An opening monologue for an awards show like the Oscars is not something that we would usually consider argumentative writing in any formal capacity. Often riddled with cheesy jokes and jabs at Academy members, it’s difficult to view these monologues as pieces of writing that employ lexicon terms. While Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue this year did include the usual jabs and jokes, the deluge of allegations concerning sexual assault and misconduct in the film industry in recent months constituted a problem that the Oscars needed to address. In describing the Oscars, Kimmel first acknowledges the fact that historically, it has always been a show known for handing out awards. However, given the controversies of the past few months, he indicates that this ceremony in particular must be different. We can think of these controversies as a motive for the Oscars, a problem to be addressed and grappled with over the course of the show. Further, we can consider Kimmel’s final words as constituting a response to this motive: this year the Oscars weren’t meant to just be an awards show, but “a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment” as a response to the controversies of the past months. In characterizing the Oscars as a platform for social advocacy, Kimmel adds nuance to our perception of award shows and provides an answer to the all-important question: “So what?” Whether or not the viewers believe the Oscars successfully respond to this motive ultimately depends on their analysis of the evidence: the awards, the speeches, the performances, etc.
—Ryan Vinh ’19
Excerpt from The New York Times “O.K., before we start handing out the awards, some history, because we’re going to do things a little bit differently. The first Oscar ceremony lasted, and this is true, 15 minutes, from beginning to end. And people still complained. But — so, if you do win an Oscar tonight, we want you to give a speech. We want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment. If you want to encourage others to join the amazing students at Parkland at their march on the 24th, do that. If you want to thank a favorite teacher, do that. Or maybe you just want to thank your parents and tell your kids to go to sleep. What you say is entirely up to you. You don’t have to change the world. Do whatever you want. But with that said, this is a really long show. So here’s what we’re going to do. Not saying you shouldn’t give a long speech, but whoever gives the shortest speech tonight will go home with — Johnny, tell them what they’ll win.”