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Watch 10 Watercooler LGBT Moments From Awards Shows of the Past (Plus One Request For Next Year)

Watch 10 Watercooler LGBT Moments From Awards Shows of the Past (Plus One Request For Next Year)

The already-infamous mass wedding at Sunday’s Grammy ceremony has been creating fevered discussion all week, not least on this blog. But it was not the first time that a high profile awards ceremony has found itself the stage, deliberately or otherwise, for a watercooler moment for the LGBT community. Here we remind you of ten occasions – some resoundingly positive, others more questionable – that had us talking then and now:
1. Linda Hunt wins an Oscar for “The Year of Living Dangerously”
This remains one of the most composed, compelling and articulate acceptance speeches out there. No mean feat in the face of a sea of 80s bouffants, puff sleeves and Cher’s fixed glower. Hunt, openly lesbian, was the first person to win an Oscar for playing someone of the opposite sex. What more is there to say? [SS]

2. Tom Hanks wins an Oscar for “Philadelphia”

Famous for inspiring the film “In and Out” – the story of a closeted school drama teacher unwittingly outed by a famous former pupil at the awards podium – the real life version was not quite so dramatic (the drama teacher thanked by Hanks was openly gay, and surprised but not upset by Hanks’ dedication to him as one of “the finest gay Americans”). The speech’s real power came from Hanks’ incredibly emotional allusion to the phrase “all men are created equal”, in the context of AIDs-related deaths – a powerful statement for 1994 primetime television without a doubt. [MHK]
3. Madonna’s VMA drag queen tribute
Of course, it would be nice if trans acts of every variety weren’t so routinely excluded from mainstream performance platforms. But that doesn’t stop the iconic Madonna drag queen tribute at the 1999 VMAs from being fifty shades of fabulous. Best of all was Madonna’s perfect quip following the performance. “All I have to say is it takes a real man to fill my shoes”. [MHK]
4. Brokeback Mountain loses Best Picture
No film in history has received as many awards precursors (Golden Globe, BAFTA, PGA, DGA, WGA and Critics Choice among many, many others) and then gone on to lose Best Picture. But the audible gasp when Jack Nicholson revealed “Crash” as 2005’s Best Picture winner will be remembered by many as a moment when, in the face of unprecedented mainstream acclaim for an LGBT romance, homophobia reared its ugly head. [MHK]
5. Ellen hosts the Oscars
When Ellen first hosted the Oscars back in 2007 she became the first out gay person to do so. And she didn’t let the significance pass by unnoticed. In front of an estimated 76.72 million worldwide viewers she pointed out the diversity in the room “in a year when there’s been so many negative things said about people’s race, religion and sexual orientation. And I want to put this out there: if there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars, or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that.” (It’s also worth noting that this was the second time the Oscars was produced by the indomitable but now sadly departed Laura Ziskin, the first woman to produce the Academy Awards.) [SS]

6. Dustin Lance Black and Sean Penn win Oscars for “Milk”

The film itself has detractors as well as fans in the queer community, though personally I found it inspiring. But who could object to the heartfelt pro-gay messages in the acceptance speeches of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and lead actor Sean Penn? Black choked up as he promised “all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by the government or by their families” that they were “beautiful, wonderful creatures of value”. Penn meanwhile, had a pithier message for the Academy electorate. “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns!”. [MHK]

7. A tale of two kisses
When is a so-called “lesbian kiss” between two avowedly straight female celebrities an exploitative publicity stunt and when is it fantasy in action? At the 2010 Critics Choice awards, Sandra Bullock did what every queer wishes they could, nicking a kiss from a complicit Meryl Streep. Turns out Sandra had received three dead orchids weeks before with a note reading “Die, bitch. Love, Meryl”. Officially the hottest come-on ever. Meanwhile, there was tension at the water-cooler over Madonna, Britney and Christina’s infamous antics at the 2003 VMAs. Lots said “hot”, plenty more said “cynical”, I say give an Emmy to whoever orchestrated the cut-away to Justin Timberlake’s face seconds after the kiss went down. [SS]
8. Iain Canning thanks his boyfriend at the Oscars podium
Granted this did not generate as many column inches as other events on this list. But in its own quiet way, it was significant. When Iain Canning accepted the Academy Award for Best Picture as producer of The Kings Speech, he included among his thanks “my boyfriend Ben”. Rest assured that a hell of a lot of queer awards winners before him, both open and closeted, have been rather more discreet. Sometimes, grand gestures and big pronouncements are needed. But in this case, it was the sheer normality of the moment that made it powerful. We can only hope that in the future, such moments become so commonplace as to not even be worth noting. [MHK]
9. Frank Ocean performing “Thinkin Bout You” at the 2012 VMAs
In July 2012 Frank Ocean posted a poignant note on tumblr about his first love. It happened when he was 19, it was (he thought then) unrequited, and it was with a guy. His breakout album “Channel Orange” was released a few days later. The summer ended with the VMAs where he offered this stripped-back, stunning version of “Thinkin Bout You”. The lyrics, slowed to an ache, felt like an appeal: “Do you think about me still?” Whatever the song is “really” about, this was a big moment for the Odd Future rapper and his queer fans. [SS]
10. Jodie Foster at the 2013 Golden Globes
Jodie Foster’s speech receiving the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award prompted all sorts of reactions and it was one of our lowlights for 2013 simply for the obvious unease expressed by Foster herself. And she had a point: the precious is no longer allowed to be private. Sacrificing privacy for visibility can feel the cost or duty of being queer, and Jodi’s discomfort raised an interesting point. Is the battle against prejudice and closet-culture inadvertently demanding an unreasonable openness from LBGT people, who might value privacy for reasons other than shame? [SS]
And finally… our wish for this year’s awards season. This live recording of Angel Haze covering “Drunk in Love” just dropped and we say she and Lady Bey duet to open the 2014 VMAs in a fabulously queer way.

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