Apart from the lack of diversity in Hollywood and the Oscar nominations, the 88th Academy Awards also shed some light on other important national, social and international issues.
For example, Bryan Cranston (pictured above) wore black and gold bracelets as part of “ENOUGH” – a campaign to bring awareness to gun violence in the United States. #JusticeForFlint fundraiser was set up to keep the troubles of the embattled Michigan city in everyone’s thoughts.
Lady Gaga moved everyone to tears with her heart-rending rendition of “Till It Happens To You,” in honor of the campus-rape victims and Leonardo DiCaprio used his long-awaited Oscar victory to talk about climate change.
All in all, the entertainment event was a statement of sorts.
But another issue that perhaps remained in the dark was the one over the Academy’s alleged “swag bags.”
The 2016 gift basket is reportedly worth a record-setting $232,000, almost 30% higher than last year’s $160,000 bag. It includes, among other stuff, a 10-day, $55,000 trip to Israel,
For those unaware, the controversy erupted earlier in February, when the contents of the swag bags were first announced. Israel has offered the trip to Hollywood A-listers in hopes of countering negative press.
But several human rights groups, including two U.S.- based organizations campaigning for an end to Israel's occupation of and persecution in the Palestinian Territories protested against the seemingly political gift using the hashtag "#SkipTheTrip.
“Don't endorse Israeli apartheid," read an advertisement in the Lost Angeles Times, sponsored by the U..S Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace.
“There is a serious objection to accepting such a trip and in fact they are playing a very significant role for the Israeli government. They are really trying to sell a fairy tale to the people,” said Yousef Munayyer, a member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, according to IBTimes.
After acknowledging widespread racism in the entertainment industry, supporting gun control, sexual assault victims and endorsing climate change, one wonders if Hollywood actors would also #SkipTheTrip and thereby denounce human rights atrocities by the Israeli government against Palestinians in the occupied territories.
However, other reports suggest they might not have to make that choice at all since the rumored gift bag including the Israel trip is not affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars.
As it turned out a few days before the main event, the Academy has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles-based Distinctive Assets, accusing the company of promoting their products as the official swag bag.
Yet, since the Israeli government has confirmed that it is indeed offering the luxurious 10-day vacation to top Oscar nominees, it now remains to be seen if celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Bryan Cranston, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lawrence accept or reject it.