There were many messed-up things at the Academy Awards — the lack of diversity, an appearance by Stacey Dash, no nominations for “The Boy Next Door” — but there is one in particular that needs to be talked about.
I am here to address Sam Smith, the mediocre Adele cosplayer, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Writing’s on the Wall,” a song that should probably only be used as a form of euthanasia for the elderly. He won over Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You,” a powerful song about sexual assault, and The Weeknd’s “Earned It,” a great song attached to the cinematic equivalent of a root canal. “Til It Happens To You” was believed to be the frontrunner.
People were not pleased when Sam Smith, that cousin you always avoid talking to at parties, made his way onstage to collect the Oscar. The win was especially shocking, since it was right after Lady Gaga’s emotional rendition of “Til It Happens To You,” which even got an introduction from Vice President Biden. Social media exploded in anger, as seen in this BuzzFeed article.
And those people are right. Sam Smith did not deserve an Oscar for his James Bond theme. It is a horrid song — the worst of all the nominees. Weepy and flat, it encompasses the worst aspects of Smith’s previous work.
The Guardian mocked Smith’s claim that it took him only 20 minutes to write the song. The Atlantic proclaimed it “radically wimpy,” hardly the response appropriate for a song that now has an Oscar. Come on, he shot for “Skyfall” and ended up with something Chris Martin would write after popping some Xanax with a few glasses of red wine.
Naturally, Smith made things 10 times worse with his acceptance speech, which earned the ire of the gay community.
“I read an article … by Sir Ian McKellen and he said no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar,” he said.
Except, Sam Smith, a man who discovered racism still exists only a few months ago, is not the first out gay man to win an Oscar. Or the second. Or the third. If he had done literally five seconds of research, he would have seen that megastars like Elton John and Stephen Sondheim both have taken home Oscar gold. Then again, his lack of awareness is in character for someone who doesn’t know who Thom Yorke of Radiohead is.
Dustin Lance Black, a gay man who won an Oscar in 2009 for his screenplay for “Milk,” clapped back at Smith on Twitter.
“If you have no idea who I am, it may be time to stop texting my fiancé [Olympic swimmer Tom Daley],” Black tweeted.
Smith didn’t make it any easier for himself backstage. When told he wasn’t the first out gay person to win an Oscar, he assumed he was the second one.
When a reporter educated Smith about Howard Ashman, who won Oscars for his musical work on “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Smith, true to form, responded, “I should know him. We should date.” Ashman died of AIDS complications in 1991.
Smith’s self-serving behavior and lack of awareness of queer history unleashed a wave of fury from the gay community. Part of it, I’m sure, was from the fact that he was undeserving of the Oscar that he holds in his cold, clammy clutches. For many people, it was the final straw in Smith’s volatile relationship with the gay community.
For years, Smith rejected association with the gay community in order to appeal to straight people. He insulted people who use dating apps like Grindr and Tinder because it takes out romance, or something.
“I’m not like those other gross, sexual gay men,” is how his message should be interpreted. Throwing other gay men under the bus to get ahead is never looked kindly upon in the gay community.
After years of that language, Smith wants to proclaim himself the first out gay man to win an Oscar, which is not only wrong but an attempt to get more press for himself. If he had really wanted to be a positive force for the LGBT community, he would have mentioned fellow nominee Anohni, a trans woman who boycotted the ceremony over her treatment by the Academy.
Sam Smith, if you’re going to try to become an LGBT spokesperson, learn about gay history and be aware that other gay people exist. It’s great that you’re finally embracing your gay identity, but the attempt at the Oscars was a miserable failure. Do better.