This is why Laura Dern’s momentous Oscars win means so much to queer people

Laura Dern holding her Oscar

Laura Dern winning at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress represents the pinnacle of her comeback, more than 20 years after she helped Ellen DeGeneres come out as gay.

Dern took home her first-ever Oscar for her part in Marriage Story.

Accepting the award, she thanked director Noah Baumbach for his “vision, magic and friendship”, and her parents Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, both actors.

“Some say never meet your heroes, but I say if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents,” she said.

The Oscars was the culmination of a clean sweep of awards season for Laura Dern, who also won a Bafta, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and the Screen Actors Guild award, and received a queer choral tribute at the Spirit Awards

As many pointed out, it also cemented Dern’s comeback, more than two decades after she was blackballed by Hollywood for starring in Ellen DeGeneres’ groundbreaking sitcom coming out.

Laura Dern lost work and received death threats after starring in Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out episode.

Dern played a lesbian producer who helped DeGeneres’ character come to terms with her own sexuality in “The Puppy Episode”, codenamed so that its big reveal didn’t leak ahead of schedule.

After the episode aired both Dern and DeGeneres were the subject of a massive backlash, prompting Dern to clarify in a 1997 EW interview: “I’m so straight — unfortunately, probably, for me.” 

Dern said it was “an incredible honour” to be involved in the episode, but admitted for several years she lost work and received death threats.

“We all spent the next couple of years really struggling in work and safety,” she told Variety in December 2019.

“The first time I became aware was, Oprah and I were having a snack, and suddenly a flood of cops swarmed the set and the stage while we were rehearsing. They’re like, ‘There’s been a bomb threat, we’re sweeping the stage.'”

It was radical to experience that. It was the only time I ever experienced having to have to have full security detail.

Dern said that she will “never forget” the moment DeGeneres uttered the words “I’m gay” to her while filming. The comedian admitted to her later that it was the first time she had ever said it out loud.

“We didn’t rehearse it, so when she said it to me, and was looking in my eyes and holding my hands and I felt her shaking,” Dern recalled.

“The gift — it makes me want to cry — the gift of that, the intimacy of what that means, was such insight for me. And I’ll carry it for the rest of my life.”