During last night’s Oscar show, actor Sean Penn handed the Independent Spirit Award to Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but not before a joke about “green cards.” The gag aimed at the Mexican director has not gone down well, according to The Guardian, with some accusing Penn of being, “racist and offensive.”
During the award, Penn opened the envelope to reveal the winner of Best Picture and announced, “who gave this son of a b***h his green card?” The director didn’t seem phased by the joke and instead, used it as a jumping-off point to talk about the plight of Mexicans in the US, reminding the audience that the United States was founded by immigrants, CTV News reports.
To my Mexicans back home, I hope we can build the government we deserve, to Mexicans here, may we be treated with the dignity and respect we deserve.
Iñárritu said backstage that he found the joke “hilarious,” and that he has a very strong friendship with Penn, with whom he has worked in the past.
However, the joke about green cards – a license that entitles the holder to live and work in the US – sparked immediate outrage over social media, with Twitter users taking to their keyboards and announcing their disgust.
Just saw what Sean Penn said, in utterly disgusted
— Lupe (@EndlessluLu) February 23, 2015
Absolutely horrible green card comment from Sean Penn. The struggles people endure for immigration justice are not punchlines.
— Rosianna Halse Rojas (@papertimelady) February 23, 2015
Some people did defend the joke, with The York Times’ Matt Apuzzo hammering home the fact that Penn and Iñárritu are friends, while another writer, Joe Adalain, said that the joke was in no way racist.
Sean Penn is friends [with] the guy! Classic Oscar move: an easy to misinterpret inside joke about a sensitive political and ethnic issue. Chill.
Sean Penn’s green card joke was the not the only comment at last night’s Oscar show that caused a backlash. Host Neil Patrick Harris opened the ceremony with a quip which many interpreted as a poke at white people.
Today, we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry… brightest.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) also took home three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature, Best Cinematography and Best Male Lead for actor Michael Keaton.
What are your thoughts on Sean Penn’s joke about green cards? Let us know in the comments below.