The real issues of filmmaking lie in the hands of executives
Since the 2016 Oscar nominations have been announced on Jan. 14, the talks of the lack of diversity in the prestigious award show has been on the minds of some of Hollywood’s top actors, directors and media personalities.
Granted the lack of nominations for the African American community is quite unfortunate, I’m not surprised nor does the uprising of celebrities who wish to boycott shock me. Yes, this is the second year in a row that major African American and Hispanic actors were overlooked in the actor categories at the Oscars, but the problem isn’t about the award show itself.
Prime example, the writers of the hip-hop drama “Straight Outta Compton,” were nominated for the best original screenplay—just one thing, they are all White. Plus the only person nominated from the movie “Creed,” by filmmaker Ryan Coogler—a Black writer and director, is the White supporting actor Sylvester Stallone.
By truly dissecting the issue of lack of diversity in this awards season—one can’t help but discover the true lack is in higher positions.
“The problem of the lack of diversity at the awards is really about Hollywood in general,” said Reverend Al Sharpton on a conference call with the National Action Network (NAN). Sharpton, alongside several leaders across the U.S., are participating in a “TV Tune Out” Anti-Oscar campaign for the Oscar Awards Ceremony on Feb. 28. The campaign calls for the general public to not watch the Academy Awards to stand in solidarity with those in the entertainment industry who are boycotting. “Last year, when they announced the nominees for the best actress, best supporting actor or actress they had no Black or Brown nominees. The problem isn’t the board of governors at the Oscars, it’s the structure of Hollywood. There are no Blacks or Browns that have the power to green light films,” he said.
Various people in Hollywood have had the same reaction as Sharpton. Actor Don Cheadle expressed the same sentiments in a TIME Magazine interview stating, “I think it’s a step in the right direction, a needed step. But people really have-to-have access to tell stories they want to tell. So what we really need is people in positions to green light those stories, not a hunk of metal.”
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s first African American president, believes the organization should stop being exclusive.
“Of course I am disappointed, but this is not to take away the greatness [of the films nominated],” said Isaacs in a Deadline.com interview. “I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among our nominees in all of our categories.”
Many celebrities have also taken their concerns to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram sharing their distaste about the Oscars. Even so that it has caused some friction between Jada Pinkett-Smith and former “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actress Janet Hubert. Pinkett-Smith stated in her Facebook video post that she and her husband, Will Smith, would be skipping the awards. For both Jada and Will, neither of their films “Magic Mike XXL” or the Oscar-friendly movie “Concussion” made the Academy voters nominated the films. “Begging for acknowledgement or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people. And we are powerful. Let’s not forget it. So let’s let the Academy do them with all grace and love. And let’s do us,” said Pinkett-Smith.
Janet Hubert believes that boycotting the award show will blackball actors who are trying to make it in the industry.
“The Oscars were never designed for us. There are actors who have never gotten an Oscar and have done amazing work. If you are waiting for an award of a little … gold statue and that’s supposed to validate you, then you’re not in this business for the right reasons. We do the work. It’s about the work. It’s about taking the pages of a script and bringing them to life. It ain’t that deep. We get paid a lot of money to do very little work,” said Hubert.
The ironic thing about the awards is the fact that a Black actor and comedian, Chris Rock, will be hosting the show. Not only does that factor into the representation of African Americans at the show, it also reflects the juxiposition of Hollywood. There are two images being portrayed. One, we accept you enough to let you host and secondly, we recognize you by letting you host but African American nominations are not the importance.
However, what will it cost the Academy to have celebrities boycott and for viewership to decrease? The boycott could be a double edge sword for the industry. For the first time in several years, an African American producer—Reginald Hudlin, has been hired to spearhead the production of the Academy Awards. Hudlin has also hired African American writers to create Rock’s dialogue for the show. So, the drop in viewership can affect Hudlin from being asked to do the Award show again in the future. This is an essential factor to take into consideration, due to positions like Hudlin’s, who can help catapult the amount of minorities involved on the production side of the show.
Clearly the Academy knows there’s a problem. It’s not a coincidence that Rock was asked to return to host this year. And the honorary Academy Award for Spike Lee was also an attempt to “bring some flavor up in here,” according to Lee when he accepted the award back in November. Still, as Lee also pointed out, the balance of power is still out of whack. “It’s easier to be the President of the United States as a Black person than be the head of a studio,” he said. “Or the head of a network.”