Thursday, January 28, 2016

#OscarsSoWhite May Not Be The Academy’s Fault After All

It’s Oscar season, and you know what that means…time to get socially and culturally aware.
 When honorary Oscar nominee Spike Lee decided to announce he wasn't going to attend the Oscars because of an all- White ballot on Martin Luther King day, it was quite a shock to the entertainment world. Spike Lee had been this year's choice for an Honorary Oscar. Soon after, Jada Pinkett Smith decided to release a YouTube video that gracefully expressed her disappointment with the Oscar nominations, news outlets tagging on the word boycott in their headlines prompted a debate in the socially conscious community regarding the overall importance of the Oscars.
This debate hasn't come with backlash. Other African American artists, such as Janet Hubert and Stacey Dash have criticized the boycott, and state that larger social issues should be our primary concern as a community of color. While I may agree that the Oscars is not that important, maybe they bring up a good point that there are larger social issues at hand. But maybe the Oscars point to a larger social issue that Blacks are underrepresented and their art is under-appreciated in many platforms as a result. 
There were several large box office Black movies this year such as FocusDopeBeasts of No Nation,ConcussionStraight Outta Compton, and Creed, to name a few. But even with the few Black movies out there, it’s nothing compared to the movie factory starring White actors and actresses in Hollywood.
Note: In case you are making the joke that you have not heard of most of these movies, that’s how many people feel about the movies on the ballot each year.  
Here are some reasons there might be lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations. Now can you understand why?
 To be honest, if no one would have ever pointed it out, I would not have noticed. The Oscars are always predominately White to the point that when there is an African American film up for the Academy, no one stops talking about it. There is something to be said about our culture that we look at the Oscars as a platform to be politically correct instead of appreciating good art.
Let’s be honest, this is not the first year that a person of color was jipped for a nomination. It can arguably said that everyone year, a movie with a lead actor/ actress of color is overlooked (the same issue can also be found yearly in Grammy nominations.)  On the Jada Pinkett Smith video, one Youtuber commented how roughly 15% of Oscars (no evidence for that statistic, seems like less from the list provided by Wikipedia) have gone to Blacks and how that’s well off considering the African American population percentage in the United States. How does it make sense that Whites are only 60% of the US population but are over 95% of the Academy and hold more than 80% of all Oscars? If we are going to set affirmative action quotas for the Oscars, what does that speak about the mentality of our society?
Is our goal to give Blacks awards to be politically correct or is it problematic that we are not recognizing Black content as art worthy of the mainstream? Is the blame on the Academy or the lack of Black films being produced and worthy of nomination? Maybe John Singleton was right when he said that the Oscars are similar to the lottery, and that the issue is not enough content creators that are people of color. Maybe George Clooney was right when he said that major film executives aren't giving the lead roles to people of color.  

1 comment:

  1. I thought this post raised many important questions about the racial diversity in films today. Its no secret that there just aren’t that many awards given to African American actors, or any minority group for that matter. Its important to understand this issue, and to realize where it is stemming from. The main underlying issue is the systematic conflicts that many minorities have to face before they can make it to the stage. I don’t really know how the movie industry is set up, but it seems like it might not be too easy for people of color to get assigned important roles. The only actors I can really think of are Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington. I think the problem is that most films aren’t being written to be acted out by African Americans. For example, one reason we see so much of Samuel L. Jackson is because Quentin Tarantino literally writes many of his movies to be played out by him. I think that as we start to see more diversified individuals who choose to become writers, we can see more diversified actors chosen to play them out.