January 21, 2016 by gregrabidoux2013
If you’ve ever watched Hollywood’s big night, and, as the great Lauren Bacall used to say, “Darling, where else would anyone who’s anyone be?” then you already know what a hedonistic, self-indulgent, egomaniacal extravaganza it is. Or, at least, used to be.
In other words, can’t miss television paying breathless homage to the big screen and its glittering stars.
Only this year, a number of stars can and are going to miss it. With names you may recognize like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Oyelowo, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee and Denzel Washington, they and more are all choosing to be no-shows.
Is there some elite, VIP only party that is going on during Hollywood’s biggest night of the year? Maybe Elton John or Madonna mistakenly scheduled their sought-after “after-party” during the show?
Need a hint? All of the no-shows share at least two things. One, membership in the American Actors Guild.
And that second one seems to be the problem. In a Hollywood world where motion pictures long ago changed from monochrome to full “panavision” color their nominees for Academy Awards seem stuck in The Wizard of Oz’s world before the house touches down in the Land of the very colorful, diverse Munchkins.
Hollywood, it appears is still in a very white, very non-diverse 2016 version of Dorothy’s Kansas.
And The Great and Powerful Oz, or in this case, the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had better dig deep into their bag of potions and elixirs and fix this problem. And fast.
Of the entire slate of Academy Award nominees this year not a single nominee is a person of color. Any color. African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Native-American. It’s as if Hollywood thought a bit and said, “You know let’s go back to the days when we’d hire very pale, very non-ethnic actors, slap some hideous face paint on them and then yell ‘Action’ and they’d say “How” to John Wayne.”
Yep. The Golden Age of Hollywood.
So, is it any surprise that a growing protest is currently underway to boycott the Oscars?
Not to actor of color David Oyelowo who starred in “Selma” and was snubbed last year by the Academy. As he says, “It’s not just that actors of color go on auditions and hope we get picked. It’s we hope we can explain why we play the roles we do to our family.”
He may have a point. How many times does Hollywood have a call-back for a black man to play yet another version of Martin Luther King?
But they do love them some Kevin Hart and Ice-Cube driving in cars, shooting guns and making “Booty Call” jokes.
George Clooney who has been playing the elder Hollywood statesman now for some time says it’s not just about getting snubbed at Oscar time but it’s about getting snubbed at screenwriting and casting time.
He too, may have a point.
Unless a motion picture calls for a wise, old, gentlemanly black man to offer kind guidance and advice to the “White Star” (and let’s face it all those parts are seemingly by Hollywood law to be given to Morgan Freeman) there just isn’t a whole bunch to go around.
Pimps, angry, destructive rap stars, disposable and decorative black women, drug dealers, gangbangers, violent thugs…plenty of these roles for actors of any color.
Just not Oscar worthy roles, or so it would seem.
But as Clooney implies, the funnel starts filtering out color way before Oscar Night.
Of the Top 100 Hollywood films released in 2015 a whopping 82% of all actors were white.
Perhaps, as crucial to a diverse Hollywood, the good folks who cast the only votes that mean anything, the Academy Members, who by the way are members for life, are;
- 94% White
- 80% Male
- Average age, nearly 65
So, is this in and of itself some sort of Tinseltown crime?
Nope. But, it is telling.
Last year when Selma was snubbed, some of the members shared their displeasure with how then-president Lyndon B. Johnson was portrayed.
We knew LBJ and your Selma was no LBJ.
OK. But the fact is, many of the movies that even have actors, producers, directors and cinematographers of color simply do not get watched by the Academy Members.
Forget about flying under the radar, many really quality, possibly Oscar-worthy flicks aren’t as much as a blip on the voting screen of those lifetime members who seem to keep asking “So, which one of these movies is that “Gone With the Wind” I’ve heard so much about?
[BTW GWTW was filmed in 1939, and by golly, Hollywood then seemed ahead of the curve as Hattie McDaniel, a woman actor of color won Best Supporting Actress]
The Academy president, Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs is not one of those like-minded members. She said she is “heart broken and frustrated” that not a single nominee is of color and she intends to change this situation.
Ms. April Reign, who organized the current Boycott [#OscarSoWhite] says it’s not going to happen overnight until reform happens not only with the voting process but the day to day way Hollywood conducts its business. But she also shared that she isn’t optimistic that Hollywood or society will change anytime soon.
And then as with any protest there is the inevitable counter-protest and in this case what some are calling the “blacklash.”
Stacey Dash, a woman of color actress and politico has called for an end to Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Black History Month if we are really serious about true integration and ending segregation.
Janet Hubert, who portrayed “Aunt Viv” on Will Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” criticized both Will and wife Jada as hypocrites who have made millions and now since they didn’t get nominated are biting the gilded hand that fed them.
Alexis Arquette, a trans-gender sister of David and Patricia Arquette went um, a bit further. She claims that if Will and Jada had real guts they’d both tell the world what insiders already have known for years-that they are both gay.
So, in other words Hollywood with all its inglorious backstabbing and cat-fighting seems to be acting completely in character. And sadly, it ain’t pretty.
But should any of us really care?
I mean with all of what is happening in the world should anyone, besides maybe Will, Jada and Aunt Viv give a ‘Cecil-B-DeMille’ about who does or does not get to take home an Oscar or two?
Well, normally I’d say no if not for two fairly compelling reasons.
- I wrote a book that was published in 2010 about Hollywood, politics and our society (yes, you can buy it and make my day, available at Amazon.com under “Hollywood Politicos, Then and Now”…ok, end of brazen plug)
- Hollywood is still a multi-billion dollar, global industry that can and often does influence a whole lot of things we do, say, think and buy.