The Academy Awards is a prestigious event where those who have excelled in film are honoured, but will yet another controversy rule the night?
With the Oscars just a day away, a lot of the buzz has been about who will win best performance, with Rami Malek a strong favourite for his portrayal of Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Having already secured the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAAFTA awards (to name a few), it seems that an Oscar is next for the Mr Robot actor but the controversy surrounding their director seems to loom like a an unwanted shadow.
For those who are unaware, 20th Century Fox fired Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer in December of 2017, with The Hollywood Reporter claiming that there was “great tension on the set, caused in part by Singer's tardiness and absences”.
This escalated when reports came in of an on-set altercation between Singer and Malek, prompting Fox to send executives to deescalate the situation until finally Singer was replaced with Dexter Fletcher within a few weeks of finishing the film.
To top this off, Singer was facing a lawsuit for sexually assaulting a 17 year old boy back in 2003, which came days after his firing from the film but was dismissed as unrelated by Singer and his team.
Since the film released, praise has been heaped on Malek’s magnificent portrayal but the film itself has suffered, as it sits a mere 61% on RottenTomatoes critics score and a few reviewers (such as Globe and Mail’s Carly Lewis) admonish the final product, believing that “Freddy Mercury deserves better”.
The question of whether those associated with the Academy Awards wish another controversy to rule the coveted night, considering Kevin Hart’s forced step-down over homophobic tweets is still fresh in people’s minds.
So, lets look at the arguments for the Academy overlooking the controversy and placing the Oscar in Malek’s hand and against giving him the award for best performance in a motion picture.
According to the Freddy Mercury actor himself, he was cast long before Singer was attached to the project, reiterating this to the LA Times in late January stating: “As far as I knew, I was considered before Bryan was even attached. So I had my head down preparing for this for about a year ahead of time, and I never really looked up”.
Malek went on to say that was unaware of the allegations surrounding the director and despite the controversy, the cast and crew “collectively raised their game” and “never gave up”.
His performance as the Queen frontman is undoubtedly superb and the question of whether you should punish his performance due to the disgusting behaviour of another is really a matter of personal opinion.
If you were to examine what he crafted and remove the baggage of Bryan Singer altogether, there’s a strong case for the Oscar landing in his hands as he gives one of the best performances of the year and for his (and all the other cast and crew) hard work to be dismissed like that would be a real tragedy.
The Oscars cannot afford for a controversy like this to go viral, especially when their viewership rating for last year dropped 16%; they’re struggling as it is, they cannot afford for that to drop even further.
Malek’s admission of ignorance surrounding Singer’s antics and accusations is questionable, especially in the age of social media, but one we’d have to take at face value.
Speaking of the age of social media, Singer’s lawsuit has caused an outcry within the LGBT community who recently removed Bohemian Rhapsody from the GLAAD awards - a media organisation who recognises outstanding representations of the LGBT.
The concerns of the community came two fold: firstly off the back of the sexual misconduct of Singer and secondly the worry that they simply did not see the bold out and proud nature they associate with the icon of Freddy Mercury.
In a statement reported in The Independent, GLAAD claimed that many “never saw an out and proud lead character in a film or saw the impact of HIV and Aids in fair and accurate ways.”
If the Academy were to assess an impending backlash from a very proud community who felt Malek’s win is an affront to their beliefs, it may sway them to swing the vote in a different direction.
We won’t get a definitive answer until they announce the winner of course, but the ethical dilemma of whether we should a judge a performance solely on that alone or take into consideration the egregious external factors which have marred it in controversy is a perplexing one.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.