Many thought the lack of diversity in the 87th Academy Awards in 2015 and the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign that followed would be a sufficient wake up call. The last thing that anyone expected was that the 88th Academy Awards would take a major step in the wrong direction when it was already so far behind.
For two years straight, no actor or actress of color has even been nominated for an Academy Award. With five actors nominated throughout four categories, we’re left with 20 missed opportunities to recognize diversity per year. We’re not even talking about actually winning awards here either; just being nominated. When you do the math and realize that number’s now doubled, we’re past a place of coincidence.
Within an hour of this year’s nominees being revealed, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag came back with even more justification than before. With films like Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation and more it was shocking to see that the only color one can find in this year’s nominees are Alejandro Iñárritu and the characters in Disney’s Inside Out.
Then Hollywood started to react. This was no longer a one-time thing. Actors and actresses started to come out publicly and express their frustrations.
As a start, Jada Pinkett Smith declared that she wouldn’t be in attendance at this year’s awards, or watching, as a form of protest, according to Entertainment Weekly. Her husband, Will, soon followed.
“There is a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem,” Will said while on “Good Morning America.” “It was her call to action, for herself, and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”
While some say that this is a knee-jerk reaction from Pinkett Smith because her husband was one of the more prominent actors kept out of the nominee pool for his work in Concussion, Smith begs to differ.
“There’s probably a part of that in there but, for Jada, had I been nominated and no other people of color were, she would have made the video anyway,” Smith explained. “We’d still be here having this conversation. This is so deeply not about me.”
This may serve as a worthy opportunity to remind everyone that Will Smith also played an integral role in the 1989 boycott of the Grammys when the winning of the first ever rap performance award wasn’t televised. Taking a stand against “the industry” isn’t a new concept to Smith. But the Smiths are far from alone in their dissatisfaction and are sure to be joined by many more when everything is said and done.
Spike Lee is going to spend the evening court-side at a Knicks game. Idris Elba spoke to British Parliament about the lack of diversity in film abroad. Lupita Nyong’o took to her Instagram to call the Academy Awards out for a clear lack of representation. The list continues to grow on a daily basis.
Now that there is an undeniable problem, it’s become a matter of specifying what the problem is and how to resolve it. Many are calling for the Academy to change it’s membership processes.
In 2012, The Los Angeles Times conducted a study and found that 94 percent of Academy voters were white and 77 percent were men. Only about 2 percent was Black and less than 2 percent was Latino. To make matters even worse, the average age of members was 62. Three years later, the numbers don’t appear to have changed much and the Academy still doesn’t reflect America.
The Academy voters are meant to reflect the film industry, which is meant to reflect society. The ball was clearly dropped somewhere. The question is where. The next question is how to we pick it up and keep moving forward.
Viola Davis, a voting member of the Academy, spoke to Entertainment Tonight about what she feels is the problem.
“The problem is not with the Oscars,” she explained. “The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system.”
“How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role?” she continued. “Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role?”
There you have it, folks. Sure, the complete disregard of black faces in the nominees this year is very alarming. So much so, that you may forget it’s 2016 and start looking to make sure Sidney Poitier still has his Oscar on his mantle. But, if the creatives behind making films aren’t even doing half of what they can to add diversity to the industry, it’s a lot easier for voters to ignore noteworthy works.
Many viewers who look for proper representation in film are likely to support the growing boycott by not tuning in on Feb. 28. For them, here’s a suggestion. Instead of just ignoring the Academy Awards and letting this event slip by as another systemic coincidence, come together as a community to show the Academy just how much power we truly have. Now, I don’t expect someone to put together an alternative awards show to honor people of color in film with only a month and a half left. Instead, figure out how we can improve the opportunities for people of color in Hollywood overall.
For the actors choosing to boycott, stay strong. Following this through could lead to some major changes in the future that benefit everyone. Even if that means you continue to protest and fight back after the awards because these problems won’t magically disappear overnight.
Remind those that agree with Stacey Dash – who feels there should no longer be safe spaces to celebrate black excellence – that these are the moments that we will no longer allow. If anything, this supports the case to have the BET Awards and NAACP Image Awards every year. But that doesn’t mean we expect to be completely absent at the Oscars, Grammys or any other mainstream awards ceremony.
For those that still plan on watching the Academy Awards this year, do you. But make sure to let everyone know how much Chris Rock tells everyone about themselves during his job as host. And keep #OscarsSoWhiteAgain trending right below the ABC-sponsored topics.
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