A little over a month ago in mid-January, when the Oscar nominees were finally announced, it did not take long for everyone to notice something about all the nominees. They are all white. The actors nominated for the 2016 Academy Awards did not include those of any ethnicity other than white.
Immediately, the internet fired back in outrage. The hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, started trending on Facebook and Twitter. Some actors even began threatening to boycott the awards.
Now, with the Oscars on tonight, award show nerds like some of the writers at Speakeasy can’t help but wonder how this actually might impact the show? And most importantly, should it really impact the show? What is the real solution to this problem?
While the nominees may all be white, the show’s host is not. Chris Rock has returned once again to host the event, and many actors have judged his decision to stay with the show. But, Rock has not budged. Hopefully, what this will mean for the show is a lot of daring, risky jokes that Rock can, and should, be able to get away with to truly prove a point. He can use this opportunity to bring justice to the situation while still making everyone laugh.
While this issue can be brought to light by Rock, and hopefully by some of the white nominees recognizing their place of privilege, this should not be the theme of the entire night. Because, to be frank, this problem is not about Oscars.
The Oscars are a representation of some of the year’s best performances in film. Looking at this year’s Oscar nominees, there is an incredibly strong and talented pool. In fact, I would make the argument that nearly everyone who is nominated deserves to be there; not because of their skin color, but because of their incredible performances.
However, in a range of movies released this year that featured many non-race specific roles, why were all of these actors white?
That is truly where the real problem lies. The issue is not with the Oscars but with people who make and cast these films.
Typically, when you see Oscar nominees of color, they are for an incredibly race specific movie. Take the 2014 winner, “Twelve Years a Slave” or 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” for example. These movies require roles to be played by people of color.
However, if a movie is not race specific, then Hollywood has the tendency to automatically cast the white person. That’s the true problem. We need diversity in our films all across the board, not to just tell stories about race.
Why couldn’t Matt Damon’s character in “The Martian” be black? Why couldn’t Rachel McAdams’ character in “Spotlight” have been Latina? Give some of the incredible actors out there, who aren’t white, a chance to take on a role that is beyond the typical roles that they are offered; the Oscar nominations will follow.
The film industry is nowhere near perfect or equal when it comes to representation. Honestly, I cannot tell you when, or even if, that will ever change. What can be said is that if the industry begins to change its approach on casting films, then it could at least start to head on the right track when it comes to equal exposure in film.
What do you think about #OscarsSoWhite? Comment or tweet us to let us know!