Though more dramatic snafus took center stage, Will Smith’s outburst wasn’t the only uncomfortable moment at this year’s Oscars ceremony. In lieu of the eight truncated crafts and short film categories (given out off-camera and then edited into the final broadcast), the off-kilter broadcast was punctuated by incongruent nods to hits of years past. Instead of fully celebrating this year’s recognized films, the Academy trotted out talent from films observing tenuous milestones, like the 28th anniversary of “Pulp Fiction” or 60 years of James Bond.
It felt like the Oscars’ very own Sally Field moment, as if desperately begging viewers to remember — “You like movies! You really like them!”
The most recent encore of the night celebrated 15 years since “Juno,” which must feel like a distant memory to its breakout star Elliot Page. When he came out a little over a year ago, Page quickly became the most famous trans man in the world, and entered the murky waters of transition as a public figure. While pioneers like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock rose to fame solidly post-transition and Caitlyn Jenner hibernated until her Vanity Fair cover shoot, Page is the highest profile actor to come out mid-career.
As if transition wasn’t hard enough already, Page has to do it on the world stage. Before he waltzed out onto the Oscars stage looking dapper in a Gucci tuxedo, what should have been a celebratory moment — not just for Page, but for trans people everywhere — turned familiarly sour.
To present the award for Best Original Screenplay, an honor that went to “Juno” writer Diablo Cody in 2007, Page appeared flanked by co-stars Jennifer Garner and J.K. Simmons (a nominee for Best Supporting Actor this year). Their entrance was preceded by a clip from “Juno,” in which Page played the notoriously sarcastic teen set to give a baby up for adoption. (A career-making performance that earned Page an Oscar nomination.) The clip briefly shows Page as Juno, flatly ordering a whiskey, before Simmons’ character pipes in, throwing she/her pronouns around like there’s no tomorrow.
Shortly thereafter Oscar audiences got to hear Page speak for the first time, sporting a husky tenor and chiseled jaw, a stark contrast to the young person we saw onscreen just moments before. Many trans men will see themselves in Page’s confident swagger and handsome jawline, but also in the unspoken discomfort of the millions of eyes scrutinizing his gender presentation. That they were given a refresher to aid their analysis feels icky and clumsy.
It was awkward, uncomfortable, and completely unsurprising from an industry that only recently stopped treating trans people like costumes to exploit for awards. No doubt Page is proud of his work in “Juno,” but there must have been a better way to honor that while also protecting him in this delicate moment.
Luckily, Page will have a chance to develop a new body of work that better reflects who he is today. He announced on Tuesday that his character in “Umbrella Academy” will come out as trans in Season 3 of the Netflix series. Page’s character Vanya Hargreeves will now go by Viktor Hargreeves and use he/him pronouns.
Page tweeted the news himself with a photo before Netflix confirmed, sharing: “Welcome to the family, Viktor — we’re so happy you’re here.” When Page announced his transition, what would become of his current role in the Netflix series was a question, and one now firmly — and appropriately — answered.
It may be awhile before Page has enough footage from his current body of work to look back on that feels authentic to him. But thanks to Page’s own journey, we may be looking back in another fifteen years from the vantage point of very different world.