As movies have the power to transcend human difference and remind us of our common humanity, I believe the Oscars should focus on those transcendent themes of film and the artistic achievements which help make them manifest on the silver screen.Â To that end, it would be better if award winners did use their time on stage as a platform to advocate this or that cause, or, in the case at hand, to trash one’s ideological adversaries.
What was telling to me about Sean Penn’s speech last night was not merely that he used it to make a political statement, two actually, but that he did so in such a spiteful way, choosing to attack rather than promote:
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.
If he had to make a political statement on gay marriage, particularly as he won an award for portraying Harvey Milk, couldn’t he have said that he hopes this movie will show those who voted for Proposition 8 of the human dignity that this activist/politician had advocated in his all-too-short time on the political stage?
Instead he says they should be ashamed for believing marriage should be defined as it has long been defined.
Why did he make a vituperative statement instead of an uplifting one?
This all gets back to my oft-repeated point about why so many advocates of gay marriage choose to attack the opponents of gay marriage rather than defend the idea of gay marriage.Â Bear in mind we’re not trying to prevent those opponents from being elected to office, but to advance an idea.
Sean Penn and others who wish to promote gay marriage should learn from people like Jonathan Rauch (whose advocacy of gay marriage I have often praised) and Catherine Thienmann who dare make the case for gay marriage, telling us why it’s a good thing not just for gay people, but also for society.