Oscars so gay: Queer highlights from the 2023 Academy Awards
This year there were three Best Picture nominees with queer or transgender characters, which represents a satisfying reflection of our community’s struggle for visibility, representation, and equal rights.
Everything Everywhere All At Once dominated the night with 7 wins, and it is queer in many ways—from the character portrayed by out queer actor Stephanie Hsu, who plays the multiverse traveling, dildo-wielding villain, also the lead character’s lesbian daughter, to Jamie Lee Curtis and her character. The film is brought to us by American independent entertainment company A24, also behind Best Picture winner Moonlight. Satisfyingly, EEAAO garnered more acting nominations than any other film with a majority Asian cast, ever. It was a victorious night for Asian representation.
Queer ally Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress for Everything Everywhere All At Once for her role as the jaded and dehumanized IRS worker Deirdre Beaubeirdre—and several versions of this yellow-clad nightmare in alternate universes. The Halloween legend beat out her queer co-star Stephanie Hsu who was also nominated in the category. She took the opportunity after accepting her award to speak about gender binaries in award categories as the mother of a trans child.
But judging by tweets circulating showing Angela Bassett’s numb reaction, the Wakanda star was less than pleased at Curtis’s win.
Here’s what else happened, in order:
The Whale, which features a gay male college professor protagonist played by Brendan Fraser, won for Makeup and Hairstyling.
Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win two Oscars with her newest win for Wakanda Forever. She previously won in 2019 for Marvel’s Black Panther. Carter beat out Catherine Martin, who won the BAFTA and Costume Designers Guild awards for her work on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
Lady Gaga, looking fabulously dykey in a charcoal T-shirt, ripped jeans, sneakers and almost no makeup, delivered a pared-down, “deeply personal” performance of “Hold My Hand,” the Oscar-nominated song from Top Gun: Maverick.
Continuing its starburst of astonishing 11 nominations, Everything Everywhere All at Once landed Best Original Screenplay.
Women Talking, directed and written by Sarah Polley won Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Daniels — Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert — also won the Best Director and Original Screenplay Oscars for Everything Everywhere All at Once, beating Tony Kushner, screenwriter of The Fabelmans.
Brendan Fraser won the heated Best Actor race for A24’s The Whale and gave a choked up acceptance speech which officially sealed his comeback after mental health troubles and a sexual harassment revelation. Read our review of The Whale here from an obese gay man.
Michelle Yeoh made Oscars history by becoming the first Asian actress to win Best Actress, beating out two time winner Cate Blanchett in arguably the performance of her career as powerful, abusive fictional lesbian conductor Lydia Tar. Yeoh is the second woman of color (after Halle Berry in 2002) to win the award. In her emotional acceptance speech, Yeoh referred to her age, which is 60: “And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime.” The comment may or may not have been a dig at gay anchor Don Lemon’s insistence that a woman is past her prime when she reaches her forties.
Everything Everywhere All At Once took out Best Picture.
Queer notes and other highlights
Host Jimmy Kimmel got a dig in about gay Republican congressman George Santos and Nicole Kidman’s campy AMC commercials, while Daniel Scheinert said dressing drag was “a threat to nobody” while accepting the prize for directing Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Hugh Grant compared his own face to a scrotum. Elizabeth Banks came onstage accompanied by someone in a bear suit in tribute to her latest directorial outing. Ke Huy Quan burst into tears while accepting his award and mentioned how his journey as an immigrant began by boat.
It’s largely been overlooked that director Sarah Polley’s Women Talking featured a transgender character, and gay actor Ben Whishaw plays a non-toxic and possibly queer-coded male. The trans character is played by nonbinary actor August Winter.
The Twitterverse processed Cate Blanchett’s loss in a film that even though it is problematic for many queer women — an allegory about men’s abuse of power that uses a queer woman to make its point — nevertheless helped galvanize Blanchett’s strong following among queer women.
Prior to the star-studded evening, some of our favorite peeps were out and about: at the pre-Oscars Chanel party, Kristen Stewart and Nicole Kidman spent time together on the black carpet of the dinner before posing for photos together. Also spotted at the A-list event were Ariana DeBose and Tessa Thompson.
Jennifer Coolidge and Indya Moore attended the Saint Laurent and W Magazine Dinner. Ariana DeBose was honored at the Omega dinner in her honor at a private residence in Los Angeles. Billy Eichner attended Gucci’s celebration of Miley Cyrus’ new album, Endless Summer Vacation, at Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills on March 9.
See the complete list of Oscar winners here.