Director Spike Lee along with actors Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith have decided to boycott the Oscars this year due to the absence of people of color being recognized for their talent on screen.
Twitter trend #OscarsSoWhite has been forcing critics to question the unbalanced lack of diversity within the nominations and if it is a result of having prominently white voters in the academy.
Whether or not the Academy made their decisions based on race is subjective, but the lack of recognition for actors who are people of color is indisputable.
The shortfall of talent is what some people argue why films casted with people of color were not nominated. That justification is a contradiction considering that countless films that did cast people of color did extremely well with both movie critics and the box office.
The Netflix success “Beasts of No Nation” a film depicting civil war in Africa, received no attention from the Oscars, despite having an extremely good rating of five stars from Netflix subscribers and 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
In fact, their ratings in Rotten Tomatoes surpassed nominees “The Revenant” and “The Big Short.” With all the positive feedback from this film whose talent was on par and even surpassed some films that were nominated, why did it receive the cold shoulder from the Academy?
What about “Straight Outta Compton?” Based on rap group N.W.A., the film also had ratings on par with the Oscar nominees and was the highest grossing biopic in history. Why did the academy fail to pay attention to them?
They’re not a fan of old school rap that exposes police brutality or a film that embodies young black men who successfully ascended social class by disobeying white supremacy norms.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Oscar voters are nearly 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. African-Americans are about 2 percent of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2 percent.”
The reason the films above were discredited was not because they were an acquired taste, but rather because the prominent culture that reviewed these films don’t completely understand the relevancy that they hold.
A middle-aged white reviewer cannot possibly understand what made the song “FUCK THE POLICE” in “Straight Outta Compton” amazing because they’ve never experienced police brutality for the color of their skin.
This ignorance is exemplified with a French radio show interview that the New York Times reported on with Award Academy nominee Charlotte Rampling.
Rampling was asked her opinion on the boycott that director Lee had announced in the news outlets. “I find it racist against whites,” Rampling said.
Blind to the definition of racism, the white, English 69-year-old actress continued to dismiss the fact that there were a scarce amount of people of color represented and inaccurately blamed the lack of talent.
“Sometimes maybe black actors didn’t deserve to make the shortlist,” Rampling said.
Assuming that acting is all merit-based is false. Acting isn’t like sports where your talent alone can put you into rosters for teams. Hollywood is also image-based. The color of skin does influence your work opportunities and affects your chances of getting picked for a role.
The problem with this is that they are hardly any scripts that are being written for people of color.
PCC film professor Lindsey Jang felt that the awards are just a small view of the bigger problem, which is Hollywood itself.
“The Oscar Awards are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to discussing the lack of diversity and representation in the whole of yearly Hollywood production,“ Jang said. “One can grouse about the lack of representation in awards, but an even bigger problem is the lack of representation overall in the production of American cinema.“
Hollywood has to create and invest on more scripts for people of color. This idea goes hand in hand with the idea of having more inclusive representation.
Rather than scripts that include a sassy supporting actor, a character where having an accent is convenient for the role, drug dealers and gang related roles or victims of the system, roles should exist that clearly represent how people of color have evolved from those generic stereotypes.
People of color could certainly act in scripts portraying astronauts. They are clever enough to play characters that reveal economical failures, and can most definitely portray a gay or transgender character.
Children of color need to know they are not limited to the options they see in theaters. They need to know that their life is just as important and validated as the white and male actor that is repeatedly being seen at the Oscars.