One would think that — by virtue of what it is — the In Memoriam segment at a major awards show would be insulated from controversy, but year after year it seems as though we find ourselves talking about who got robbed of one final remembrance. In 2013, it was Andy Griffith and Larry Hagman who were left off the Academy Awards list. In 2011, it was Corey Haim.
This year, the notable omissions included Taylor Negron (Punchline, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Easy Money), Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me, Happy Gilmore), Elaine Stritch, and Joan Rivers.
Rivers, like Stritch, didn’t necessarily make her name on the big screen, despite her work in Spaceballs and her directorial effort, Rabbit Test. Stritch was primarily a TV actress and Broadway vet, while Rivers was a trailblazing comedian and TV personality who became synonymous with big awards shows like the Academy Awards, thanks to her work skewering celebrity fashion choices on the red carpet; work that inspired many to react angrily to her absence from the roll call. Here’s a sampling.
Well Joan Rivers, they may have left you out, but a lot of people are thinking of you tonight… #Oscars
— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) February 23, 2015
— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) February 23, 2015
If you were Joan Rivers, would you have wanted to be a part of these Oscars?
— Mark Ellis (@5150ellis) February 23, 2015
— Michael Chiklis (@MichaelChiklis) February 23, 2015
— Matt Goldberg (@MattGoldberg) February 23, 2015
Aware of the outcry that their decision had caused, the Academy released a statement to THR this morning, but it isn’t making things any better.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, an Oscar rep explained the decision to not include the iconic comedian. “Joan Rivers is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year’s Oscar show,” reads the statement. “She is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on Oscar.com.”
“Unable” isn’t really the right word, but “unwilling” might be.
The thing is, we’ll never know the real reason for Rivers’ exclusion. The In Memoriam vetting process is notoriously mysterious and — according to The New York Times — a bit political in nature. Does this mean that Rivers’ allies didn’t push hard enough? It’s impossible to say, but with her sizeable impact on the Oscar telecast throughout the years, who would have thought that it would have been needed?