Alright, soooo… I talk about diversity a lot. BECAUSE IT MATTERS. But I don’t really know where I stand on the #OscarssoWhite issue. I’m really only writing about it because it’s trending and I should have an opinion. So, I’ll make it up as I go. Here goes nothing.
Fact: The 2016 Oscar nominations don’t represent the diversity of films released in 2015.
Myth: The Academy purposefully only nominated white people.
Fact: The Academy isn’t very diverse.
Conclusion: Boycotting the Oscars may make a statement but will it catalyze any real change? Sure, next year’s Oscars won’t be lilly white to prove the point that people of color were heard and are respected. But people of color will continue to be underrepresented because The Academy isn’t representative of the filmmakers. Subconsciously, we vote for what we understand, who we know, what we’ve seen, what relates to us. So if the majority of The Academy is white, then the nominations are a reflection of who they are. Not in a “we hate people of color” kind of way. But, in a “we don’t relate to people of color” kind of way. And herein lies the problem. How can that problem be solved? Diversify The Academy. Doesn’t seem like rocket science does it? So why isn’t The Academy diverse? Idk. Waiting on someone to tell me.
However, I’ll add that Will Packer, mega-producer of Straight Outta Compton and almost any-and-everything Kevin Hart related, states that the problem starts before the Academy is involved. “We need more content produced by, written by, directed by and featuring filmmakers and actors of color being given the greenlight. We need them to start moving forward this year so in 2019 there are quality projects in contention! Although there were multiple performances and films that existed this year (and were overlooked), we still need more. We need those of us in the industry, and those outside trying to get in, to continue to push Hollywood to create opportunities for these films so that we have more than a handful each year.” I tend to agree. But then the people would be even more pissed if there were more films and filmmakers to choose from and they still didn’t get recognized.
Marlon Wayans also brilliantly notes that most diverse filmmakers don't have big budgets. Without big budgets, big movies cannot be made. Most diverse filmmakers simply cannot make The Revenant. No big films = no big awards. I hadn't ever thought of it that way but it is a good point. Way to open the dialogue, Marlon. And people think they can't take you seriously...
I feel like I’m off topic. The subject of this post is something about shade. Many diverse filmmakers have stated that they will be boycotting this year’s Academy Awards. Will, Jada and Spike Lee (who was just awarded an honorary Oscar in 2015) are calling for people of color to boycott this year’s Oscars. Little do they know that more people will be tuning in just to see who does and doesn’t show up. What kind of names will people of color who do attend be called for not participating in the boycott? Uncle Tom? Shuck and jivers? Who knows but something tells me it won’t be pretty. I’ll be watching. Will you?
Shannan E. Johnson, a writer who doesn't write.