The Parthenon

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EDITORIAL: W.Va. swelled with pride as our heroines walked the red carpet

Jan Rader

Jan Rader

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West Virginia held its breath as Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish announced the Oscar for best documentary short subject on Sunday. The results of this award mattered for the mountain state because our own heroines were up for the honor for the film, “Heroin(e),” featuring three Huntington women on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, produced and directed by West Virginia natives Elaine M. Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon. Although the film did not win the award, seeing these West Virginians bring the struggles and hopes of our region to the world stage was meaningful and important. If nothing else, their appearance on the red carpet reminded West Virginians of our deep, communal values.

“‘Is this us’ says my wife as we watch the Oscars,” tweeted the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Douglas Imbrogno. “She means: Are they set to announce the Oscar for ‘Best Short Doc’ and homestate fave @elainemsheldon‘s remarkable #heroinenetflix…That’s West Virginia in a nutshell. A village.”

West Virginians all over the mountain state sat in their living rooms, watching with anticipation and excitement. We were all up for that Oscar. The state as a whole felt very much a part of this moment.

West Virginia and the Appalachian region as a whole has often been marked by a famial bond, and Imbrogno’s tweet spoke directly to this feeling. Our people were in Hollywood. Twitter was flooded with support for the heroines, with tweets by both U.S. senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

“I’m proud of everything #heroinenetflix has accomplished,” Manchin tweeted. “This documentary shined a new light on the opioid epidemic facing (the City of Huntington) and the incredible women leading us.”

Sen. Capito tweeted out an encouragement for people to keep an eye out for the heroines, saying, “we are so proud of you.”

Immediately after the award was announced, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams released a statement, capturing the feelings we all had about the film’s journey to the Oscar stage.

“Their dedication and compassion have shown the world what we in Huntington have known for some time – when faced with tragedy, West Virginians will always rise to the challenge and overcome,” Williams said.

A running theme for the Oscars this year was one of diversity and inclusion, specifically in the wake of the “Me Too” movement and immigration battles in the U.S. congress. It was the night dedicated to those who are underrepresented, misportrayed and marginalized. These are words West Virginians know all too well. It was quite fitting that, in step with this overarching theme, the people of Appalachia were able to watch television and see some of our own rubbing elbows with that nation’s rich and famous. For a state that often feels forgotten, and if not forgotten, stereotyped, it was emotional to see that West Virginians really can make it, that our dreams aren’t limited by our area code.

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