Sunday, February 22, 2009

Further Evidence of Change

Three years ago, Brokeback Mountain lost out to Crash for best picture, which many interpreted as homophobic reaction from Hollywood's old guard. Tonight, Sean Penn's portrayal of gay city councilman Harvey Milk was the surprise winner over a strong comeback performance by Mickey Rourke. Penn noted that he could not have won unless there were a lot of commie homo lovers in Hollywood now. That seems like hopeful news to me, except that the cultural conservatives out there in what's left of Red State America, who are still getting used to the idea of President Obama, must be reeling over the celebration of the life of Harvey Milk. People who call themselves Christians were out in front of the Kodak theatre protesting the nominations of Milk and of Sean Penn and Heath Ledger. Do these people think we should erase the true story of Harvey Milk from the history books? Have they forgotten that Jesus actually disapproved of condemning people accused of sexual immorality?

And to top it off, Slumdog Millionaire won an incredible eight Oscars, without winning any acting awards. No real surprise there, since this fantastic fairy tale had the same kind of crowd-pleasing appeal as Rocky. Yet we have made a lot of progress by being able to identify with a nobody from the slums of Mumbai, when it used to take a low-class white guy from Philadelphia to make us cheer for the underdog. The celebration of Slumdog Millionaire demonstrates America's expanding awareness and embrace of a much bigger world full of exotic, brown-skinned people.

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