#OscarsSoWhite

There’s nothing wrong with being White. A lot of people are White. Your favorite teacher. Your boss. Your best friend. Blake Shelton. All of these people may very well be White. That’s just how many White people are out there. And I’m down with it.

I’m also into diversity. Diversity is a good thing. Particularly when it comes to the images we see on our TV, iPad, and movie screens. It’s important to have diversity in our entertainment and marketing so every group has a voice and is represented.
As a whole, America is a diverse place. The art and images that are supposed to represent our society should reflect that. The images in our movies, commercials or prints ads, and TV shows are modern day hieroglyphics. They’re creation makes them a time capsule of our era and culture. Because of this they should be accurate. Not so we can avoid “hurting feelings,” but to avoid being untrue…but, also, leaving people out of cultural representations is terrible.

Last year when the Oscar nominees were announced and everyone saw that they were more White than Montana a hashtag got started online, #OscarsSoWhite. The creator of the hashtag, April Reign, created it because she was disappointed in the lack of diversity on the list of nominees.
It was brought back to life again this year when the current crop of Oscar nominees was announced. Again, Montana.

To me, women and/or people of color not getting an Oscar isn’t a travesty. The subjugation of women and people of color in Hollywood is the problem.

The bigger issue simply is not about groups of people who are historically subjugated getting a glorified paperweight. It’s just a silly award, after all. Jerry Seinfeld put it best when he said, “Awards are stupid.” Even former and about to be Oscar host, Chris Rock, said it was stupid to give awards for art.
The pomp and circumstance of winning an Oscar has taken the nice act of patting someone on the back and saying, “Good job, your work was inspiring,” into a glorified exercise of the determining who are the Haves and who are the Have Nots. It’s become silly and I watch it every year!

Is it really that big of a deal to get an award? I mean, Nicolas Cage has one of those things!

Yes, and no. I’ve covered, “no,” by saying it is a little silly, so I’ll talk about how it is, in some respects, a big deal. It can be a big deal because it does help careers. But then again Nicolas Cage has done all the movies we make fun of him for after winning an Oscar, and it hasn’t done much for Cuba Gooding Jr. It’s also a big deal because it people climb a totem pole to get there. But that is a Hollywood politics thing. In the grand scheme of things that is still pretty silly. The things people are put through to climb that ladder are soul crushing.
However, on the lighter side, it is a moment for people to be encouraged for making inspiring work. Most of the time what has won has been legitimately good work, even when people largely think something else “should have won.” It’s significant to be told, “Your work is fine art” by the industry. That’s why it’s not a good thing for the women and people of color in Hollywood to be left out on that encouragement. They are a part of the culture, too. They are creating inspiring works of art, too.

Why isn’t there more diversity when it comes to Oscar nominations? There are a couple of reasons.

  1. The Makeup of the People Voting: 94% of Oscar voters are White, 76% are men, and the average age is 63. Who you are and where you are from may play a big role in what attracts you and what you relate to. I can see 63 year old White men being more interested in and impacted by “The Wolf of Wall Street” than “Selma.” I’m not saying White people can’t like Black things. Cause that’s stupid. I mean, Eminem. But what I am saying is who you are says a lot about what has the biggest impact on you. Race and background informs that a great deal. If you’re a rich, old, White man you probably aren’t voting for “Straight Outta Compton.”
  2. The Makeup of People in Films: There isn’t a lot of diversity in movies which lessens the opportunity for the Academy to nominate women and/or POC. There’s even less diversity when it comes to the people directing movies. Why does that happen? Well, bigotry does still exist. There are actually studio executives who have said in the last 10 years that “Black actors can’t ‘open’ movies.” Which means that a movie starring a Black actor won’t draw a big box office audience on the opening weekend and the film industry has set up a system that determines a films success by how much the film brings in it’s opening weekend of wide release. The same sort of thing has been said about films starring women. Which is really stupid and really, really stupid (don’t nay say my use of “Gone with the Wind.” The main character of this film is a woman).

The bigger problem is that people are being subjugated in Hollywood. If people are given more opportunity to make and star in films and be members of the Academy then this #OscarsSoWhite issue fixes itself.
A mostly White Oscars in itself isn’t an issue nor is it evidence that the system is bad, it’s a byproduct of a system that doesn’t work for women and/or people of color. What is more important than who gets awards is that future generations see our work and that that work reflects the diversity of our generation’s culture and society.

2 Replies to “#OscarsSoWhite”

  1. That’s a very good question and a very thoughtful point. I think it is fair to say, “Hey, there will be less from time to time,” for the reason you bring up. However, as George Clooney pointed out, there were movies like Concussion that he thinks had an Oscar worthy performance from Will Smith, or Creed which had more Oscar-worthy work going on than just the supporting actor (the only White person in a major role in the film). Also, there’s Straight Outta Compton which wowed people and also had Oscar-worthy work applied to it.
    When Oscar-worthy stuff is snubbed people will say something and every year stuff is just gonna get snubbed. But for all non-White work to be overlooked? Something is fishy there, so I’m for looking into that.
    Maybe they just didn’t have a campaign as strong. Maybe it was as I mentioned in the article about 67 year old White men not caring as much about something as another. It’s possible they just go more into “The Revenant” than “Straight Outta Compton.”
    It’s a valid discussion to have. The fix is NOT making sure the nominees reflect our society. The fix is making sure that the people in power in Hollywood or the people in the films and tv shows reflects the demographics of our society.
    When that happens things will change.

    Nominations and wins should be determined by strength of work. A friend told me last year that some of the big movies should have been nominated, like Avengers. Well, as much as I loved that movie it wasn’t as good as what was nominated. That’s a situation that speaks to your point, maybe there just wasn’t anything worthy of it. In which case, bias has nothing to do with it. That can apply in this discussion, too.
    But it’s worth talking about the possibility that some kind of bias is playing a hand in this, especially when worthy stuff is not nominated. There’s some reason and it’s either bias or it’s just how the cookie crumbled.

  2. POC have won oscars before… and been nominated. i agree the voter demographic is SADLY out of balance, but is it what’s in the theatres? can’t that change by year?
    lupita nyong’o won recently… i remember the year of “precious,” etc… is it just coincidence there aren’t any nonwhite nominees in the best actor/actress categories this year?
    i ask in all respect in full favor of more diversity reflected in the arts. obviously.

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