Commentary / Race

A Little Oscar Beef

So, for the last four years in a row, I have spent the Saturday before the Oscars in a movie theatre marathoning the best picture nominations. So, that’s what I did all of yesterday and into the wee hours of today. In past years there have been some great films like Django Unchained, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Selma. What all of the nominations lacked this year was what the aforementioned films had plenty of: Diversity.

Now, let me preface with the fact that I don’t think that any of these movies were bad or even less good because of how little diversity they had, but it’s getting old seeing so many—and the same—white faces in the most “important” movies of the year. And I also understand that many of the nominated films were based on true events (remember, I saw them all), but at the same time, we could always start making movies about equally interesting true events that involved people of color.

I also understand that the Revenant had a cast that included many Native American actors and actresses, and that’s amazing, but not only was it the only movie that included that amount of diversity, but to me, it felt like just one more excuse for white people to make a super racist movie. As a person of color, I need no reminder of historical racism, and I’m starting to feel like white people make these kinds of movies to further argue that racism no longer exists because this movie or that movie document “true” racism.

I think the movie that pissed me off the most as far as diversity was concerned was Mad Max. I thought it was a good movie and it was really entertaining and I liked all of the “Girl Power” it exhibited but… How are you going to explain to me that in a post apocalyptic/dystopian environment that pretty much everyone except for one person is white? That doesn’t even make scientific sense. Of all the movies that should have been full of diverse talent, there was none. And why? It’s certainly not for lack of talent. There are many men and women of color who have proven to the movie-watching world that they are full of talent, and yet are hardly ever considered for movies that aren’t made by black filmmakers. And thank god for Spike Lee and Steve McQueen, because I fear that if it weren’t for directors like them, there would be almost nowhere for people of color to show the world what we have to offer.

And yes, there were a handful of people in The Martian, and people who are widely recognizable (Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor to name a few), that weren’t white but the bulk of screen time was given to white actors. I understand that a lot of Hollywood is concerned with making money, and an easy way to do that is have actors that people know well star in movies. But a system that relies on recognition gives little chance for unknowns, even if they are far more talented than their popular, most likely white, acting counterparts.

I got into a slightly heated debate last night about Jennifer Lawrence. I was making the argument that based on her performance, and the performances of her fellow nominees, she shouldn’t have won best actress for Silver Linings Playbook. In my honest opinion, that award belonged to Quvenzhané Wallis, whom, if you haven’t seen it, did an amazing job in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Even at six, she was able to play an incredibly well developed, multifaceted role, which to me was far more impressive than the “Jennifer Lawrence plays a quirky crazy girl”, which is a role I’ve seen time and time again.

Hollywood, just like many other industries, operates under a system of institutionalized racism, where actors of color are rarely given the opportunity to show how talented they are. The white washing of the best picture nominations this year was so upsetting, and honestly, truly unsettling. And I’m so happy that there was an outcry from black actors to boycott the awards because of this continued problem, but at the same time, it’s really unhelpful that white actors aren’t willing to do the same to bring more light to the issue. It’s the same with institutionalized racism anywhere, until white people can admit that the problem exists, the world at large will ignore the screaming voices of the people the pro


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