace and kindness. 

It was truly a groundbreaking year for Academy Award winners which brings hope for more inclusive work within the film industry and for recognition in the years to come.

These winners gave hope to so many underrepresented groups and artists and it’s about time THAT gets center stage.

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Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.