As Jamie Lee Curtis swore in surprise and headed up to the stage to collect her Oscar for Best Actress In A Supporting Role, every nominee clapped and whooped in celebration, except one.
It was all eyes on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever star Angela Bassett, who was one of the favourites to win the award. Bassett was the only nominee to not show her outright joy at fellow actor Jamie Lee winning the award, and her demeanor has some people’s knickers in a twist.
When the audience stood up to applaud Jamie Lee, with the likes of Cate Blanchett standing in solidarity, Bassett was easily spotted in her bright purple Moschino dress, still firmly planted in her seat.
So, why didn’t Bassett clap, and is it fair that she was upset to lose the award? Well, the internet has a lot of opinions.
Should Angela Bassett Have Celebrated Jamie Lee?
It is the ‘done thing’ at award shows for nominees to clap and celebrate one another when someone wins the award. With five nominees all vying for the same title, there are always going to be more losers than winners at the Oscars, and it is seen as gracious to celebrate another’s win.
“Regardless of who won that Oscar … Angela Bassett could have clapped for the winner. To just sit there and not clap because you didn’t win… ,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Angela Bassett not standing up for Jamie Lee Curtis is kinda shady. I get you’re upset for not winning but damn,” another added.
There have been a few tension-filled situations in recent years of a popular star missing out on an award. May we never forget Kanye West famously interrupting Taylor Swift’s VMA win to say that Beyoncé should have won. Then, of late, Harry Styles was heckled at the Grammys after he beat Beyoncé in the Album of the Year category.
The truth is, there is something else at play here.
Award Shows Have A History Of Discrimination, Especially The Oscars
In 2015, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag began to go viral, bringing attention to the lack of diversity in Academy nominees and winners. There’s a reason that Michelle Yeoh made history at this Oscars, and that’s because not a single Asian woman has ever won Best Actress in the entire 95 years of the award. She is only the second Asian woman to even be nominated, and the second woman of colour to win at all (Halle Berry won in 2002).
Many people on the internet have been backing Angela Bassett not immediately clapping for Jamie Lee Curtis’ win, because yet another Black actress had been passed up for the award. It is important to note that Bassett, 64, has only been nominated twice for an Oscar —this year for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and in 1994 for Best Actress for her role in What’s Love Got To Do With It.
It’s been a long time between drinks for the star, and fans had hoped this was her opportunity.
“Good for Angela Bassett not smiling nor clapping. Y’all expect Black women to not only be exceptional, but be happy for others who get accolades we deserve over and over,” one person shared on Twitter.
Others also spoke out about the criticism coming her way, considering that she didn’t make any explosive movies, she just didn’t clap.
“You would swear Angela Bassett got up and said FUCK THE OSCARS the way these ppl carrying on. At least everyone gets to see the magnitude in which Black women are expected to perform and how our every emotion is policed. Decades in and she’s not even allowed to fight back tears,” another tweeted.
It’s important to note that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had special significance for Bassett as well. Her co-star Chadwick Boseman died after filming the show due to colon cancer. Producers decided not to recast his role, with one of the producers, Kevin Feige, saying that his performance was “iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium”.
Fans rushed to Bassett’s support given this context. “The Academy is SO nasty like first y’all ROBBED Chadwick Boseman after his death and then you rob Angela Bassett of her Oscar that she was nominated for in a movie that honors Chadwick?? Every member of The Academy got a permanent spot in hell,” read another tweet.
It appeared that Bassett was looking forward to the ceremony earlier in the night, and she was joined by her husband, Courtney B. Vance and teenage twins Slater and Bronwyn.
Slater said of his mum, “I just I think it’s long overdue and I really want to see her be honoured the way that I know she should be.”
The Debacle Has Made Some Reconsider The ‘Done Thing’
There’s no denying that an Oscar is a huge achievement in the world of acting, an award that many people work towards their entire lives.
Many could relate to that feeling of being let down and disappointed directly after losing out on the thing they’ve worked the hardest for. It’s a universal feeling. Luckily, most of the time the average joe doesn’t have a high-tech camera shoved in their face collecting their every move and broadcasting it to the world.
Some viewers jumped online to share that they don’t think it’s fair to judge the actor’s response to someone else’s winning.
“It’s amazing how some people look at Angela Bassett in this picture and see ‘“sore loser’”. I look at the picture and see hurt and disappointment. And it’s ok to express that in the moment. #StopJudging” one person tweeted.
“Angela Bassett’s reaction to Jamie Lee Curtis’ name being called … you can tell how much that Oscar would have meant to her. She is, was, and always will be incredible. I better see her on that stage SOON,” another added.
Whatever you think of Angela Bassett’s behaviour in those few seconds after Jamie Lee Curtis’ name was called, there’s no denying that she would have been feeling a lot in the moment.
Potentially it’s a reminder that it’s time we give nominees a second before broadcasting their immediate reaction to the world, because while they might come round to being happy for the winner in time, it’s ok to have a knee-jerk moment of sadness when the thing you’ve worked the hardest for doesn’t come true.