Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes took home the Best Original Song Academy Award for “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre) Sunday night, and the Internet is going bananas over Mr. Smith’s speech–in a bad way.
“I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian Ian McKellen, and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar,” Smith said. “If this is the case–even if it isn’t the case–I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day.”
Where is the offense here? Smith was wrong: Openly gay men have won Oscars. Dustin Lance Black took home a statuette in 2009 for his screenplay Milk (which he shadily reminded Smith of on Twitter last night). Stephen Sondheim, Elton John and Alan Ball also have Oscars to their names. Smith forgot to fact-check. He made a mistake. However, Twitter is acting like he spewed hate speech Westboro Baptist Church-style. Here are just a few particularly nasty messages:
sam smith and caitlyn jenner are two of the worst reps for the queer community yet they are two of the biggest faces????
— jordan (@jordoritos) February 29, 2016
Can't work out what I hate most about Sam Smith. How transparently self-absorbed he is, or his blind ignorance
— Sam Fennell (@SamFenLayyd) February 29, 2016
Shit Sam Smith, you really fucked up. I won't be represented by someone who is so clueless on the LGBT talents to have come before. #Oscars
— Charlotte Sleet (@charlottesleet) February 29, 2016
Yikes. All of this animosity for what looked like an innocent human error. Picture Smith’s situation Sunday night for a second, please. He, a 23-year-old man, won his first Academy Award. (Before that, he gave a shaky performance of “Writing’s on the Wall”–a fact he admitted today–that probably left him a little gunshy.) He stumbled to the stage (probably dumbfounded and sweating) and then had to speak coherently in front of Cate Blanchett–not to mention the millions of people watching around the world. Hot lights probably hit his face (causing more sweat), then he had to say words. Of course he mixed up the facts from an article he read “months ago.” Wouldn’t you have done the same thing? CATE. BLANCHETT. WAS. STARING.
Smith’s speech, ill-informed as it was, did not come from a bad place. He is a young guy publicly trying to figure out how to be a voice for gay men. He is going to mess up–several times. And that’s OK. It is quite unlikely this misstep was some kind of malicious ploy to draw attention away from #OscarsSoWhite while pandering to gay audiences, as some people think. More than likely, he tried to do something nice in his speech. It backfired. It happens. Do we really need to crucify him for it?
Also, here is the tea: Smith qualified his statement with, “even if it isn’t true.” That alone is Smith’s, “Get out of jail free” card. It’s not like he pompously stood up there making grand, definitive statements about himself. He thought this was true and it wasn’t. It doesn’t make him winning any less monumental.
Of course, Smith didn’t really have to bring this up at all. Had this fact been true, outlets would have heavily lauded him for winning. Then again, there isn’t anything wrong with patting yourself on the back either–when it’s deserved. And here is an upsetting dose of reality: Had Smith kept the speech simple, people would’ve praised him for being part of the small group of gay men to earn an Oscar. Instead, they’re nailing him for putting his foot in his mouth.
But put down the hammers, please. This blunder isn’t enough to declare World War III on Smith. Let’s save our energy for bigger fish, like the fact Mad Max: Fury Road won 1 billion awards last night. Now that’s cause for an uproar.
Did you forget about these crazy Oscars couples? Allow us to remind you.