My Relative Was Left Out of the Oscars' In Memoriam—Here's Her Story
I was sitting in a bar in Silver Lake with friends casually watching the SAG Awards.
None of us were paying much attention until the In Memoriam came on. Before it began, we all joked about many will comment "What?! They died?!" whenever a notable celebrity would flash across the screen. We, of course, decided to make a mockery of it all just for the hell of it.
Then something so Hollywood I couldn't even believe it happened to me happened to me. A name appeared onscreen, to which I exclaimed, "What?! They died?! That's my relative!"
The woman in question was Sondra Locke. (Hi, I'm Ashley Locke. Sondra is my dad's cousin, making her my fourth cousin. I'm probably wrong about that, but we are in fact blood in some way shape or form.)
It was an interesting way to discover someone I was related to had passed in 2018. Still, it's the City of Stars, so anything goes.
A month later, the Oscars rolled around. I didn't care to watch, but I was excited to see Sondra get the recognition she deserves during their In Memoriam segment, and (selfishly) announce to my friends that I was related to that dead actress. It's probably something I shouldn't be proud of, but here we are.
The In Memoriam began, my eyes glued to the screen just waiting to see her name. I waited and waited and waited. It was over. The Academy had forgotten to include her. I was livid.
I had never met this woman in my life, yet it felt as though the Oscars were trying to send a very clear message to me and my family. They knew what they were doing by leaving her out, though she wasn't the only one to be snubbed. Carol Channing, Verne Troyer, Stanley Donen, Aretha Franklin, and more were noticeably absent from the Oscars' In Memoriam this year.
While the Academy Awards were riddled with controversy (hello, Green Book winning best picture), this one felt like a personal attack. I was already starting to lose hope in the industry, then this happens.
I know this problem is very minor and not something that deserves the spectacle of attention I'm bringing to it, but it is important.
Sondra being snubbed isn't the story here, it's what she did before her passing that matters. Sadly, I don't know her personally, so I can't dish out the details on her life as if I were a close relative. Most of what I know has been circulated around the internet a few times and summed up perfectly on her Wikipedia page. I won't go into too much detail here, because it doesn't feel right regurgitating what the likes of Vanity Fair and the New York Times have already noted about Sondra, but there is an important aspect from her life to touch on. And it serves as a reminder to me that I come from a long line of strong women.
She's best known for her toxic relationship with Clint Eastwood, something that caused many problems in her life, even after it ended in the late 1980s.
Sondra sued him not once, but twice. The first time was for palimony and the second was for fraud. Essentially, Clint offered her a deal to sucker her out of the first lawsuit that prevented any projects she wanted to develop with Warner Bros. from coming into fruition. Quite frankly, he ruined her career.
Though she was an Academy Awards-nominated actress for her role in the movie adaptation of Carson McCullers' The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (which, coincidentally, happens to be my favorite book of all time; I swear I had no idea I was related to the woman who stared in the film prior to reading the novel in 8th grade.), Sondra wanted to direct and develop her own movies. Due to her tumultuous love affair with Clint, that didn't quite pan out the way she had hoped.
Now's the part where you're hoping I'll tie this article up with a rousing speech about how I will carry on my relative's legacy, the one Clint tried to stop from happening. I can't say those things. It's not what I want to do. At one point in time, I did have dreams of becoming an actress, but I realized that wasn't for me. Still, never say never.
What I want any of you reading this to take away is a much bigger lesson and realization—Sondra's story isn't as entirely unique as it sounds. Many women are still being cut down by the men they once shared a heart with. Their careers and lives ruined, because we've been taught to believe women are crazy. And women have grown up believing they're nothing unless they're somebody's.
In the wake of #MeToo and Time's Up, things are definitely changing, but is enough being done? There are plenty of abusers who still get to walk the streets freely and have prosperous careers, while their victims are continually silenced.
Sondra's career was practically obliterated by a man who had (and still has) more power than he knows what to do with, the same could happen to me, your mother, your sister, your daughter, any of your female relatives. Don't let it.