The Oscars' Trump Jokes Didn't Go Far Enough

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If you went into the 2017 Academy Awards thinking politics would be off the table, you'd have to have been kidding yourself. Like most awards shows this season, the Oscars put America's current political climate front and center, with the host, nominees, and presenters discussing topics ranging from immigration to equality. And of course, there were the Trump references. No 2017 awards show has been complete without at least a few quips at the president's expense, and the Oscars were no exception. Yet sadly, these references were, by and large, lighthearted jokes, rather than actual, serious commentary on Trump's behavior and the negative effects of his administration's policies.

Early in the night, host Jimmy Kimmel made reference to the president during his opening monologue, saying, "Maybe this isn’t a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That's gone, thanks to him." Shortly after, he joked to French nominee Isabelle Huppert, "I'm glad Homeland Security let you in tonight." Later, Kimmel said, "Before we go any further, if there's anyone here from CNN or the LA or New York Times, if you work for anything with the word Times in it, even Medieval Times... we have no tolerance for fake news. Fake tans we love, but fake news..."

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Midway through the show, while introducing Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Kimmel said this: "And now for something that is very rare nowadays: a president who believes in both arts and sciences." And, later, an entire joke surrounded Kimmel tweeting the president because he was so shocked Trump hadn't yet tweeted about the show. "U up?" said one tweet. "#MerylSaysHi", said another. Then, towards the night's end, when Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren won for La La Land, Kimmel deadpanned, "We're so sorry about what happened in Sweden last week," referencing Trump's recent, unfounded claim about a crime increase in the country.

It's not that these jokes aren't funny; while some hit harder than others, most of Kimmel's references to Trump garnered a chuckle or two. But the problem was, they were just jokes. The host's Trump shout-outs were silly, easy jabs at the president, not the serious, angry call-outs that have colored past awards shows like the Globes or the SAGs. Instead of impassioned speeches and tear-filled diatribes, the vast majority of the night's Trump references were quips that criticized his policies, but seemed to consider them just annoying, inevitable, truths. Each joke carried the same, resigned tone of: "hey, this guy's pretty bad, but it is what it is, right?"

It's disappointing that it's only been a month since Trump took office, and already, Hollywood seems to be shrugging off the negative consequences of his presidency. Just a few weeks ago, Meryl Streep was giving an emotional speech about the president at the Globes, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was using her SAG acceptance speech to condemn the administration for its immigration bans. Now, we've moved to making light of Trump's behavior and policies, apparently already resigned and able to joke about about their effects.

There were a few serious political moments during the night, such as when presenter Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor, criticized Trump for the proposed Mexican-U.S. wall. "As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us," he said. Elsewhere in the night, a few winners, such as Moonlight's Barry Jenkins, took their time at the podium to powerfully share their support for minorities and those oppressed in today's society.

Still, those moments, while certainly meaningful, were few and far-between. The majority of the Oscars' Trump references were simple jokes, with the president being made fun of, but not seriously condemned. It's a shame that despite ample opportunity for the host, nominees, and presenters to make their feelings known about the president, most of those at the Oscars instead chose to laugh off his policies and discriminatory behavior.