On Feb. 28, the 88th Academy Awards ceremony was hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Many films were awarded for their creativity and brilliance and many actors, actresses and crew members were celebrated for their work on these films. Every year, alongside the films that are nominated for awards are the original songs written for movies during the year.
One of the songs nominated for Best Original Song for 2016 was “Til It Happens to You,” music and lyrics by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga, which was featured in “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about rape and sexual assault on college campuses.
Before she performed, Vice President Joe Biden came on stage and said a few words on the issue of sexual assault.
“Too many men and women around the country are still victims of sexual abuse,” Biden said. “We must and we can change the culture so that no sexual abuse survivor thinks they did anything wrong.”
Then, without further delay, he introduced Lady Gaga to the stage to perform.
The song “Til it Happens to You” was featured in “The Hunting Ground” to resonate with people who had suffered or been affected by sexual assault.
When she performed it at the Oscars, Gaga, who was raped at age 19, treated the subject matter of the song with the utmost respect by playing the ballad on the piano and singing the lyrics elegantly and powerfully to stir emotion within the audience.
Lady Gaga has been known to send powerful messages throughout her art, either by the way she dresses to events or performances, or by the subject of her music itself. However, there is no doubt that her clothing tends to overshadow her talent.
As she has grown and developed an image for herself, which has grown and matured alongside her, fans of “Mother Monster” have seen how she can inflict change on people.
Gaga has done so again with this song and her performance of it at the Oscars, not only because it related inexplicably well to the subject of sexual assault and rape, but because this song resonates with anyone who has gone through a significant loss.
Lyrics like “You tell me ‘it gets better, it gets better, in time’/ You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together, ‘You’ll be fine’/ Tell me what the hell do you know,” show different stages of grief and how sympathy does not always equal the real feeling of losing someone or of losing something.
But lines like “You tell me ‘hold your head up,/ Hold your head up and be strong/ Cause when you fall, you gotta get up/ You gotta get up and move on,’” inspire listeners to be strong and carry through the pain, because life will not always provide time to mourn or feel sorry for yourself.
Toward the end of her performance, Gaga was joined onstage by sexual assault survivors who stood together in a sign of solidarity.
All of them had quotes or words written on their arms, such as “survivor” and “not your fault.” And just like that, the presentation of the song became more than a visual performance and turned into an emotional call to arms for anyone who had felt alone or victimized.
Gaga’s words moved the crowd, many of them standing up after the song had ended and clapping for those survivors on stage who were linked hand-in-hand to one another.
Gaga did not end up winning the award for Best Original Song (a decision I disagree with greatly, but that’s a matter for another time).
To be honest, even if she had won the award, that still would not be as good a moment as when she performed her song. On that stage, people from all walks of life could find sympathy in the message she was displaying through her song, and with those kinds of emotions come understanding and hopefully support.
Sexual assault is indeed an issue that needs to be eradicated, but talking about it is sometimes hard for those who have been through it or have been traumatized by it.
However, even some of those who have suffered have come out okay on the other side. Lady Gaga is one of those people and she uses her influence in music and fame to do good, and to me that is much better than winning an Oscar.