The Oscars are the cream of the crop, the epitome in Hollywood’s take on awards shows. The Academy is an elite group, and to receive their nomination for a top award is an honor bestowed upon a select few. For the at-home audience, the Oscars are a fabulous display of beautiful and talented people, parading the red carpet in designer gowns and smart suits, eventually cheering on their favorite celebrities to their victories through a TV screen. Overall, it’s a pleasant evening of entertainment.
However, in recent news, the Oscars have crept into a controversial corner, complete with its very own hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtag has taken over social media, calling out the Academy for the second year in a row that not a single person of color is nominated for awards in the acting categories. With racial tensions running high throughout the country, the Oscars issue is just another atop an impressive list, following the likes of Ferguson, the Mizzou protests, and Abigail Fisher’s case against Affirmative Action.
What then, makes this recent controversy so important? Considering that this is not the first, but the second time the Academy has faced the same critique, what makes it stand out?
The very aspect of time and repetition is an aggravating factor to both the colored community and sympathizers. The Academy is comprised of supposedly well-qualified critics, charged with selecting the best of the best to receive the awards. It might be excused that colored actors had not been nominated in the past, but the year is 2016. Many expect the Academy to have progressed as time has, updating their standards to include all members of the acting community.
According to a Jan. 27 article in the National Review, “The imbroglio has led to threats and boycotts from some of the industry’s biggest names including Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and Will Smith and his wife, Jada.” Smith has also declared that Hollywood has become a “regressive” industry.
Many colored actors have taken personal offense to the nominations, and understandably so. It is impossible to deny that there have been incredible movies produced starring colored actors that have failed to be nominated. However, more troubling is the lack of impactful roles offered to colored actors. According to a Jan. 28 article for The Hollywood Reporter, the majority of colored roles are centered on typical box office movies, such as series like “Fast & Furious” and “Ride Along”. While these movies are box office billionaires, they do not offer roles that are award winning.
It is important when watching the Oscars this year to keep in mind the impact of the Academy’s decision. While the boycott may be more productive from the actors who are actually invited, viewers must remain conscious of their entertainment’s core values and consider what they are supporting as the Academy hosts the 88th Academy Awards.