Saturday Night Feeler!

John Travolta and Idina Menzel

By now, John Travolta’s antics at the Oscars have spread like wildfire. Everyone from the New York Times to the Hollywood Reporter (even John himself) has stepped in to comment on what really went on behind the scenes.

The incident in question is the sketch between John Travolta and Idina Menzel. Last year, at the 2014 Oscars, Travolta butchered Menzel’s name so horrifically that parodies (such as a John Travolta name generator) were created. So this year, in order to poke fun at the incident, the two got back on stage together – ecxcept this time with Menzel butchering Travolta’s name.

It was a humorous moment until things got a bit too touchy. Travolta uncomfortably caressed Menzel’s face with his hands, lingering seconds too long and making viewers everywhere cringe in their seats.

Travolta later spoke up about how the whole awkward act was something that was planned. A spokesman for Travolta stated that ‘It was rehearsed in total”, and stating that he had loved working with Idina Menzel on the sketch.

Judi James, a body language expert, sympathizes for Travolta. “Greeting rituals of any kind are all about status and power displays and perhaps the veteran film star thought a little faux-sexual fooling about might actually receive a grateful and complimentary reception from the two women.”

While Travolta’s intentions may not have been ill-willed, the fact that the people running the Oscars thought this was appropriate speaks volumes about how women are treated in Hollywood.

Though Travolta and Menzel may have rehearsed this scene, if there wasn’t such uproar about it, many would have believed it happened naturally. This incident also coincides with how Travolta behaved on the red carpet with Scarlett Johanson. There he grabs her by the waist, kissing her on the cheek while she looks uncomfortable and unamused.

James goes on to say that even if the actions were innocent, both women looked very uncomfortable. “When a man performs quaint, mock-adoration poses like this it can feel humiliating to the woman (a bit like getting a kiss on the back of your hand) as the only complimentary response is a giggle and blush, neither of which feel appropriate in this day and age.”

This gives people the idea that it is acceptable to force themselves on women without their permission.

In a setting where women have fought so hard to be recognised by their peers for doing great work, it is painful to see that they are still being objectified on every front from the red carpet to the stage. For decades now, women have faced immense criticism while walking down the red carpet. People have ripped apart their fashion decisions, from dresses to hair, makeup to the ridiculous minicam. Women are expected to flaunt their looks instead of discussing their achievements, a double standard that male stars are rarely subjected to.

Nancy Qualls-Shehata of Patheos has similar views to James, expressing her concern with Travolta’s actions and how they will impact women everywhere. “Your body is not your own, and any good ole boy can grab your butt and no one will stop him. Oh, and you have to pretend it’s OK even if you are seething inside. You have to smile and give him a friendly wag of the finger and hug him.”

This is the sort of behaviour we’re condoning as a society by allowing Travolta’s incident pass without question. As harmless as his intentions were, it is improper to condone his actions.