#OscarsSoWhite: More Discussion, New Open Letters Published

TONS of Oscar news, I tell ya! Tons of it! The battle for diversity in the Oscar nominations has gotten bigger than anyone thought it would get (including me, which might surprise you—I vacillate between cynicism and optimism) . Here’s what’s been happening so far.

Will Smith will not attend the Oscars after all. You can read more about his comments at Entertainment Weekly, but just know that during his Good Morning America exclusive he said these points: 1) he didn’t know about his wife’s plan to release a video, 2) he feels his wife would have made a video whether or not he was nominated (despite his concession that perhaps the lack of a Concussion nomination was the catalyst for Pinkett Smith’s feelings), and 3) this issue is about more than him and Concussion; it’s about the whole industry.

Mark Ruffalo heavily weighed not going to the Oscars over the course of Thursday. First, he said to BBC News that he was considering joining the boycott, saying, “I woke up in the morning thinking, what is the right way to do this? Because if you look at Martin Luther King’s legacy, what he was saying was, the good people who don’t act are much worse than the people, the wrongdoers that are purposely not acting and don’t know the right way.” Later on Twitter, Ruffalo gave his final decision and his reasoning:

50 Cent and Tyrese Gibson want Chris Rock to boycott the Oscars, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. But personally, I want Chris Rock to host and slay the game. Embarrassing the Academy on live television is the type of righteous pettiness I can get behind.

• Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Quincy Jones are among other actors who are calling for more diversity in the Oscar voting pool. Davis, who was nominated for her role in The Help (a role indicative of the kind of roles the Oscars nominate for black people), said that the Oscar issue is indicative of a much larger societal problem. To quote The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s not the Oscars. The Oscars are a symptom of a much greater issue and that’s the issue of the Hollywood movie-making system. How many more movies are being made that have this in it,” she asks as she points to the color of her skin. “More films need to be made wher we can shine. That’s the bottom line. The opportunity does not match the talent. There needs to be more opportunity, that’s just it. And you have to invest in it.”

Nyong’o, who won for her role in 12 Years a Slave (a slave role, another type the Oscars love for black people), posted this on Instagram:

Jones, who is the first black person to be added to the Academy board of governors, said to the National Association of Television Program Executives conference Wednesday that said he intends to address the diversity issue with the AMPAS board next week. “I’m going to ask the board to let me speak for five minutes on this lack of diversity. We’ve got to find a solution. It’s been going on for too long,” he said, according to Variety.

Brie Larson threw her support behind #OscarsSoWhite with this Instagram post:

Reese Witherspoon also called for more attention to the nominations outrage, writing on Facebook (and lauding TIME Magazine):

I really appreciated this article in TIME on the lack of racial and gender diversity in this year’s Oscar…

Posted by Reese Witherspoon on Thursday, January 21, 2016

• Other actors are furthering the diversity discussion by talking more about the industry at large. Idris Elba recently spoke to British Parliament about the lack of roles for black British actors, saying “Talent is there, opportunity isn’t, [a]nd talent can’t reach opportunity”(you can read the transcript here). On Twitter, Elba called the speech “the mot important speech I ever made.”

Nate Parker, who is playing slave rebel leader Nat Turner in the upcoming film Birth of a Nation (a film he wrote, produced and directed), said that too many of the roles for black men lack “integrity.” “As a black man, you leave auditions not hoping you get the job but wondering how you explain it to your family if you do,” he said to The Hollywood Reporter. “Historically, and this is truly my feeling, generally speaking we as black people have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings, or being in the center [of] our own narrative driving it forward.”

Dustin Hoffman told BBC News (as reported by The Hollywood Reporter) that that lack of inclusion with Oscar noms is indicative of America’s racist history, calling it “subliminal racism.”

“In our country, there’s a subliminal racism, and it’s been there…the end of the Civil War didn’t change that,” he said on the red carpet of the National TV Awards. “It’s only been 200 years, this is just an example of it.” He also said, “Other than black entertaiiners being nominated, there’s a bigger problem with young black individuals being killed on our streets by police. That’s a bigger problem.”

• The Los Angeles Times has also addressed that it’s not just black people denigrated by the lack of Oscar nominations and the industry; the Times‘ Susan King points out that it’s been 54 years since a Latina won an Oscar, and an Asian actress hasn’t won in 58 years. Ben Johnson, of Cherokee and Irish descent won an Oscar in 1971, and no other indigenous person  who was nominated for an Oscar has won since.

• Some of the Oscar voters themselves have come out to The Hollywood Reporter on the defensive, with some saying that they feel it’s unfair to imply that they are racist (even though no one applied the word “racist” and the consensus doesn’t account for a more nuanced reading of the outrage fans and other Oscar voters have). Others have also said that the battle should be with the industry, not with them.

• Despite what some of the offended Oscar voters are saying, many of the current and former Academy brass are working on getting their members in check. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson had an op-ed published in The Hollywood Reporter, stating that this moment in time is an “inflection point.” To quote a piece:

“There’s not one part of the industry that doesn’t need to be addressed, and it’s been this way for 25 years. The needle has hardly moved. It’s cultural, it’s institutional, it’s our society at large, it’s our education system–all of it–before you get to an industry that’s supposed to reflect this beautiful world. And the indstury has been building up over a very log time, starting with white men running the studios who hire other people who look like them. It hasn’t changed that much, and it won’t until there’s a concerted effort on every single front: talent, the executives in the studios, the people we mentor.”

The former Academy president, Hawk Koch, wrote in a passionate open letter to the Hollywood industry (published in The Hollywood Reporter) that a boycott won’t solve anything, but changing the industry will. Quoting the letter:

“…[C]learly our industry needs to do more to find and develop talent in all the crafts. We must work with the Unions and the Guilds as well as schools across the country to identify and cultivate the talent of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women, LGBTs, the disabled an all under represented gropus. And then we have to allow them access to every single aspect of filmmaking.”

All of this and more will probably be discussed this Tuesday when AMPAS will meet for a routine meeting next Tuesday. One of the governors told Entertainment Weekly that “[i]t promises to be a long and adventuresome night.”

News about #OscarsSoWhite is still developing as we speak, so we’ll see what happens in the coming days.

  • lkeke35

    Yes, I keep waffling back and forth on the boycott (a word I don’t like to use because it’s not exactly accurate) because it sends a very clear message how much Hollywood is supported by PoC. On the other hand I’ve heard some really good arguments about NOT doing so.

    And I don’t think Rock should step down at all. I think he should shame them all night long. It might even be worth watching the Oscars just to see him do it, even though I don’t want to give the show ratings.

    It’s interesting to see which actors support the issue and which ones got defensive though, and the defensive ones all seem to be people who are either no longer relevant or I never cared about their careers anyway.