How Did #OscarsSoWhite Get So Messy?

Right now, the Northeast is under a blizzard watch for all of Saturday, and it seems like a similar storm over the blinding exclusive whiteness of the 20 performer nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. All but the completely Grinchy at heart can see the inherent bias from a nominating and voting board that is 94% white and 77% male.

What’s a Black actor, writer or director to do in situations like this? The immediate answer is not much. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is not a government body, and is under no real obligation to behave in a way that represents or reflects the best interests of the population that consumes the products they put out. Ah, but there is the key word: the consumers. When you look at the breakdown of movie ticket buyers, it seems that about 46% of them are Black. It’s obvious then, that Black people have very little trouble laying aside any cultural or skin tone differences when choosing what to watch and which actors to follow.

Hey, Matt Damon and Ridley Scott: You’re welcome, by the way, for whatever contribution we made in helping your film succeed. Glad you put that obnoxious, nasty “Moses” business behind you.

You’ve seen the video on her Facebook page, right? In just under three minutes, she asks whether “we” have come to a time and place where “we” should stop yearning, no, begging, for a body that doesn’t reflect or represent us to actually duly acknowledge our creative output, especially when it is outstanding and might deserve an award. And that maybe it is time for “us” to pull back “our” resources and put them back into our own projects. Strike out on our own. She also announced the now-famous boycott of the Oscars.

Oh, Mrs. Smith. The years have given astute observers so much ammunition to cast doubt on the sincerity of your desire to be FUBU, when your husband was supposedly one of the actors who was supposedly snubbed for a nomination. Her husband’s former co-star Janet Hubert, however, minced no words in her response, which went viral, of course. She pulled the Smith’s cards, noting that they have never strongly advocated for the careers of actors of color, aside from their own children, and that it was thoughtless of them to call for actors with less social and economic clout to take a course of action that might put them on the outs with the powers that be.

Some say Ms. Hubert was merely salty — still, after 20 years — for a falling out that she had with Will Smith leading to her exit from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Well, if that’s the case, then Ms. Hubert has company, because my first inclination after seeing Mrs. Smith’s video was that she was salty because her husband was not nominated for an award. The Smiths might make modest gestures in helping former costars here and there launch a minor project, but they are far from being figures that have helped mentor and advise up and coming talent in the industry, particularly if they’re not one of Will’s kids. Kind of weird to expect the people who might have benefited from your advocacy in the past to now take a bold stance with their careers to help you all make a point, huh?

And poor Will. When he did get around to getting on a national platform to explain his perspective on diversity in Hollywood, he really sounded like he was not prepared for the backlash that Jada had gotten him into. He always seemed to be searching for the right words to Robin Roberts’ questions, as if he’s never really trod on that topic before and had to quickly think on his feet to come up with an answer.

I’ve always thought that Jada was the kookier one in that relationship, and now I’m totally convinced.

If Jada’s video has gotten him deeper into an area that he didn’t expect, then it will be interesting to see how he gets out of this one.

Regardless of whether this storm blows over with the Smiths, I can tell you that I’ve already moved on from expecting mainstream networks and movie studios to tell stories reflective of my culture. After noticing some of the special tomfoolery that goes on with Black actors, and other actors of color, I’ve been seeking out other entertainment options that highlight more Blacks, men and women, and in varied ways that don’t play to lazy stereotyping by white writers who just don’t know any better or don’t care to. The Smiths are late with their self-serving call to action, and the Oscars lost a lot of their luster and relevance in my mind years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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