Yes, #OscarsSoWhite, but can we really blame the Academy?

The truth is, the Academy’s demographics are a problem. They’re too damned white. But this year’s white-washed ballots are only a symptom of a much larger problem: the fact that talented black actors just aren’t getting cast.

A lot was made earlier this year when a role that was originally meant to be male (and in fact was based on a real-life man) was rewritten for Sandra Bullock (in Our Brand is Crisis). That movie aside, it turned out to be a banner year for women in film. So why can’t we do the same for people of colour? White has been the de facto race for far too long, the product of unimaginative directors and casting agents who refuse to acknowledge that most parts could and should be colour-blind.

The race for best actor and best actress Oscars this year lacks diversity. It’s a fucking vacuum where only white people may enter. But what choice did the voters really have? Last year we could easily feel that Selma had been grossly ignored, but can you think of a black actor, or any non-white actor, who was unfairly overlooked this year?

Don’t say Will Smith. Sure the Globes love him, he’s the freaking Fresh Prince, but he didn’t deserve an Oscar nomination for his work in Concussion. You could maybe argue Idris Elba, for Beasts of No Nation, but you’d have to argue. It’s a tight race this year, and only 5 roles can be acknowledged. Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Sylvester Stallone are likely locking up most votes for best supporting actor. Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo are more interchangeable, but it’s not clear cut. I do wonder, though, if perhaps the roles those two played could have been fulfilled by a non-white actor? I realize they’re both based on real-life people, but don’t we have a moral obligation to represent all people a little more fairly in the mainstream media? Movies are supposed to represent and reflect the audiences watching them, but they’re failing to do that over and over and over. And relying on “black movies” like Selma or 12 Years A Slave to provide the only colour at an awards ceremony is egregious and embarrassing. It’s also a little embarrassing that the only nominations for Creed and Straight Outta Compton, movies that actually did feature black talent, still somehow went to white people.

We can do better.

 

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12 thoughts on “Yes, #OscarsSoWhite, but can we really blame the Academy?

  1. Liz A.

    I was wondering the same thing. Is it really the Academy’s fault when there isn’t enough diversity in Hollywood? Which is funny, considering that Hollywood is in Southern California, and all you have to do is look around on any street and you’ll find plenty of diversity.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, that’s the telling thing: they have to go out of their way to be this racist. There need to be some major changes at the studio level. You can’t win a race you’re not in.

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Birgit

    There is sooooo much hoopla over this that my fear is they will nominate Keenan Ivory Wayans for playing Big Mama because he is simply black. You are so right that they need to give an actor a good role and it shouldn’t matter if he is black or white or any other colour for that matter. I think it is silly to boycott the Oscars since this issue has been around since the day Oscars was started. The other very sad note is that money talks. If a white woman was in a romance comedy with a black man or a black man was a super spy or an action hero etc… it may weaken the box office appeal in the South where some folks still cling to that confederate flag, with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. The last thing I want is a back lash where a great acting part is over-looked because that person is white just to appease the loud talkers. People may think I am being nasty but I believe in giving recognition to the person who deserves it not what colour they are. Sorry for saying “black” instead of African American but I wanted to stick to the actual colour word otherwise I would feel compelled to write Caucasian American

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  3. Jordan Dodd

    Great post. I can’t stand awards stuff but you’re right, its more than the academy. But they sre still a part of the problem. Off the top of my head, Michael B Jordan this year and Chadwick Boseman as James Brown last year are two glaring recent omissions. This sorta stuff is why the awards season drive me crazy

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  4. Dan

    You’ve hit the nail on the head: black actors aren’t getting the roles they deserve which is limiting the pool for the Academy to vote on. That said, there is a problem with the membership demographics but like you say, it’s indicative of a wider problem.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, I totally agree that there’s a problem with their voters as well! I hear they’re “recruiting” women and minorities, and it sounds harsh to put it like that but clearly we do need some so-called affirmative action to even things out.

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  5. reocochran

    I guess I liked Will Smith in Concussion And thought the “Straight Outta Compton” film was unique and showed me a different view on the situation. My youngest daughter thought the young “Creed” actor did great. I would like to see more black indie movies. I really liked last year’s film with Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton about their marriage and love affair. The quirky side characters who were apt hunting cracked me up. Was it Three or “Two Flights Up?”
    Why not nominate Idris Elba? Oh, by the way, several special people in my life did not enjoy “Revenant.” Sometimes, playing someone against all odds goes too far. . .

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