A brief history of amazing female moments at the Oscars, which are still just as relevant now
Let’s be honest, the Oscars this year probably won’t be that iconic or groundbreaking. There’ll be some awkward celebrity host banter, La La Land, in all its white people glory, will probably win every one of the 14 awards it’s been nominated for, some tabloids will make fun of the worst dressed women there, and we’ll all go away at the end of it to illegally stream any of the movies we haven’t seen yet.
It’s the world we live in. But as the Academy Awards enters it’s 89th year, we can at least comfort ourselves with looking back at the amazing moments with amazing women throughout Oscar history. Moments like these.
Sacheen Littlefeather accepts Marlon Brando’s award
When Marlon Brando won Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather back in 1973, he decided to use that platform for good, forgoing a speech and instead letting Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actor and civil rights activist, speak on his behalf. She appeared on stage in traditional dress to give this impassioned protest speech on the treatment of Native Americans in film and TV.
‘The man never lets the woman talk’
Everyone knows it as ‘doing a Kanye’ but Elinor Burkett did it too. When Music For Prudence won the award for Best Short in 2009, she interrupted the acceptance speech of Roger Ross Williams (she was previously involved as producer of the documentary but controversially was removed from the credits). It, obviously, went viral.
Louise Fletcher signs in her speech to thank deaf fans
When Fletcher won Best Actress for her role in One Flew Over The Cuckoos nest in 1976 she chose to use the platform to thank her deaf fans using sign language. It’s emotional.
Halle Berry’s historic Best Actress win
When Halle Berry won Best Actress for Monster’s Ball in 2002, it was already groundbreaking – she had just become the first woman of color to win the award (despite the ceremony being nearly 100 years old at that point but OK). She recognised that the moment was “so much bigger” than just her in this tearful speech.
“This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored. I’m so honored.”
Cate Blanchett’s feminist speech during her Blue Jasmine win
Inkeeping with the theme of women using a personal platform to recognise bigger issues, Cate Blanchett used her speech to call for more films which pass the Bechdel test in like, any way. It was a weird one, given the controversial director of the film, Woody Allen, but you can’t deny that lines like this from influential women are important: “Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences.”
And Patricia Arquette’s one for equal pay
Patricia Arquette followed suit the year after, using her Best Supporting Actress win for Boyhood to give a rousing speech on the importance of equal pay. Depressingly, she’s since admitted that her openness has cost her roles but has gone a long way in continuing to raise awareness of the very real, still ongoing gender pay gap.
Sally Field’s iconic ‘you like me, you really like me!’ moment
OK, you probably know this one already, but tell me it isn’t your go-to practice speech for every time you win an Oscar in the shower.
Real life hero Miep Gies accepting an award for ‘Anne Frank Remembered’
It’s not often that you get real life heroes coming to celebrate the movie celebrating their heroism, which is why when Miep Gies appeared on stage to help accept the award for Best Documentary Feature for Anne Frank Remembered it was all the more emotional.
Melissa Leo’s relatable accidental f-bomb
I dunno about you, but when I eventually win my Oscar because it will definitely happen, I’ll struggle not to swear in all of the excitement. Which is exactly what happened to Melissa Leo – and the only time it’s ever happened in the history of the ceremony – when she won Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter. Oops.
Hattie McDaniel groundbreaking win for Gone With The Wind
When Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her controversial Mammie character in Gone With The Wind, the world was a very different place. She was forced to stay in a ‘blacks only’ segregated hotel in LA, she had to sit at a segregated table (the hotel the Oscars was hosted in didn’t allow black people), and was the first person of colour to win an Academy Award.
In her speech she said: “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.”
That time Jennifer Lawrence fell
Yeah alright alright, it was probably staged, we can all see that now giving the general JLaw “I’m so awkward and relatable guys! I rub my ass on sacred rocks because lol Hawaii!!” persona. But it was good at the time. At the time.
Queen Cher’s legendary mohawk year
This is everything there was, is, and ever shall be.