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.