Last night’s 95th Oscars was many things: Historic for its first-of-a-kind wins, iconic for its bare-faced performances, and impressive for convincing me to watch…a war movie? But of the many things the Oscars was, for better or for worse, it wasn’t even close to being juicy. It would be nearly impossible to even match the drama of last year’s scandal, but that didn’t stop viewers from being desperate to stir the pot about an innocuous exchange between host Jimmy Kimmel and attendee Malala Yousafzai. People on Twitter jumped down Kimmel’s throat for “harassing” the Nobel Prize winner, going so far as to call him a “national disgrace.” I, for one, am not convinced. Let’s take a look.
As someone who tuned in exclusively to see Michelle Yeoh win Best Actress, I, personally, was dismayed by the sheer amount of antics peppered in between awards—though, I admit, that is fairly standard procedure. During one break, Kimmel walked up and down the aisles asking guests (supposedly) fan-submitted questions. Some were better sports about it than others (Nicole Kidman seemed deeply relieved that Kimmel skipped over her), and Yousafzai was the first person he asked a question. She sat right on the aisle and was dressed in a glittery silver gown and hijab. A fan named Joanne (allegedly) asked: “Your work on human rights and education for women and children is an inspiration. As the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?”
Hardly missing a beat, Yousafzai responded with a deadpan, “I only talk about peace.” Kimmel parried back: “You know what, that’s why you’re Malala and nobody else is. That’s a great answer, Malala. The winner is Malala-land, everybody.”
It was the perfect answer to a silly question about an even sillier non-scandal, but apparently, a lot of people didn’t agree with my read. As the Daily Mail reported, viewers called Kimmel “disrespectful,” the interaction “painful,” and claimed that Yousafzai “deserved better.” One Twitter user even ominously threatened that Kimmel “will pay” for speaking with Malala. Yeesh.
I’m not entirely sure what the problem is here: Yes, Yousafzai looked uncomfortable, but so would anyone sitting on the aisle at an event that suddenly included audience participation—it gives off the same energy as praying that your teacher won’t randomly cold-call you in class. If anything, Kimmel made the Nobel Prize-winning icon relatable by treating her like any other millennial woman, asking her what she thinks about pop culture (something I genuinely would love to know, actually!). What would’ve been more insulting is thinking that Yousafzai can’t joke around just because she’s an esteemed human rights activist. In a recent interview on Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!, she proved that she can shoot the shit, joking about not knowing where her Nobel prize even is.
After the ceremony, she reminded fans on Twitter to “treat people with kindness,” while retweeting a video of the encounter.
Let’s also not forget that Yousafzai was at the awards show because she’s a movie producer herself. People contain multitudes, y’all—it’s not that hard to understand! Now what I would’ve loved to see is Yousafzai getting snarky with Cocaine Bear, who was all up in her business shortly after her little chat with Kimmel.
Maybe they’ll incorporate that bit next year.