The Screen Actors Guild Awards Get Political

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Aside from all the gifs and memes that resulted from Gen-X icon Winona Ryder’s facial expressions, the biggest story of last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards was the many winners who used their acceptance speeches as a platform to rebuke President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The night opened on a political note when Ashton Kutcher, presenting the night’s first award, welcomed “everyone at home and everyone in airports that belong in my America. You are part of the fabric of who we are, and we love you and we welcome you.”

The night continued with “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, accepting the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series. In her speech, she called Trump’s immigration ban “un-American” and told her story of being the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France.

The political focus continued throughout the night. William H. Macy thanked Trump for making his “Shameless” character Frank Gallagher–a perpetually drunk and irresponsible man with a proclivity to go on extended rants–seem normal. “Orange is the New Black” actress Taylor Schilling called on Hollywood to “keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us.” “The People v. O.J. Simpson” star Sarah Paulson requested that everyone donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. And “Stranger Things” actor David Harbour pointed to art’s ability to “cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society.”

The most emotional and perhaps most resonant moment of the night came from Mahershala Ali, who accepted the award for best male actor in a supporting role for his performance in the movie “Moonlight.” “We see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves,” Ali said.

He added:

When we kind of get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there’s the opportunity to go to war about it, say, ‘that person is different from me and I don’t like you, so let’s battle.’ My mother is an ordained minister, I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side, I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me, we love each other, the love has grown. That stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.

Politics taking a prominent place during awards season has a rich history–one that includes Marlon Brando refusing to accept his Academy Award for “The Godfather” to protest the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans and Michael Moore using his Oscar speech to shame President George W. Bush. If last night was any indication, President Trump is in for a bruising couple of weeks.

Austin Elias-De Jesus
Austin is an editorial intern at Law Street Media. He is a junior at The George Washington University majoring in Political Communication. You can usually find him reading somewhere. If you can’t find him reading, he’s probably taking a walk. Contact Austin at Staff@Lawstreetmedia.com.



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