Why Sam Smith's error in his Oscars speech shouldn't be the focus
Sam Smith's Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Song (an award he accepted along with fellow songwriter Jimmy Napes for Spectre) has been causing a lot of controversy and there are polarising views on whether Smith's words have had a positive or negative impact on the community.
"I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen, and he said no openly gay man had won an Oscar," Smith began. "If this is the case — even if it isn't the case — I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope that we can all stand as equals one day."
Smith is not the first "openly gay" man to win an Oscar. What Sir Ian McKellen had meant was that no openly gay actor had won an Oscar. However the awards are littered with LGBT winners in other categories — including Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, Melissa Etheridge and Howard Ashman for Best Original Song, as well as John Corigliano (Best Original Score).
Smith did deserve to be called out for his mistake, there is no question about that, and the long history of previous LGBT winners should be praised and remembered. However I personally do not feel that Smith intended to make his speech about his own personal achievements but rather about the LGBT community as a whole. It was clear that he hoped to raise awareness and uplift the LGBT community with his call for equality.
Smith's misinformed comments have earned him harsh criticism, including from fellow Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (who won in 2009 for Best Original Screenplay for Milk), many Twitter fans and a Time magazine journalist, who wrote a thought-provoking article calling Smith's speech a "disservice to the LGBT youth."
"I hate to dwarf Smith's achievement of winning with his lack of understanding about the gay history of the Oscars, but the writing is on the wall that younger members of the LGBT people need to educate themselves about our shared history, whether they're speaking on stage at the Academy Awards or just going about their normal lives," Time magazine's Brian Moylan wrote — and he makes a very valid point.
Should Smith have done some research before his acceptance speech? Yes. But did he intend his speech to be anything but a tribute to the community he loves and respects? No.
Smith himself echoed this sentiment with a series of tweets defending his words.