I hope I’m the first person to make that pun. I’m probably not.
Last night, Sam Smith won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for his song, “Writing’s On The Wall” from the James Bond film, Spectre. In his acceptance speech, Smith paraphrased Sir Ian McKellen’s statement that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar, and concluded that in receiving his Academy Award, he was the first openly gay man to ever win an Oscar.
Sam Smith could not have been further from the truth. Sir Ian McKellen had made a statement that no openly gay man had ever won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Openly gay men have won Oscars for Best Director, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Screenplay, and even Best Original Song, the award Sam Smith won. Previous winners of Best Original Song who also happen to be openly gay men are Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, and Howard Ashman, who won in 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1994.
In spite of it all, Sam Smith should not be condemned for this minor mishap. He wrote and recorded an Academy Award winning song, which is a remarkable feat. Even though he got his facts wrong and he is actually not the first openly gay man to win an Oscar, his acceptance speech opened a dialogue about LGBT representation at the Oscars. He is a positive representative of the LGBT community for earning this award and dedicating his speech to LGBT advocacy. He is not ignorant, he was simply misinformed.