Lady Gaga, Survivors, and Joe Biden Took a Powerful Stand Against Rape Culture at Last Night’s Academy Awards
Last year, we were really impressed by the Catherine Hardwicke-directed music video for Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You,” which addressed rape culture in a frank, inclusive, and ultimately hopeful way. “Til It Happens to You” went on to be nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar for The Hunting Ground, a CNN documentary about campus sexual assault, and was performed last night at the Academy Awards by Lady Gaga and a group of survivors with messages of hope and recovery written on their arms.
The performance itself was incredibly moving and important, but I also appreciated the decision to have Vice President Joe Biden introduce the song by talking frankly about consent. Biden told the audience, “Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men on and off college campuses are still victims of sexual abuse.” He then urged viewers to head over to ItsOnUs.org and take a pledge promising to actively combat rape culture. The pledge urges people to “RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault,” “IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur,” “INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given,” and “CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
Hollywood has a notoriously selective memory when it comes to violence against women, but I’d argue that this segment of the evening wasn’t just insincere lip-service to a serious issue. The fact that the performance was intro’d by Biden, rather than an actor, made me feel like this portion of the night was less about Hollywood congratulating itself on addressing a tough issue, and more about the Vice President calling them out on their hypocrisy. Hollywood needs to be told It’s On Them, and I think that message had more power coming from a presenter like the Veep than it would from, say, Jared Leto. I also think it’s important that a powerful male figure stood in solidarity with Gaga and the survivors. I would have been happy to see an actress talking about ItsOnUs as well, but Biden’s support is a reminder that the responsibility to end rape culture isn’t just on women, and that sexual assault impacts people of all genders.
After seeing Lady Gaga’s performance, I’m even more bummed that two of the other Best Original Song nominees were cut from the evening–I’d wager their performances would at least have been more original than that Spectre song (no offense to Sam Smith, but that is not my jam).
What did you think of the performance, friends?
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