Sean Penn and others rile up social media at the Oscars

Story highlights

  • Sean Penn's immigration comment at the Oscars causes some to cry "inappropriate!"
  • Patricia Arquette took on wage inequality, to the appreciation of Meryl Streep
  • Screenplay winner Graham Moore gave an emotional speech about growing up "weird"

(CNN)Between light-hearted moments like Benedict Cumberbatch taking a swig from a hip flask and Neil Patrick Harris parading on stage in his underwear, it was all about activism and controversial topics at the 87th Academy Awards.

A broad range of issues, from immigration to suicide to Alzheimer's disease to wage inequality, took center stage.
Sean Penn rubbed many the wrong way when he joked "Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?" as he presented Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu the best picture award for "Birdman."
    Iñarritu seemed unperturbed and devoted the Oscar win to his fellow Mexicans, saying, "I just pray they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones that came before and built this incredible, immigrant nation."
    In the press room, Iñarritu said of Penn's joke, "I found it hilarious. Sean and I have that kind of brutal (relationship) where only true friendship can survive."
    Mostly, though, the night belonged to messages of empowerment.
    After expressing the usual gratitude to cast and crew of Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," best supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette took a moment at the end of her acceptance speech to call for equal pay for women.
    "To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation: We have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality in the U.S.," she said, causing an uproar in the room as well as on social media.
    Despite Meryl Streep's whooping approval, some viewers said the irony was not lost on them that Arquette's speech was given at such a lavish affair. Others argued that although the message was important, it marginalized the LGBT and non-white communities.
    Reese Witherspoon, who was nominated for best actress for her role in "Wild," advocated for the hashtag #AskHerMore, which encourages red carpet presenters to ask more thought-provoking questions instead of the usual appearance-driven ones like "Who are you wearing?"
    Graham Moore gave an emotional speech after his win for best adapted screenplay for "The Imitation Game."
    "When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong," Moore said. "And now I'm standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass this same message to the next person who comes along."
    The hashtag #StayWeird took off in the wake of Moore's speech.
    Resources for suicide awareness and prevention include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and The Trevor Project.
    And lastly, J.K. Simmons got preachy about a topic that hits close to home for many: The winner of best supporting actor for "Whiplash" encouraged viewers to #CallYourMom.
    "And if I may, call your mom. Everybody -- I'm told there's like a billion people or so. Call your mom; call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don't text, don't email," he said.
    So, have you called her yet?