It's been less than 12 hours since black queer love story Moonlight won best picture at the Academy Awards, and some viewers are already saying the victory was undeserved.
On Monday morning's Fox & Friends, guest Tucker Carlson — the Fox News pundit Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca called a "partisan hack" on live TV — said that Moonlight only won because of Hollywood's desire to make a political statement.
"It was foregone," Carlson said. "You knew that Moonlight had to win because you knew what the film was about. And that's part of the problem with Hollywood. Tons of really talented people there, brilliant at making movies. But the second you feel a political imperative, it destroys your art. The second you feel like you need to elevate the country, you become overbearing and pompous and boorish."
It's hard to read this as anything but an accusation that Moonlight did not win on its own merit. According to Carlson's logic, the film benefitted from a "political imperative" that academy voters felt to "elevate the country," rather than simply being the best movie of the year. It was the industry putting on a pageant of diversity and inclusivity, while ignoring metrics like quality. Moonlight won because it aligned with the political zeitgeist in Hollywood, not because it deserved to.
It's an argument similar to those many conservatives have made against affirmative action: Minorities are being unduly given benefits they didn't earn.
It seems not to have occurred to Carlson that Moonlight may have won because it was better than the other films. Or that a best picture win for La La Land — the odds-on favorite — would have been the actual unearned victory. These metrics are largely subjective, to be sure. But it's remarkable that whenever something involving white people wins, it's been earned, whereas when black people win, there must have been ulterior motives at play.
Much like Abigail Fisher's failed Supreme Court case — where she claimed she did not get into the college of her choice because a minority was given her spot due to a racial quota — Carlson's explanation for Moonlight's Oscar probably says less about the film's deservedness and more about white people unable to come to grips with not being as good as the think they are.