Chris Rock spoke truth to power as 2016 Oscar host

Chris Rock set the #OscarsSoWhite controversy on its head through truth-telling humor. Some were not pleased, but no one would be the same.

Screen grabs from Chris Rock's opening monologue at the 88th annual Academy Awards.

LOS ANGELES, February 29, 2016—Sunday’s 88th annual Academy Awards telecast was the most enjoyable one we’ve seen in years. Since the political agenda of #OscarsSoWhite was already set months beforehand, there were no surprises in that regard. We knew host Chris Rock would address this topic in his usual confrontational style, as much as we knew Leonardo DiCaprio would win the Best Actor prize and get his chance to insert something about climate change into his acceptance speech.

And Rock did not disappoint, though some would beg to differ. Shaun King, the “fauxlatto” activist of the #BlackLivesMatter movement who is now employed by the New York Post as a “Senior Justice Writer” (I kid you not), decided to take Rock to task on his opening monologue.

“See, I think I put too much on Chris. I came in very much wanting him to teach his audience some lessons. He did some of that, but that’s not his training.

“It got worse. Way worse. Like I almost changed the channel on Chris Rock worse.

“Continuing down the road that the Oscars have been snubbing black folk, Rock said that the only reason they didn’t protest in 1962 or 1963 was because ‘we had real things to protest at the time.’

“Are you serious? The inference here, which I was heretofore reasonably confident that Rock didn’t believe, is that African Americans have voiced outrage in 2016 because we don’t have anything better to protest.”

No, Shaun, the inference is that life or death issues are a matter of urgent protest, and whether you get nominated for an acting award is neither urgent, nor life or death.

King continued his diatribe, ranting about the police brutality, school discrimination and mass incarceration of blacks as legitimate reasons for protest. Save for the first issue, I have not seen any BLM protests about the latter two, probably because that wouldn’t get a whole lot of television cameras.

But I digress.

King wasted more news copy, calling the rest of Rock’s monologue “distasteful, uncomfortable, and just plain wrong,” and taking particular umbrage to this Rock joke:

“When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.”

King went into Tasmanian devil mode, spitting out hyperbolic canards like a whirling dervish; spouting out pronouncements about living in an era where “black bodies, riddled with bullets, choked lifeless, Tasered repeatedly, are strewn all over this country from coast to coast.”

Seriously? Save for the liberal bastions of Chicago, Oakland, and Baltimore, statistics and evidence disprove this great massacre of blacks. From his actual racial makeup to his leadership of a movement built on lies, King and actual facts and truth are quite far removed from each other.

In 2014, the late, great Joan Rivers made a joke on her show “Fashion Police,” likening the “hotness” of Heidi Klum’s ass in a dress to the hotness of Germans “pushing Jews into the ovens” in concentration camps. The politically correct liberal media erupted with their usual outraged hues and cries, but Joan didn’t back down.

Rivers (who is Jewish) appeared on CNN and was asked if she regretted making a Holocaust joke and if she would apologize.

“Why don’t you worry about Mel Gibson? Why don’t you worry about the anti-Semites out there?” But the clincher is that the main thing is to laugh because if you can laugh ‘you can deal with it.’”

The fact that Rock made jokes about lynching, and that we were indeed laughing, reflects that we have overcome, and that we will continue to overcome. A racist society issued its worst, and we can laugh because we have not only survived, but achieved gains and laws against such evil and injustice. This is a victory, not a point of outrage.

Rock gets that, which is why his monologue worked so well.

In my live tweeting at an Oscar party, this was my initial reaction to Rock’s monologue:

The party attendees were a diverse group of entertainment industry professionals and hopefuls of different races, sexual orientations, and genders. During Rock’s monologue, I heard nothing but laughter from everyone, and even comments of “that’s right,” and, “preach it.” Now maybe part of that enthusiasm was due to the open bar, but I doubt it. I decided to test out my initial assessment by re-watching Rock’s monologue the following morning to see if I had the same impressions.

Some of his bits felt even funnier on second viewing, and this black woman laughed out loud.
Chris Rock did well at his job of host, addressing the #OscarsSoWhite silliness while still delivering the truth about the need for more opportunities and better decisions in the executive ranks on green lighting stories about diverse peoples, and changing the perspective on casting decisions.

The second time around also gave me opportunity to actually listen and watch the award audience’s reactions to what Chris Rock was saying. For most of Rock’s monologue, the laughter and applause was either uncomfortable or scattered. This group of mostly limousine liberals had no idea how to act, and were so steeped in political correctness that they could not even laugh with us or at themselves.

Bottom line: Hollywood was being being skewered, and they failed to get the joke.

Here are three takeaways Rock delivered that were spot on as well as educational:

Black people have lost perspective on what is life and death, and what can be overcome. While Blacks were focused on the greater concerns of stopping the rapes, lynchings and theft of our lives and freedoms as United States citizens, we also knew when to applaud actual strides that were made. From the Brown Bomber Joe Louis’ 1937 world boxing championship, to Sidney Poiter’s 1964 Best Actor Oscar, we celebrated these and other small victories as part of the package of racial progress.

Since 2001, it’s a big deal that 11 years of Oscars have seen many Black nominations and awards. It’s also a big deal that a black man, Will Smith, could pull $20 million for a really crappy movie (“Wild Wild West”) just like his white counterparts routinely do. That’s also racial progress. Can we not own it and stop whining about how we have moved backwards?

Comedian Kevin Hart (“Think Like A Man”, “Ride Along 2”), who was also on the receiving end of many of Rock’s jokes said it best:

“Positive overall beats negative. With that being said, I’m going to take a moment to applaud all of my actors and actresses of color that didn’t get nominated tonight. The reason why I say that, is because I want them to understand that tonight should not determine the hard work and effort that you put into your craft. At the end of the day, we love what we do and we’re breaking major ground doing it. These problems of today will eventually become problems of the old. Let’s not let this negative issue of diversity beat us. Let’s continue to do what we do best, and work hard.”

Two years of an Academy Awards drought for black nominees and we’re wanting to mount protest and call out racism. There are better ways, and Rock did an incredible job pointing out the absurdity of it all.

Everything is not sexism, everything is not racism. Hello?! The knee-jerk reaction in Hollywood is always to go to these extremes. Can we not take a look at ourselves, recognize what is, what can be changed, and laugh at the rest?

The gatekeepers and perpetrators of the Hollywood “system” are liberals. Rock talked about a fundraiser he attended for President Barack Obama, and how he was one of the token blacks in the room. While posing for a picture with the President, Rock said: “Mr. President, you see all these writers, and producers, and actors. They don’t hire Black people. And they’re the nicest white people on earth. They’re liberals. Cheese!”

For all the conversation among these types about racist Republicans and conservative wars on women, the system is run by liberals and apparently they aren’t making great strides either in trying to break up their exclusive club of white men. They couldn’t even laugh about it, which reflects their hypocrisy.

Actor and comedian Whoopi Goldberg spoke to the industry publication “Variety” on the Oscar red carpet about why she chose to not boycott the 2016 Oscars:

“If you say to every black person or person of color ‘Don’t go to the Oscars’, then it is Oscars So White. Then who’s going to be there to represent? Who’s going to say, ‘hey, something’s wrong’?”

Goldberg, Hart, and Rock understand that saying it with humor is a most powerful and effective tool. Rock’s tool was a whiplash: smarts on contact, but makes an indelible impression.

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