Oscars so white
Alexandra Lowery | Monday, January 25, 2016
The 2016 Oscar nominees announced last Thursday incited not only the resurrection of trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on Twitter, but also an outcry among actors and creators to boycott the awards show after it was revealed that for the second year in a row all 20 nominees in the acting categories were white.
Accusing Hollywood of its continued lack of diversity following the epic snubs “Selma” received during last year’s awards season, it’s no wonder that audiences are in an uproar and taking a stand. The Academy has been criticized for its obvious show of favoritism towards “white men taking on adversity” with multiple nominations for “The Martian,” “The Big Short” and “The Revanant” while “Creed,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Beasts of No Nation” remain largely unrepresented, despite receiving both critical and popular praise.
Jada Pinkett Smith took to her Facebook on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, asking her followers of color to consider pulling back the art that continues to go unnoticed to their own communities and decidedly announcing that she will not be attending this year’s Oscars along with her husband, the widely-considered snubbed “Concussion” star, Will Smith. Director Spike Lee soon followed suit in the boycott. His most recent film “Chi-Raq” earned a respectful 81% on Rotten Tomatoes but no awards recognition.
Lee’s film, however, is not the only small movie to feel the crushing weight of white-washed Hollywood. Highly acclaimed indie films featuring mainly black cast members set a new bar for telling poignant human stories in unique ways. Sean Baker, writer and director of “Tangerine,” utilized his iPhone 5s to shoot the Sundance Film Festival breakout, yet the film has gone completely unrecognized. “Dope,” another Sundance smash about black teens in the ’90s, was left off the 88th Academy Awards list of nominees despite it being a favorite of critics and audiences alike. However, these independent films’ white counterparts (aka “Room” and “The Danish Girl”) earned an adequate four nominations each, an even bigger feat considering “Dope” earned higher box office totals than both films.
For many the problem is explained by the overwhelming number of Academy members who are white, male and over 50, essentially people who “just can’t relate.” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who happens to be an African-American woman, has stated that she is “heartbroken and frustrated” by the standing of nominees in recent years and has announced a five-year plan that hopes to increase diverse thinking amongst top executives when hiring, mentoring and encouraging new talent.
NPR recently reported the board of governors of the Academy unanimously voted and approved changes to make “make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies and its voting members significantly more diverse.”
While Donald Trump would love see such obvious bias continue in Hollywood, it’s safe to say that general audiences are no longer going to stand for it. More and more celebrities are speaking out and, with the use of social media, the Oscars hopefully will not be “so white” for so long.