I won’t pretend that last week’s Oscars didn’t leave anything to be desired, that we don’t still have a way to go regarding who and what deserves accolade, and what that tells us about society. However, what I want to talk about is the beauty of art; the beauty of the way it makes us feel: that’s right, I’m talking about Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s heart-wrenching performance of Shallow.
The film the two starred in left me in tears, unable to get up until the rest of the cinema had left, and this live performance had the same effect on me. Perhaps this is dramatic, but I think that we’ve had such a tough time with the film and the music industries, and crimes and lack of representation, that we haven’t had the time to sit and think about the impact the art itself has on us. I’ve previously written about how good art cannot excuse bad people, but I believe that sheer, time-stopping talent like that exhibited during this Oscars performance, must be remembered. And it must be remembered for its beauty, and not for the tacky are-they-dating-this-can’t-just-be-phenomenal-acting discourse it has inspired.
Moments like this, at times like this, remind us why we desperately need art. It makes us feel alive, it makes us feel love, it makes us feel. For 3 minutes, 57 seconds, every spectator had the chance to briefly forget what else is going on in the world, who is missing, why they are missing. It gave everyone the chance to revel in feeling. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be thinking about what the Oscars is lacking, but having a woman who has worked her way into an industry in which her voice belonged, but her appearance was shunned, showcasing a piece from a film about such struggles, about addiction, and mental illness, stop an entire room and make them listen, is what the Oscars is supposed to be about. We are supposed to see a room full of unfettered talent, people who are there not because of who they know, or what they look like, but because of what they make people feel.
A film about periods winning an Oscar, Rami Malek accepting his Oscar whilst celebrating his, and Freddie Mercury’s, different heritages; these are wonderful things that deserve to be talked about. Equally, the inclusion of people and narratives that are damaging to others, must also be addressed. But just for one moment, for 3 minutes and 57 seconds, we can sit and appreciate transformative music, feel it within us, and remember why we all care about art in the first place. Why we must develop an industry in which everyone’s talent is showcased, no matter where they come from, in which everyone is safe to express themselves, and share their talent with the world without having to sacrifice any part of themselves. Why art is worth fighting for.