What the Oscars' response did—and didn't— address about the Joan Rivers snub
Every year at the Academy Awards, a few minutes are dedicated to the actors, producers, writers, and directors who recently passed away, and this year was obviously no exception. Included in the “In Memoriam” presentation were Robin Williams, Mickey Rooney, Lauren Bacall, Maya Angelou, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and a large handful of other important artists and filmmakers who we loved and honored and miss. But no Joan Rivers. Joan Rivers, who died September 4th of last year, was not included in the “In Memoriam” presentation. And the exclusion did not go unnoticed on Twitter.
Clearly, people were upset. As the New York Times noted, outrage about the snub came “in a variety of languages.. Some in language that could not be shared here.” After all, Joan Rivers was a trailblazing comedian who brazenly paved the way for other women in comedy and the entertainment industry. Even though she stepped on toes and wasn’t afraid of being a little (or a lot) offensive, Joan wasn’t afraid of making her name known in an industry filled to the brim with men who repeatedly told her to scram.
While Rivers was most famous for the Fashion Police TV series for E!, she acted in John Waters’ Serial Mom, the Burt Lancaster film, The Swimmer, Shrek 2, The Smurfs, and The Muppets Take Manhattan, according to The Guardian. The bottom line: Joan Rivers was NOT a nobody in film, and certainly not in entertainment. She was an incredibly accomplished, groundbreaking talk show host, author, and performer in her own right. So what gives?
Today, the Academy offered a somewhat flippant explanation: “Joan Rivers is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year’s Oscar show. She is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on Oscar.com.”
What we gather from this statement: this was not an oversight, but a decision. Still, the Academy’s response doesn’t explain WHY the Oscars were “unable to feature” Rivers in the In Memoriam segment. According to a 2013 article in the Times, those included in the Oscar memorial tribute are selected by a committee through a “winnowing process [that] combines measured judgments about accomplishment — who has broken ground? won awards? impressed the public? — with a determination to spread the honors across various moviemaking crafts, and some gut calls about who ought to be remembered.”
As we learned last night, it’s viewers, not committee members, who really decide. And viewers made it clear: Joan Rivers will not be forgotten