This story is a bit far afield from our normal political discussions, but it ties heavily into the entire Social Justice Warrior theme and seems like a very sticky question for the Great Liberal Motherland of Hollywood to wrestle to the ground. The Oscar nominations were announced recently and yet again the awards will be going to pretty much all white actors, writers and directors. As you can imagine, this has left some folks rather unhappy, and a couple of high profile figures will be boycotting the ceremony as a result. (Time)
Chi-raq director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith say they will not attend this year’s Academy Awards after no black actors were nominated.
“How is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the acting category are white?” Lee wrote on Instagram on Monday. “And let’s not even get into the other branches. Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!”
In a video post on Facebook, Jada Pinkett Smith said, “Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence, that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?”
The President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs (who happens to be black herself) said she was heartbroken. (Washington Post)
I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.
Not everyone agreed with the assessment, though. I wanted to point out one dissenting opinion which came from Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” She was responding to the news that her former co-star (Smith) and his wife would not attend.
“I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, made their living and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you’re talking about boycotting just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win,” Hubert said. “That is not the way life works, baby.” She added: “You ain’t Barack and Michelle Obama.”
So there are two questions to answer here. First, is this a real problem or a manufactured one? And second, assuming it is a problem, who is at fault?
For the first, we get to a point which is often debated in politics when racial balancing acts are brought up. How should the Oscar nominations be determined? They are either promoting the best films to be placed in contention for the awards or they need to insert some sort of demographic allocation system such as we have in college admissions. If the Oscar nomination process is supposedly “color blind” then this wouldn’t be a question unless the people making the decisions are racists, right? And if that’s your conclusion, then it looks like you’ll have to inject some sort of big government style set-aside mandate into the process. And yet we have to ask if the academy is simply nominating the films that they thought were the best. If so, are directors and producers just not hiring enough black actors for the top roles? Who makes those decisions?
But who is at fault if that’s the case? I know… I know… there’s probably some way that somebody will figure out how to blame the NRA for this, but that’s going to be a stretch even for liberals. The final decision as to who gets nominated is made through the votes of the thousands of members of the academy. We’re not talking about a particularly conservative group here, to say the least. But even with new invitations to more minorities, the academy remains 93% white and 74% male. So are they just a bunch or racists and sexists? That doesn’t sound right because they’re a bunch of liberals. How could they be racists?
Of course, we already saw that Hollywood executives pay female actors far less than their male counterparts. That would be sexism if a conservative Republican were doing it, but in Hollywood I guess it’s all just business. This is all so confusing, isn’t it?