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On Oscar Night, a Kiss Is More Than Just a Kiss

March 28, 2003|Drew Limsky | Drew Limsky is a professor of English at Pace University and Hunter College.

Politically, the Academy Awards evening touched all the expected bases: Susan Sarandon's righteous gaze, Michael Moore's bluster and finger-pointing, the word "peace" intoned repeatedly and tremulously. But who would have thought that Hollywood would make such a bold stand for sexism?

Poor Halle Berry. Last year, when she became the first black woman to collect the best actress statuette, she really imagined herself as an hourglass-figured Rosa Parks. Her emotions raw and utterly telegenic, she spoke of kicking down the door of discrimination and praised a litany of black actresses before her who hadn't gotten any respect (or Oscars). One couldn't help but be moved.

This year, Berry was back to being meat.

First, host Steve Martin joked about being able to stay away from her only because of a restraining order, then he paid tribute to her achievement last year as a breakthrough -- "for incredibly hot women."

And then came the part of the show when the actress ascended the stage to hand out the best actor Oscar. This is the moment when the previous year's winner gets to announce this year's winner of the opposite sex, sort of like Miss America bestowing her crown on Mr. America. It affords the star a brief reprise of glory and an opportunity to be dignified, gracious and certified as Hollywood royalty.

But when Berry read Adrien Brody's name and the actor bounded up the stairs, scooped Berry up like prime chattel and branded her with a long smooch, there went dignity.

"Bet you didn't know that was part of the gift bag," Brody remarked.

The Brody kiss seemed to be the payoff to every Martin joke that objectified Berry. Last year, best actress; this year, house squeeze.

Perhaps the fact that Brody is young and dashing made the moment easier to bear. I guess we should all be thankful that Berry didn't have to present the award for best picture. Harvey Weinstein won that one.

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