Nominations were announced yesterday morning for the 88th Academy Awards and ever since, they have been hammered by criticism for the lack of women and minorites nominated in leading acting roles. The hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, took flight on social media, especially among Black Twitter, who slammed the Academy for overlooking performances by Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Michael B. Jordan, as well as black-directed film Creed and box office hit/movie critic darling Straight Outta Compton, for which Sony made a huge marketing campaign targeted at drawing the Academy’s attention, to no avail. In response to this, and the long-standing issue of lack of diversity in Hollywood, civil rights activist Al Sharpton called out the Academy, even going so far as to call director Cheryl Boone Issacs “a pawn” and encouraged everyone to boycott the Oscars and drive the ratings down, thus sending a message straight to the powers that be.
It is evident that Hollywood is whitewashed and over-emasculated in far more than the majority of its productions and casting. No one with good sense and clarity would be able to argue otherwise. It’s a fact that many movies are made by men and studios run by men, thus the reason why each summer is filled with remakes of action franchises and comic-book cash hogs–not to condemn either as I consider myself quite the superhero fanatic, in a mild sense. There are few studios willing to hash out money for an intimate, female-driven storyline like August: Osage County for example. It’s even harder for fictional storylines to be given to minority actors (as they were in last year’s The Perfect Guy ) because Hollywood doesn’t take to kindly apparently to the idea of blind casting. And when it comes to biopics and true stories, well, it doesn’t seem that studios/producers can conjure up too many of them about minorities. And it doesn’t appear that many minority filmmakers are given the opportunity, or want to, tell the amazing stories of fellow minorities or whites. So where does that leave us? Why does it not appear meaningful to anyone that the film sweeping the Oscar buzz this year is the brainchild of a Mexican director? That puzzles me, as it shows how concerned we are with face (the actors) than leadership.
So, we know that Hollywood has issues. We know things are not perfect, or acceptable, and must change. But just as influential, if not more than, race is another factor that Sharpton ALMOST mentions: “Being left out of awards consideration is about more than just recognition for a job well-done; winning an Oscar has long-lasting cultural and economic impacts.” It does, and Oscars are also political and somewhat subjective. Here’s a perfect example of the annual Oscar-snub complaining that goes down every year, sampled from reactions to yesterday’s nominations alone (click to enlarge):
Now all of these talented, viable performers and filmmakers (and there’s more on this list at the bottom of the page) were notably snubbed, left out, overlooked due to the lack of publicity for their film, lack of star power, lack of favoritism, or another. However, Black Twitter think these are the only snubs to exist (click to enlarge):
Here’s an interesting (actually pretty harrowing) fact. An estimated 50,000 movies are made every year. About 60 or so are usually nominated for Academy Awards. Less than 1 percent. I don’t write this to make light of the situation, or to play into the “there’s no minority people in film” or “minorities don’t do exceptional work” argument, because both of those things are blatantly untrue. But to say that minorities were purposely shut out doesn’t seem to hold much ground given the circumstances, the competitors, the kind of films that win/are nominated for Oscars, and the other dozens of filmmakers and actors that could have been nominated with complete merit. It’s part of the draw when you make any form of art. I don’t think purposeful shut-outs happened during this nomination season, not on the heels of 21 nominations and wins by Blacks alone in the last five years (not even counting other minorites like Alejandro Inarritu!!!!!! Asking this question again (for a friend) does a Mexican filmmaker with a movie leading with 12 nominations not mean anything??
Therefore, to make a long story short, no I am not going to boycott the Oscars, because I believe in the magic of cinema and the outstanding work that was done by everyone nominated. I’m going to watch their films and all the minority films too. We could boycott films that aren’t diverse, hold our wallets at the box office when large studios refuse to cast minorities or women, or the like. More films and stories must be made with broader representation. Let’s do that. Let’s make those films and stories happen. But please don’t tell me a minority or a woman should have been nominated just to have them nominated, or simply because they did a really good job; not without a concrete reason as to why their product was a less than one percent effort. And when it comes to the political Academy machine, well that’s a mighty giant WE ALL need to bring down. And that should start with a restructuring of the very institution passing out all those golden statues.