Sexual Assault, Diversity at the Forefront of Politically Charged 2016 Oscars

by Alex Ungerman 11:50 PM PST, February 28, 2016
Playing Sexual Assault, Diversity at the Forefront of Politically Charged 2016 Oscars

Matters of social and political importance permeated the tone of the 2016 Oscars.

It's something you could have predicted in a year where the #OscarsSoWhite controversy put a heightened focus on the Academy's diversity issues, after nominating no actors of color for the second straight year. Host Chris Rock wasted no time addressing the movement in an opening monologue that both called out Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott of the show, and used racism in Hollywood as its primary source material, often incorporatingstarkly vivid language to achieve its messaging. Throughout the show, Rock continued to devote much of the show's running time to the conversation of race.

However, diversity was hardly the only theme of the night. Where Leonardo DiCaprio utilized much of his acceptance speech for his first Oscar win imploring action on climate change, and Sam Smith dedicated his Oscar win to the LGBT community after mistakenly speculating that he may be the first openly gay Oscar winner (referencing comments made by Ian McKellan earlier this month about the lack of openly gay winners in acting categories), it was sexual assault that seemed to take center stage for much of the night.

MORE: Kesha Thanks Lady Gaga for Powerful Oscars Performance: 'It Hit Very Close to My Heart'

First there was Vice President Joe Biden, who gave a powerful speech about the importance of consent and the need to prevent rape and sexual assault, while introducing a performance by Lady Gaga of her Oscar nominated song, "Til It Happens to You," from the movie, The Hunting Ground.

"Despite progress over the last few years, too many women and men on and off campuses are still victims of sexual abuse," Biden told the audience. "Tonight, I'm asking you to join millions of Americans including me, President Obama, the thousands of students I've met on college campuses, and the artists here tonight, to take the pledge, a pledge that says I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given. Let's change the culture!"

WATCH: Lady Gaga Delivers Powerful Oscars Performance of 'Til It Happens to You' With Survivors of Sexual Assault

"We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?'" he continued. "They did nothing wrong."

Gaga's performance culminated with the singer, who has opened up about being raped in the past, joining other sexual assault survivors hand in hand onstage.

Photo: Getty Images

In a touching moment following the performance, Oscar winner Brie Larson was seen hugging the individual people who took the stage with Gaga.

Brie, whose acclaimed film,Room, deals with kidnap and abuse, said after winning for Best Actress, "To the men and women who have survived sexual abuse, I was trying my best to tell their story and I hope I did right by them. "

MORE: Mark Ruffalo Joins Protest In Support of Victims of Priest Sexual Abuse Before 2016 Oscar Ceremony

Meanwhile, Kesha, who is dealing with her own legal troubles after accusing music producer Dr. Luke of raping her over a decade ago (Dr. Luke has denied all wrongdoing), thanked Gaga and the vice president on Twitter, writing, "thank u @ladygaga and VP @JoeBiden for bringing attention to sexual assault at the oscars. it hit very close to my heart for obvious reasons."

Earlier on Sunday, Gaga wrote on Instagram, "I never thought anyone would ever love me because I felt like my body was ruined by my abuser," before adding, "But he loves the survivor in me. He's stood by me all night proud and unashamedly. THATS a real man," referring to fiance Taylor Kinney.

WATCH: Chris Rock's Opening Oscar Monologue: Read the Full Transcript

Finally, after the film, Spotlight,upset The Revenant to win Best Picture, producer Michael Sugar continued to draw attention to sexual abuse in his acceptance speech.

"This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican," he said. "Pope Francis, it's time to protect the children and restore the faith."

WATCH: Stacey Dash Explains Her Incredibly Uncomfortable Oscar Moment

Additionally, in their thank-you scroll, the filmmakers gave a shout-out to "the brave survivors of abuse worldwide."

Mark Ruffalo, who was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for Spotlight, used part of Sunday prior to the Oscars to join a protest at the Los Angeles Cathedral in support of victims of priest sexual assault.

MORE: Brie Larson Wins Best Actress Oscar, Thanks 'Partner' Jacob Tremblay

On a night when the Academy needed to take a deep look inward, hopefully a lot of good was done with the voices that were heard throughout the show.

Watch the video below for more of Gaga's performance.