THE MOMENT Michelle Obama appeared at the Oscars, the surprise guest at the end of a long and listless night, a collective groan reportedly went through the Dolby Theater media room. On my East Coast couch, I felt the same dismay: Did they really have to go there?
Because everyone knew what was coming next. By Monday morning, the right-wing punditocracy had declared this a national tragedy: wholly inappropriate, brazenly political, proof that the White House is self-serving and elitist and in Hollywood’s pocket, or vice versa.
OK, deep breath. First of all, there is no great standard for “appropriate” at the Academy Awards (which, I suppose, is a defense of Seth MacFarlane as host). This is an evening for wealthy people to name-check their agents while modeling plastic surgery techniques. Beyonce could lip-synch here, and no one would care.
Besides, the first lady’s statement was so carefully vetted and depoliticized that it left nothing to actually criticize: Something about the arts being good and movies making us laugh and cry and inspiring our nation’s youth. Singer Shirley Bassey, warning young women about the dangers of rich, cold men, was twice as relevant and 10 times more exciting.
On the other hand, given the lack of an agenda to promote or political points to be won, the FLOTUS appearance seemed like unnecessary bait, proof that the White House has tone-deafness problems of its own.
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