Why having stairs at the Oscars is wrong
By Paola Bassanese
*UPDATE 28TH FEBRUARY 2013*
My article has been used without my permission by a third party website. I have contacted the website to remove it.
The comments under the article on the third party’s website were mostly derogatory and I have reported the accident.
However some users in the forum made valid points so I am now including what I have learned from the feedback in the main text.
The Oscars, Grammys, BAFTAs, MTV Awards and other galas and awards ceremonies tend to have stairs to get to the stage for the various acceptance speeches.
Acceptance speeches can be a health and safety hazard in today’s televised and hyper-connected world: there will always be alcohol involved in those high profile events with a resulting lack of coordination. Even teetotallers can find it a challenge to climb steps in stilettos. This sentence can be construed as being sexist but bear with me on this one: super shiny leather shoes can be slippery for men climbing stairs too!
Neither the young nor the experienced actors are immune to stage accidents: Jennifer Lawrence tripped in her Dior dress at the Oscars trying to get to the stage while the year before at the BAFTAs Meryl Streep had a Cinderella moment losing her high heeled shoe rushing towards Colin Firth (who could blame her?).
Again, bear with me on the next point: seeing these tripping on stairs accidents made me think about another issue: having stairs at these high level, global events is morally wrong.
Having stairs, in my view, shows a preference towards the able-bodied. Again, this is just an opinion. Hollywood is all about glamour, beauty and talent so it is understandable that the young, beautiful and talented take the stage. I just wished there was a bit more social inclusion but that’s the idealist in me speaking.
An elegant, curved ramp to link the stalls with the stage would be a major step forward for artists who may have physical disabilities or ambulatory issues (for example, elderly actors). The London 2012 Paralympic Games lead the way with wheelchair ramps for the medal ceremonies. In the forum comments I was told that sometimes ramps can be just as dangerous for health and safety if there’s no railing. Point taken. I was also told that theatres have to comply with accessibility regulations and have ramps on the side. If a wheelchair-bound actor were to access the stage it can be done from the wings.
Oscar winner and able-bodied actor Daniel Day Lewis portrayed celebral palsy sufferer Christy Brown in My Left Foot. Day-Lewis won an Oscar in 1990 for My Left Foot, in 2007 for There Will Be Blood and in 2013 for Lincoln.
Disabilities are confined to the silver screen and are practically invisible at award ceremonies. Although French movies Rust and Bone and The Intouchables depicted the protagonists in a positive light, the characters were played by able-bodied actors.
The hope is to see more talented disabled actors being acknowledged for their work and the first step is to make the stage wheelchair accessible.
I leave you with the powerful words of academics Michael Hayes and Rhonda Black: “Film and the visual representation of people with disabilities will continue to be important venues for constructing knowledge of disability and the relationship of disability to society.”
Conclusions (added on 28th February 2013)
This article may not make a sophisticated or elegant argument but it is purely the result of some observations about the Oscars.