Oscar Night: Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Beverly Hills Courier columnist Dr. Eva Ritvo is a psychiatrist with 30 years’ experience practicing in Miami Beach. She is the author of “Bekindr-The Transformative Power of Kindness” and the Co-Founder of the Bold Beauty Project. Dr. Ritvo received her undergraduate and medical degrees from UCLA and psychiatry residency training at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Progress is rarely linear. Our evolution towards a more compassionate and just society is often fraught with missteps as we are currently witnessing in Ukraine. As we have discussed time and again, danger will always capture our attention, and this is what happened on Oscar night. But be sure not to miss the monumental progress. Ironically, both the victories and the set-back relate to how aware and sensitively we treat the medical issues of others. 

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was shocking. I am glad that everyone is thinking and talking about it as there is much to learn about how we manage our hurt and anger. Jada Pinkett Smith looked absolutely gorgeous at the Oscars, and it was painful to watch her face fall as her medical condition became the butt of a joke. While I empathize with Will Smith’s natural instinct to protect his wife, he impulsively chose the wrong path. We saw on live television his “fight or flight” response kick in and he acted from this place. The overwhelming consensus and in his own words his behavior was “unacceptable and inexcusable.” He went on to say, “I was wrong, and I am embarrassed, and my actions are not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.” 

It is hard to think of a more complex moment, and his rapid response was startlingly out of place. This was a dramatic example of why we must think before we react. Taking a deep breath in times of distress goes a long way to help us engage the more evolved parts of our brain and help us come up with solutions that meet our well-intended goal to help those in pain. 

Jada continues to bring much needed awareness to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. It affects 6.8 million people in the United States and is more than twice as common in women than men. It usually strikes those under 30, and there appears to be both environmental and genetic causes. The disease is painless but can cause psychological distress due to feeling of loss of control, worrying about health and changes in appearance.  

Jada has shared her stages of the disease, and after years of struggle, she seems to have come to a place of acceptance. On Instagram a year ago she said, “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends.” She is beautiful, radiant and a role model to women with this disease. 

She helps all of us expand our narrow definition of beauty, and so we all evolve. The more beautiful images we see of her, the more we grow. Accepting any illness is a journey both for an individual, a family and for society and I respect her ability to share the process with us. It is not always easy as displayed Sunday night. 

In the same way Jada raises our awareness, the Oscars made giant steps forward this year by honoring a movie that lets us peer into the lives of those affected by hearing loss. CODA (which stands for Children Of Deaf Adults) is a heartwarming movie starring deaf actors and actresses that depicts the home life of a family where both parents and one of two siblings are deaf. The story focuses on the one hearing daughter and her challenges balancing the needs of her family with her own need for independence.  

CODA won best picture, best adapted screenplay for Sian Heder, and best supporting actor for Troy Kotsur. Troy joins his co-star Marlee Matlin as the only deaf actors to ever win Oscars for acting and he is only the third deaf actor ever nominated. These are important milestones as we journey to become a more diverse and inclusive society, and they should be celebrated. 

One in eight people in the United States (approximately 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears. Approximately, 2 % of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss, 8.5 % for ages 55 to 64, 25% aged 65 to 74 and 50 % of those over 75 and have disabling hearing loss. This is a disability that touches so many lives.  

CODA has brought attention to this community in a powerful way, and we all grow by learning.  Medical issues can be scary and when we don’t understand things our anxiety naturally heightens. When we get exposed to the daily struggles of others as we do in this  movie, we see that we are all more the same than different. Warmth and compassion replace fear and anxiety.

Einstein once said, “Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Trailblazing and brave women and men like Jada and Troy, and all the members of the CODA team help us do that. The more we get to know one another, the more we can acknowledge our differences and our similarities and achieve the goal so eloquently stated by Einstein almost 100 years ago.    

There was indeed a lot to unpack from Sunday’s event, and I hope that we can focus on the progress we are making to live in a more open and accepting society and learn from all we saw.   

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.”

Mahatma Gandhi 

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