On 14th January, The Academy Awards revealed the 88th Academy Award nominees. Names like Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Sylvester Stallone, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Rachel McAdams were among the many nominated.
However there was something missing. For the second year running there were absolutely no non-white actors nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress awards. And for the second year running the #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSTILLSoWhite started trending on Twitter.
Last year the controversy arised when critically and commercially acclaimed Selma only got nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Original Song, while not being nominated for Best Director or even Best Actor. The film directed by Ava DuVernay chronicles Martin Luther King’s (David Oyelowo) campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 and stars Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey.
Despite the film being critically acclaimed by some calling it the film of the year, the lack of Oscar nominations caught the attention of many.
Like this year’s nominations, most of the 87th Academy Award nominations were in favour of white directors, writers and actors. The lack of diversity doesn’t just apply to Best Actor/ Actress categories, it also shows up on other award nominations. Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray, is number 18 on the list of top 50 grossing films of 2015, earning over $200 million at the box office.
Starring O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti the film is biographical drama that chronicles the rise and fall of the Compton, California hip hop group N.W.A. Once again the film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress. Despite the critical acclaim and box office success the only nomination the film received was for Best Original Screenplay.
A problem in Hollywood
Comedian and actor Roy Wood Jr. recently went on The Daily Show to discuss #OscarsSoWhite and he quoted that ‘(Straight Outta Compton) was about gangsta rap and they still found a way to nominate white people’. The white people he is referring to is Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, the screenwriters of the film.
He also pointed out the nominations for Creed. The 7th film in the Rocky series, it follows the former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) who serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Once again a critically acclaimed film, some reviewers even calling it the best Rocky film, however once again no nomination for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and the only nomination it received went to Sylvester Stallone the ‘only white dude in the whole movie’ as quoted by Wood Jr.
These suggest that there actually is a problem in Hollywood regarding diversity, especially with the Academy.
This unfairness and discrimination isn’t only directed towards the African Americans but to other diversities in Hollywood too. The last time a non-white actress won the Best Actress award was in 2001 when Halle Berry won the award for Monster’s Ball. The last time a non-white actor won the Best Actor award was in 2006 with Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.
The last time a non-white actor won Best Supporting Actor award was in 2007 with Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. The last time an Asian actor won the Best Actor Award was in 1982 with Ben Kingsley who is of Gujarati Indian descendent in Ghandi. The last time an Asian actress won an Oscar was in 1957 with Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki for Sayonara. The last time a Latino won an Academy Award was in 1961 with Rita Moreno, making her the second Puerto Rican to win an Oscar.
This lack of diversity and discrimination isn’t new. In 2008 all nominations for Best Actor, Actress and Supporting Actor was white actors. Before that in 2007 all nominations for Best Actor and Actress was once again all white actors. Terrence Howard was the only non-white actor to get nominated for an award in 2005.
So this clearly isn’t anything new. What’s new is the reaction from not only the audience but from the Hollywood community itself. Jada Pinkett Smith was one of the first actresses to comment on this discrimination. The award winning actress addressed the issue in a video message she uploaded on her social media on Martin Luther King Day.
She starts with the question: ‘Have we now come to a new time and place that we recognise that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement or respect of any group?.’ She reminds people of diversity how powerful and dignified they are. She ends her message with: ‘Begging for acknowledgment, or even asking, diminishes dignity, and diminishes power, and we are a dignified people… So, lets let the Academy do them with all grace and love – and let’s do us differently.”
The actress revealed that she will be boycotting the 88th Academy Awards alongside her husband Will Smith. The Smiths’ aren’t the only ones who are raising their voices. The Academy Award nominated director Spike Lee also conveyed a message criticising the Academy through his Instagram. Posting a picture of Martin Luther King, the director starts off by thanking the president and board of governors of The Academy for awarding him with an Honorary Award at this year’s Oscars.
He then reveals that he will not be attending the award show because he cannot support the Oscars but he means no disrespect to this year’s host Chris Rock and others. He asked ‘how is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?… 40 White actors in 2 years…?’
He recalls the many times he has been asked by the media regarding the lack of African American nominations and now asks the same journalists to ask the white nominees and the studio executives about this years nominations. He claimed ‘it’s easier for an African-American to be president of the United States than be president of a Hollywood studio.’ He ended his post with ‘African American hires have increased. Facebook and Pinterest have their own version of the Rooney rule to hire minorities. Why can’t Hollywood do the same?… I do hope in my children’s lifetime things will change for the betterment of all Americans.’
Will there be change?
The controversy has only just started. This year’s host is comedian and actor Chris Rock, who will be hosting the award show for the second time. Many like actor Tyrese Gibson and rapper 50 Cent have called out Rock to drop out after the nominations were revealed.
Gibson said: “The statement that you make is you step down, that’s what you do.”
However others like Whoopi Goldberg have said: “Boycotting doesn’t work and it’s also a slap in the face of Chris Rock. So I’m not going to boycott, but I’m going to continue to bitch as I have all year round because I’m tired of seeing movies where no one is represented except a bit of the population, not all of it.”
There have also been many white actors and actresses talking about the issue with Charlotte Rampling who was nominated this year for her role in 45 Years, who said that “We can never know if it was really the case, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to be in the final straight” and that talking about the all-white nominees “It is racist to whites”. Rampling however later claimed that her “comments could have been misinterpreted.”
— Nicola Slawson (@Nicola_Slawson) January 23, 2016
Another comment came from two time Academy Award nominee French actress Julie Delpy who at Sundance Film Festival this year said “Two years ago, I said something about the Academy being very white male, which is the reality, and I was slashed to pieces by the media… I sometimes wish I were African American because people don’t bash them afterward… Nothing worse than being a woman in this business. I really believe that.”
However, Delpy too apologised for her comments, saying “I’m very sorry for how I expressed myself. It was never meant to diminish the injustice done to African American artists or to any other people that struggle for equal opportunities and rights”.
— Standard Showbiz (@standardshowbiz) January 25, 2016
The 88th Academy Awards will take place on 28th February with Rock still onboard to hosting the event. There’s still a little over a month, so there is bound to be more conversations regarding this issue, however it’s hard to imagine any real change happening soon as this system has been going on since the beginning of the Oscars in 1929.
So, will you be boycotting the Oscars this year?
What do you think? Have your say in the comments below!