If you were anywhere near social media yesterday, then you know the second Oscar nominations were announced, posts/tweets/statuses and the like were all exploding with a very specific and familiar hashtag.
Yes, once again (second year in a row) all 20 acting nominees (and also the directing nominees) were all white. Now, last year, after the Selma award’s run debacle, I wrote a piece on this very issue and once again I find myself somewhat baffled and kind of rolling my eyes a tad at all these outraged tweets and this constant use of the popular hashtag.
Before you get offended, let me explain.
I feel pressed to ask everyone complaining about this; what exactly did you expect yesterday morning? I find it telling that I keep seeing certain names of actors and films popping up in tweets and ‘think-pieces’ and I find myself wondering why anyone really thought these nominations were going to happen. Did anything indicate to you that Michael B. Jordan was even in the running for Lead Actor? I’m not saying he isn’t worthy, but where were his critics wins? Where was his Globe nomination? Like I said to someone yesterday who, a few hours before the Oscar nominations were announced, tweeted that they were ready to flood twitter with #OscarsSoWhite; “what more do you expect when Idris Elba is the only POC in contention for an Oscar nomination?”. It almost feels like this groupthink has gripped a large portion of moviegoers who wait all year, sitting on their clever new hashtag, just waiting for the moment they can get upset at the old white guys.
I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, because I see it too, but this particular barrage of “let’s boycott Oscars” is so misguided, because Oscars are not the singular problem.
Where was #GlobesSoWhite? Sure, they nominated Will Smith for that football movie (are we proud of that?), but outside of Elba there was no one else? Where was #SAGSSoWhite? #BAFTASoWhite? What about critics? #NYFCCSoWhite? #LAFCASoWhite? Why are we dragging Oscar through the mud for doing exactly what every other awards body this year did? I ask again, what did we expect? This isn’t a solitary problem, and so all this vitriol towards Oscar individually seems so misdirected.
This is the real problem. Films championing actors and stories of POC are not getting made and distributed and campaigned as much and as strongly as they should be. Creed is a prime example of a campaign that rapidly transformed into one thing; Stallone getting an Oscar. While the initial reviews seemed to propel the film into the category of Oscar contender all the way around, critics bodies and precursor awards latched onto a single aspect of the film and ran with it, disregarding the rest and soon the whole film became about Stallone and nothing else. This isn’t Oscar’s fault. Oscar, religiously, does what it’s told. It was told to nominate Stallone. It did that. It was not told to nominate Michael B. Jordan or Ryan Coogler or Tessa Thompson. The problem runs deeper than Oscar, much deeper.
But at least Creed got made! I’ve made mention many times before that sadly, POC (especially women) are not given the roles that Oscar likes to nominate. It’s not that the roles aren’t there, but when someone looks at an actor of color, they see stereotypes and so they are generally only offered roles that confine to these stereotypes. Again, Hollywood’s problem, not Oscars. Look at the only viable contender this year, Elba. He was playing a character that HAD to be black. It would be nice if Elba could actually land the role of James Bond and break into a franchise like that, making it race-neutral.
I’ll give you this, this year sported some very well received and critically lauded films about POC. Straight Out of Compton, Beasts of No Nation, Dope, Creed, Chi-Raq; but the distribution and campaigns for these films was almost non-existent. Beasts and Chi-Raq suffered from lack of studio backing, and so I doubt very many Oscar voters actually watched them, despite the reviews. Dope was a small indie that came and then went without a revival from critics. Straight Out of Compton was only ever a contender in BP, with no one singling out any performances, and it was probably within the Top 10. We’ve already discussed Creed. The point is, Oscar is not the only award’s body to snub these films. Oscar just followed the pattern set by everyone else.
This is a problem (as is the misogyny, which is almost MORE of a problem) but it’s an industry issue. And before we get into blaming the Oscars for being lazy, I dare you to take a look at the NAACP Image Award nominees and wonder why they lazily nominated the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who I adore, mind you) for her absolute nothing role in Concussion over the likes of Mya Taylor for her critically lauded performance in Tangerine. It’s an issue everywhere!
I’d love to see this rectified. In a just world, we’d have Oscar nominees Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Mya Taylor, Karidja Toure and Assa Sylla, just to name a few; but we don’t live in a just world ATM. The problem runs deeper than where you’re currently targeting, though.
And I’m sure many of you are thinking it, so I’ll beat you to the punch.