The 2016 Oscar nominations are proof that the Academy doesn’t care about you.
I’ll repeat it differently: Black people, the Academy doesn’t care that you’re upset about all the white Oscar nominations. And, frankly, they don’t care about you. They really just…don’t. I’m sorry to sound like Kanye West’s “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” moment circa 2005 but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Hollywood is not pressed by your hashtags (#OscarsSoWhite). They are unbothered by how big Straight Outta Compton‘s box office numbers were or how well the actors performed. They for damn sure aren’t checking for empowering and recognizing actors and actresses of color. No. Hollywood is concerned with whiteness, nepotism, and the almighty dollar. If you aren’t doing anything to add to one of those things, sorry to inform you but, they have you on mute.
Everybody was so up in arms last year when all of the acting nominations at the Oscars went to white people. The consensus was that there needed to be change. That Hollywood could and should do better. There were even expectations they would do better. But here we are again in the same situation.
“It’s almost the exact same scenario, but more offensive. … There needs to be changes across the board. It’s like beating an old horse every year.”
– Gil Robertson, President of the African American Film Critics Association
But why? Why should there be changes? Why should we demand that white people value our artistic performances in the same ways that we do?
I completely understand that there are financial ramifications for these nominations and the potential winners. There is prestige. But why are we so thirsty to be recognized by an elite cabal of old white men?
In all of this nomination hoopla, the only thing I’m really bothered by is the one nomination that Straight Outta Compton (a movie I didn’t see for personal reasons) did receive. The film was nominated for Best Screenplay for writers Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, both of whom are white. If you want to be upset about something, be upset about that. Straight Outta Compton was a biopic about N.W.A., and it was written by white folks? This is inexcusable in my eyes. Not only that, the Academy is saying that of all the people who contributed to this film, the only ones worth a damn are two white people. Chew on that.
We are taught to believe that the Oscars matter, and because we believe that they matter, they do. So what would happen if we all suddenly stopped caring? What would happen if we stopped tweeting about nominations and winners ad nauseum? What if we didn’t watch the broadcast and didn’t elevate the Academy’s choices? To do otherwise is to willfully subject oneself to abuse.
I say fuck the Oscars. Fuck the Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other phony award shows that portend to dictate value in entertainment. If the Academy won’t appreciate Idris Elba and Beasts of No Nation, we will. If Will Smith is falling out of favor with Oscar voters, we’ve still got his back.
This is how things are. This is also how Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Laurence Fishburne, and so many other black actors are able to keep paying their mortgages. As white support has ebbed and flowed, we kept supporting our own (for better or for worse). And due to that support, they have been able to build lasting careers.
I’m not having delusions of grandeur, as if the loss of black viewership and social media presence would shut down the Oscars. I merely suggest that we don’t place that same support or importance on a glorified exercise in promoting and awarding whiteness.
Kanye said it about Bush. Now I’m saying it about the Academy. What’s sad is how right he was then and how right I am today.
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