ll archives: How to Host a GIRLBOSS Oscar Party
I love the Oscars. I’ve been giving fake acceptance speeches for Best Original Screenplay in my bathroom during commercial breaks since I was ten years old. (But really.) My childhood home very much fit the “stereotypical” advertising profile of the Oscars: that it is the SuperBowl for (white, cisgendered, heterosexual) women. My mom, sister, and I would gather round the television, discussing our favorite dresses, crying over “In Memoriam,” and cheering when our favorites won. These days, I may not be advertisers’ chosen demographic (not sure how much they’re catering to the radical feminist lesbian crowd), but I still host an annual Oscar shindig in which a bunch of friends come over and drink and snark and basically spray verbal feminist fairy dust all over my living room. Because I fucking love the Oscars. All things considered, it’s a unique cultural event: established in 1929, it’s the oldest awards show in the entertainment industry and has retained a remarkable level of prestige while simultaneously operating as a public event for most of its lifespan. It is older than the other awards needed to EGOT, all of which are products of the 1940s, some of which have arguably not fared as well, prestige-wise, over the years.
But in case you haven’t heard, this year is the whitest Oscars since 1998. It is also incredibly male-dominated, which itself is not unusual, but the high number of white phalluses in the nominee pool (in the year of Selma and Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the deaths of countless trans women of color) has really thrown attention on just how white and just how male-bodied the Academy voters themselves are.
There are over 6,000 members of the Academy. At this point, we know the demographics: 94% white, 76% male, average age: 63. Let’s just break that down, numbers wise. Out of 6,000 people, 5,640 are white, and 4,560 are men.
That is staggering. But perhaps not surprising.
There has been much discussion of the blatant exclusion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma, which did not receive the nominations one would typically see for a Best Picture film. The most notable exclusion, for “snub” is too meager a word, was the film’s director, Ava DuVernay. Notably, Best Director is a category in which only four women—all white—have ever been nominated.
Selma currently serves as the micro example of a macro issue facing this country: namely, the many forms racism takes in the daily lives of black Americans, as well as the glass ceiling a woman like DuVernay faces when trying to break into the “old boys club.” To many, the exclusion of Selma speaks to the very kinds of systemic discrimination Dr. King fought against, a small reflection of the kinds of life-ending “discrimination” the cast of Selma addressed when they wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts on the Red Carpet at their New York premiere.
The Oscars, this bastion of privilege and prestige, clearly is yet another front in which black people and women (and most especially black women) face an uphill battle. The answer, some are saying: boycott. Last year, when Ellen DeGeneres hosted her second Oscars, ratings went through the roof—the telecast was the highest watched in the last ten years. It would be fitting, it’s been suggested, if this year, ratings plummeted. (Though I do love Neil Patrick Harris, they aren’t going to woo me with having two gay hosts back to back. That doesn’t cut it.)
So, here’s the question: when it is the whitest Oscars since 1998 and when most of the nominees are straight white men, in a year that has seen historic legislation for the LGBT community and in a year that has seen a rise in (largely white) consciousness about the reality of race relations and police brutality in America, how do you host a #GIRLBOSS Oscar party? How do you engage with a cultural event that seems to be so determinedly digging in its heels against the tide of history?
Here, let’s break down some practical hosting tips as well as some suggestions for helping your guests (even the not-as-feminist ones) engage with the Oscars and what’s going on.
Food. Theming your food to the movies is way too much work and most people won't have seen enough of the movies to notice (or care). Keep it basic: 1 salty dish, 1 sweet, a veggie/fruit tray with a few dip options, and some strategically placed bowls of munchies in the seating area. Also, Oscar napkins are an easy and affordable way to theme the party!
Drinks. BYOB will save you time and money, but be sure to have some champagne or sparkling wine on hand to class it up. (It is the Oscars.) Stock up on easy champagne mixers like OJ and a nice stout beer.
Tissues. The people we lost segment this year is going to be killer. Robin Williams. Joan Rivers. Someone will cry.
Notepads & pens. For any games. Also, the Oscars themselves offer a free printable ballot.
The Red Carpet & Commercials
The Red Carpet is where we will hear the most from women, people of color, and LGBT-identified folks. (It usually is anyway, but especially so this year.) And it will be interesting to see if and how advertisers engage with the Oscars’ super white, super guy-oriented nominee pool this year.
*Participate in the #AskHerMore hashtag on twitter (crowdsource your tweets to the whole group!)
*Things to talk about: discrepancies between what interviewers ask men vs. what they ask women
*Things to avoid: body shaming anybody
*Keep a running tally of “best” and “worst” ads
*Rank the ads after they’ve finished (thumbs up/thumbs down works!)
*(Culturally Engaged) Oscar History
Come up with women, POC, and LGBT-related trivia for each category (“How many black women have been nominated for Best Actress since Halle Berry won in 2003?” Answer: 3). Make it a game for your guests and reward someone with one of the nominated films or tickets to a local theater at the end of the night.
Create your own bingo cards of stereotypical Oscar events (“Close up of Meryl Streep”; “Red Carpet Host Asks ‘Who Are You Wearing?’”; “Neil Patrick Harris Sings”; “Actress refuses ManiCam”; etc.). This is a good, indirect spot to incite some discussion of [sexist/racist/homophobic/ageist/ableist] behavior. It requires work and imagination on the part of the host, but it definitely prompts conversation. And, of course, the first person to fill their card gets a prize!