By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Much has even said/written about Seth MacFarlane and his taste(?) in jokes. While it is easy to blame the host, the producers had the last word, so the anti-Semitic Ted and the tasteless way of making fun of others (there were no shanty Irish jokes were there) really fall on the producers of the show. Do they really believe that poor taste and humor stereotyping groups will keep the 18-45 demographic engaged? If this is true, we are in worse shape than any of us knew!
I want to talk about the redemptive quality to the Oscars, however. The top awards, most of them, went to 3 movies that I saw, Argo, Silver Linings and Lincoln. In contrast to Mr. Macfarlane and the producers, these 3 movies were all about Redemption and against stereotyping and scapegoating. Most of us know what these movies are about; I want to view them through a Redemption lens. Argo is the story of one man and the government working hard to save a few. One man risks his life, while a few others risk their reputations and livelihoods to save Americans trapped in Iran in 1979! The Canadian Ambassador risked it all to save people he did not know. This is a story of Redemption by people who had no connection to the people they redeemed except for their human connection.
Silver Linings Playbook is a much more personal and intimate story of Redemption. It is about a family trying to redeem each other and it takes another "outsider" to bring it all together. Jennifer Lawrence, in my opinion, won because she was so realistic in her desire to redeem herself and knew that only by helping someone else find Redemption, would she gain her own. She helps the whole family find themselves, their truth and each other in ways they only dreamt of. Here, Redemption happens because of a connection that is personal and intimate.
Lincoln seems to have both, to me. Abraham Lincoln knew Black people who had been slaves and were now free, he knew Black people who were free from birth. He did not have to pursue the 13th Amendment the way he did, except there was no choice for him. He was a man of faith and a man of Justice. He had a personal connection to Black people and he had a universal connection to Justice. These connections gave him no choice but to pursue the Emancipation of Black people in America and the Redemption of the White people who had enslaved them in the first place!
I am excited that Hollywood is seeing the power of Redemption, making films that tell the stories of different types of redemption—personal, human and global. I am praying that the "powers that be" hire producers and directors who are as Addicted to Redemption as I am.
PS: I hope the Academy redeems itself in who they choose for directors and hosts!