Thursday, 21 January 2016

The White Oscars and The Black Backlash

I doubt I am the only one who finds the furore over the race of the 2016 Oscar nominees completely disingenuous. In case you've been living under a rock, the Oscars have been labelled lazily racist, courtesy of a failure to not nominate a black actor in any of the 20 acting slots in the past two years. 2014 was the last time when black actors featured, with one winner and two other nominees. The demography of the Academy does support the idea of a club supported by white men. Yet to suggest that these individuals voted for actors and gave any consideration to their skin colour is utterly repugnant to me. Spike Lee, the Smiths et al are calling Academy members out to the extent that they believe that they are fundamentally prejudiced. Their evidence? Spurious, at best.

Consider how ludicrous a notion that is. They are suggesting that nearly 6000 people took their voting slip, considered all the performances in the year and ruled out Will Smith, Michael B Jordan and Idris Elba because of their ethnicity. Do these people seriously believe that is what happened? With no other evidence in play, if I was an Academy member, I would be furious at the insinuation that I was institutionally racist on an individual and subjective opinion I have about an award.

Now consider the flip side of the argument. Are these people, so indignant at this injustice which has little basis in merit, honestly preaching that Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and Alicia Vikander (or whoever else you would pick) only got their nominations because they are white? Each and every one of the nominees put in stellar performances. None of their nominations were a shock. The outrage at the whiteness of the nominees has completely sullied their work. White people have a right to be nominated and their skin colour should not be a consideration. 

The Oscars doesn't have a Rooney Rule. To drag this down to "we should have a black nominee every year" is nonsense. If that mentality is applied, black actors will wonder if they are nominated on merit or are they just the token measure.

But this is where I really find this protest to be a load of nonsense. There were no Latinos in the last 40 acting nominees. Nor any Asians. Or anyone from the LGBTQ community. There were no Muslims. Or Sikhs. I could go on but I'm sure you get my point. None of these groups staged protests. None of them took to the media to say "We're not coming to your party." None of them have jumped on this ridiculous bandwagon of entitlement. There are plenty of instances in every day life where racism is prevalent. But the Oscars... this seems more like cheap opportunism to me, not a fight against inequality.

Let's consider the most vocal voices. The Smiths, Will and Jada, both are boycotting the Oscars this year. Undoubtedly it has something to do with Will Smith not getting a nomination for Concussion. He was praised for his performance but the film got mixed reviews, which never helps anyone's Oscar chances. Truth be told, a lot of his films through years would fall under the 'mixed reviews' bracket. For Jada Pinkett-Smith to get on her high horse is laughable. Her last decent live action film was Collateral (in which she barely featured) and that was 12 years ago. If you watched her in the TV show Gotham, you'd honestly believe that her acting career is trading off nothing more than her husband's reputation. Awful doesn't cover it. It was pantomime standard acting.

Then there was Spike Lee. I still don't get why he has such a rich reputation. He got an Honorary Oscar for what I would consider to be a thoroughly mediocre career. Basically, if he does a film that doesn't have Denzel Washington in it, then it isn't worth your money. He thinks he can give out lectures and play all wounded because of 40 white nominees. He's done nothing to swing this mythical pendulum the other way, except pick up that Oscar of his own. The irony is I can name a dozen white directors who would have been more deserving than he was but that didn't draw any protests. That would have lacked class. That would have been divisive. That would have been called racist.

The fact is this protest is a divisive race card that is being played. Hollywood is doing what it always does. Panders to the so called minority in an effort to seem with the times. It doesn't dare question them. Actors have seen the dangers of applying their own minds when the mob has made a decision, no matter how ill-informed it is. To do so is to risk your career. Your million dollar career.

So it may be a very white Oscars but it is the black backlash that has actually devalued them. Not just for white actors but for black actors too. Will Smith, Idris Elba and Michael B Jordan may all, one day, win an Oscar. The problem is that, now, they won't know for certain whether it was because of their performance or because of a baseless protest. It doesn't matter what colour you think Oscar is. He's definitely lost his lustre after this.

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