The Surprising Takeaway from the 2015 Oscars—And Why Sean Penn’s Joke Fell Flat

Many of us expected the Oscars to open up a conversation about our nation’s identity, but it’s unlikely that we expected the conversation to be about immigration, Mexicans and cultural diversity. With two films nominated for Best Picture that drew directly on important national events—“American Sniper” and “Selma”—and with the whitest list of nominees since 1995, this round of Academy Awards seemed to be a battle between civil rights and American exceptionalism. And yet it would be a film about a middle-aged, washed-up white actor that would spark a conversation about not just the role of Mexicans in Hollywood, but about the cultural identity of our nation.

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