There was a lot of controversy during awards season over the historical drama's ability to garner enough votes to win Best Motion Picture whether it deserved to or not. In fact, the film's distributor even based its campaign around the phrase "It's time," which, according to the L.A. Times, could be interpreted as a way to "exhort members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences into voting for the movie because it was the right thing to do."
Even Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres addressed the issue in her opening monologue joking that: "Possibility No. 1, '12 Years a Slave' wins best picture. Possibility No. 2, you're all racists."
In the end, 12 years did end up winning Best Picture, but not because all voters chose the film over all other nominees.
"Two Oscar voters privately admitted that they didn't see 12 Years a Slave, thinking it would be upsetting. But they said they voted for it anyway because, given the film's social relevance, they felt obligated to do so," the L.A. Times wrote.
According to Brenda Stevenson, an African American history teacher at UCLA, the win did serve a greater purpose in the end.
"I think the African American community is glad the film was chosen as best picture because that is a validation of African American history and the pain and suffering within that history, and the survival of that history," she said.