Motion Picture Academy issues decades-old apology to controversial character

By Nathan Kamal | Posted

In an age where celebrities are not just expected to voice political and social opinions, but are expected to, it’s very easy to forget that it was once controversial. Just a few decades ago, an actor using an awards show as a platform for protest was seen by many as unacceptable, rude, and possibly un-American. However, times have changed and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American actress who portrayed Marlon Brando at the 1973 Oscars and was heavily booed, criticized and belittled for uttering a politically charged discourse.

Sacheen Littlefeather at the 45th Academy Awards

According to the BBC, former Academy President David Rubin wrote a letter to Sacheen Littlefeather (now made public), in which he apologized on behalf of the Academy, stating that “the abuse you endured…were unwarranted and unwarranted” and “for too long”. the courage you have shown has not been recognized. For this, we offer you both our most sincere apologies and our sincere admiration. The Academy will also host an event in September where Sacheen Littlefeather will discuss her appearance, the backlash she’s faced because of it (as well as the support of some), and the evolution of Indigenous representation in the media. . Sacheen Littlefeather also released her own statement, saying the apology was a dream come true and joking good-naturedly that it only took 50 years to receive it.

The actual 1973 Oscars incident has been widely discussed and some facts debated. However, it is certain that Sacheen Littlefeather appeared at the 45th Academy Awards in place of Marlon Brando, who was a heavy favorite to win the Best Actor award for his work in The Godfather. He eventually won, at which point Sacheen Littlefeather refused the statue offered by Roger Moore and gave a brief speech in which she said she was there in place of Marlon Brando who refused the award due to the treatment of Native Americans in the media and due to the then-ongoing occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement.

While part of the audience cheered Sacheen Littlefeather, many others booed loudly. According to Littlefeather, a producer on the Oscar show told her she had 60 seconds to deliver her remarks and that if she overstepped, she would be arrested. According to a number of those present, actor John Wayne (famous for his work in the western genre and his conservative politics) had to be physically restrained from assaulting Sacheen Littlefeather. Later that evening, Raquel Welch and Clint Eastwood made derogatory comments about the incident in their introductory speeches.

In the aftermath, Sacheen Littlefeather says her future acting career was blacklisted and it was (falsely) claimed in the media that she wasn’t actually Native American and that she was pass for one for advertising. Although it took years for the Academy to apologize to Sacheen Littlefeather, it’s good that they finally came back.

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