The biggest weekend for actors and actresses in Hollywood is just a few days away.
It’s the event movie enthusiasts look forward to every year. The event that encourages us to watch films that provoke various think pieces, blogs, and occasional snore-fests. But, for a few years now, the Oscars have brought on a different kind of conversation – and quite an important one, for that matter. It’s the kind of conversation that causes a certain discomfort not only within the industry, but also in the midst of friends and colleagues who have to decide whether or not they’ll even be watching the Oscars this year. And if you do – should you be feeling guilty?
Basically, for the last two years, no person of colour was nominated in any of the major categories for the most prestigious award in Hollywood; the Academy Award. Upon realizing this rather questionable circumstance, many actors and actresses have called on a boycott, agreeing not to partake or watch the Oscars this year. The boycott may, or may not, have started with critically-acclaimed actor Will Smith, who was said to have been snubbed for his role in Concussion. Thus, the question arises as to why the boycott really began. Was it due to feelings of bitterness and denial that his performance, specifically, was snubbed, or is it because there truly is a lack of diversity that needs to be addressed? Well, here are my thoughts.
No one is playing ‘the black card’ here. People of colour don’t want to be nominated because of their colour. They want to be nominated because of their talent, their performances, and their input to the film industry. Thus, the conversation about lack of diversity in the film industry is not an invitation to provide people of colour with pity nominations. It’s an invitation to look at the bigger picture, and the problems that are currently present in Hollywood. The fact that the Academy felt no persons of colour were eligible to be nominated for the past two years is not due to lack of talent in the industry – it’s due to the lack of roles available for people in the industry.
It’s not that progress isn’t being made. I see the slow emergence of colour in the industry when I flip through the channels on television. Still, very rarely, do I come across people who look like me. Sure, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington are tearing up Thursday nights and Priyanka Chopra is currently gracing Sunday’s with her South Asian beauty, but why is it when we watch movies, the people that are supposed to look like a certain race and ethnicity – don’t.
If you’ve seen John Oliver’s take on #OscarsSoWhite (below), you’ll know what I’m talking about. A compilation of video clips reveal that the lack of roles given to people of colour are largely due to part that it is in fact, white people, that are being cast in these roles instead. We saw this during the release of Aloha, where Emma Stone was cast as an island girl despite her pasty white skin and huge, buggy eyes. And we saw it again during the release of Prince of Persia, played by a very non-Persian looking Jake Gyllenhall. Although we’ve come a long way from black-face days in the industry, casting decisions like these really make me think – why?
The scariest part is, I, as a person of colour, did not notice the problem with some of these roles until it was pointed out to me. For me, watching Prince of Persia meant taking in the beauty of Jake Gyllenhall in a lot of armour. Gerard Butler in Gods of Egypt is equally yummy. We get so caught up in the star power, car explosions, sword fights, and all the basic eye-catching elements of a Hollywood movie, we forget to think about the more intellectual aspects such as historical accuracy and ethnic requirements.
The fact that we run off to the theatre as soon as a new Jennifer Lawrence movie or Leonardo DiCaprio flick comes out just comes to show that not only has Hollywood whitewashed the industry – it’s winning. With a few splashes of colour here and there with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz, it seems the lack of diversity in Hollywood didn’t even matter to us – until now.
Stick all the nominees into one frame and the visual leaves you with a slap in the face. “Where are all the coloured people?” The thought flicks in our minds and the conversation is sparked. #OscarsSoWhite may not be the ideal hashtag for the board, but it’s the first step to initiating change and raising awareness. The only people we have to blame is ourselves for not starting the conversation sooner. Tje comments left by people named ‘John Goldman’ and ‘Stephanie Smith’ under these videos and think pieces will still leave you speechless. The reverse racism is prevalent and the thoughts and opinions are just plain ignorant.
To answer your question, there’s no need to boycott the Oscars. With Chris Rock set to host the night, we can already expect a plethora of black jokes and digs at the absence of colour in the hall. What we do need to do is continue the conversation and ask questions when casting mistakes happen again – as they will. With the hashtag circulating and the dialogue active, we’ve done what we need to do for now.
So it’s best that we acknowledge the nominees who have worked equally hard this year as the rest of us and enjoy the night. Besides, this may finally be the year that America’s sweetheart (and mine) wins an Oscar for his role in ‘The Revenant.’ DiCaprio, of all people, should know whats it’s like to be snubbed year after year. It’s only fair we repay the favour and root him on.
Of course, the decision is yours.
Will you be watching the Oscars this Sunday? Let us know in the comments below!