In 2015, the Academy received a message at the 87th Oscars showing from one of the winners that they probably weren’t prepared to hear. Patricia Arquette, who won best supporting actress for her role in Boyhood surprised many viewers by approaching her acceptance speech with a fiery feminist flare.
Surpassing Laura Dern, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone, and Meryl Streep, Arquette began her speech first thanking the Academy and then immediately acknowledging her fellow nominees whom she calls her “beautiful, powerful nominees.”
At first Arquette seems especially calm and collected for having just won her first Oscar. But as she goes on to thank the cast and crew of Boyhood, which was directed by Richard Linklater, the emotion in her voice can barely be heard.
Arquette thanks her family and her friends with slight emotion as she races through her speech. At this point, it would appear as if this speech was going to be just like the others, with no uniqueness to it. Arquette seems very hurried and far less emotion than others. However, every word she says is carefully chosen and said clearly.
However, after thanking those Arquette deems important—including various heroes and volunteers in her life—she begins her next sentence with a shout.
“To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” said Arquette, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
At this climax of Arquette’s speech, she moves her body to the rhythm of her own words. And with every emphasized word, the actress slightly punches the air with her Oscar-clenching fist. These movements, as well as her eye contact with the audience convey how important this subject is to her. The camera pans over the audience for just a moment and shows both Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, along with a sea of other great actors and performers cheering and applauding. A now iconic image of a standing Streep throwing her hands up in the air and then pointing to Arquette with shouts of approval is shown just before the moment ends.
Arquette’s entire speech only lasts about a minute and twenty seconds, but it seems obvious that she was prepared to say exactly what she wanted to if she got the chance.
It’s no secret that the Academy has a reputation for discriminating against numerous minorities, and it seems as if Arquette was simply responding to these controversies in a way that would definitely get noticed.
Almost immediately after winning her Oscar and walking off stage, Arquette was flooded with various criticisms from feminist activist groups. These groups made claims that Arquette had no right to say these things because she was “privileged.”
“Don’t talk to me about privilege,” Arquette tweeted the following day, “As a kind I lived well below the poverty line. No matter where I am I won’t forget women’s struggle.”
Image: “Woman” by Michal Koralewski