During his acceptance speech for Best Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre), British singer Sam Smith thrust himself in the identity politics game by labeling the moment as a potential milestone. He said:
I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen and he said no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar. And if this is the case, even if it isn’t the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day.
Though Smith was immediately roasted on the internet for not knowing his gay Oscar history (downright pearl-clutchingly appalling), his confusion is somewhat understandable. Ian McKellen did say, “No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance.” McKellen was discussing this in terms of the acting categories (and the bigger picture of diversity at the Oscars, which speaks to the even bigger picture of diversity in Hollywood), but he did say those words.
However, if you’re going to take the risk of bestowing yourself with a milestone, you need to do your research, which means not just stopping at a headline or quote before getting back to checking Twitter, not using Grindr, and possibly texting Tom Daley. You just have to know your shit, and Sam Smith didn’t (which he hinted at in his “if this is the case, even if it isn’t the case” hedging).
After winning, Smith said in an interview, “I think I’m the second person to win it.”
The list of openly gay male Oscar winners includes Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, Bill Condon, Scott Rudin, and Dustin Lance Black, who reminded Sam Smith of his win with some good, old fashioned gay draaaamaaaa on (where else?) Twitter:
That his how you dom-top another dude on social media. (For context, Black and Daley are engaged.)
Hilarious as this all is, Smith’s apparent ignorance is no surprise. He’s been consistently weak when it comes to discussing LGBT issues—he’s flip-flopped on whether or not he feels like a gay role model, and he’s been awfully smug about obscuring his sexuality in his music. (I still haven’t forgiven him for changing the gender-specific pronouns in his cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” to “you.”) He seems, if not a bit dim, then just young and inexpert. Sam Smith is 23. He’ll probably say more stupid things along the way. Hopefully, they’ll be less frequent as he gets older and more aware.
Maybe the best thing to come of all this was Oscars host Chris Rock’s response to Smith’s win: “Congratulations, no jokes there. Not gonna get me in trouble.” That’s funny ‘cause it’s true, and it’s a way better gay joke than Chris Rock’s last one. See? People learn.