Many movie watchers were hesitant to see Steve McQueen‘s Oscar winning film, 12 Years a Slave, due to its severe violence and heavy subject matter. Word of the movie’s lengthy whipping scene was enough to prevent some, including myself, from seeing the film, along with the movie’s overarching dark plotline. As it turns out, not all members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences who voted for 12 Years to win Best Movie actually saw it either.
News traveled of two Academy members placing the movie at the top of their Oscar ballots despite not seeing it after the story broke in the Los Angeles Times. ”All the same, two Oscar voters privately admitted that they didn’t see 12 Years a Slave, thinking it would be upsetting. But they said they voted for it anyway because, given the film’s social relevance, they felt obligated to do so.”
These actions fit perfectly with the kind of thinking host Ellen DeGeneres talked about in her opening monologue. She predicted that one of two things might happen throughout the night. The first is that the Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Hassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o starring film would win the award for Best Picture. The second was that the audience and the Academy were racist. So in other words, if you didn’t vote for the movie you a) have no heart, and b) must be white and racist. Because any other person would understand the movie’s significance and place at it at the top of the list of the year’s most significant and magnificent films.
Knowledge that Oscar voters were not planning to see the Brad Pitt produced movie came after voting for the awards had closed. During a Vanity Fair hosted event, publicist Peggy Siegel reported that she had spoken with some voters who were reluctant to see the movie. One anonymous voter confirmed this in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The woman, a senior, said she didn’t watch 12 Years because she didn’t want “more terrible stuff to keep in my head” and that she has “never liked movies that have severe violence.” It is unclear whether this woman was one of the two anonymous voters polled by the Los Angeles Times. There are more than 6,000 members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences so these two voters account for a minuscule percentage. Most movie fans probably do not care much that the voters picked 12 Years despite not having seen it, for a) no one wants to admit to being racist, and b) it is an incredibly significant, magnificent film. I’m guessing.