Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Lack Of Racial Diversity In Hollywood & No Black Actors/Actresses Nominated For 2016 Academy Awards (selected comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides excerpts from a few selected online blog posts and articles about the lack of diversity in Hollywood movie production and the fact that for the second consecutive year no Black actors or actresses were nominated for Academy Awards.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and sociological purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Click for a pancocojams post on Update: Motion Picture Academy Takes Historic Actions To Increase Its Members Diversity.

With the exception of the first two excerpts given for background, these excerpts are given in no particular order.

..."The 2016 Oscar nominees were announced on Thursday, January 14, marking the second year in a row that every single acting nominee was white. The outrage over the exclusion of people of color prompted the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to start trending on Twitter.
This sparked a chain of events that led to actress Jada Pinkett Smith to call for a boycott of this year’s Academy Awards. See the timeline of reactions:

January 15

Chris Rock

Staying out of the controversy while still acknowledging it, Oscars host Chris Rock tweeted an ad for the annual show, writing, “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.”

January 16

Jada Pinkett Smith

Pinkett Smith was the first to tweet about boycotting the Oscars, writing, “At the Oscars … people of color are always welcomed to give out awards … even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?” Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, was snubbed at this year’s ceremony after landing a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Concussion."...
The ellipsis ("dot dot dot") within this comment were written by the author of that article.

"BET" - Black Entertainment Television [network]
From Diversity In Hollywood: Here's What Critics Are Saying About Round 2 Of #OscarSoWhite
Updated January 19, 2016·7:25 PM ET, Published January 19, 2016·12:32 PM ET
"Last week saw the unhappy reprise of #OscarSoWhite, a Twitter hashtag that's becoming something of an annual tradition skewering the lack of diversity in nominations for the Academy Awards. Many fans and critics are frustrated — to say the least — that all of this year's nominees in acting categories are white, citing Michael B. Jordan's performance in Creed as one of a handful of expected shoo-ins for recognition.

Now, thousands are pledging to boycott watching the awards ceremony on television, and Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee have publicly stated that they will not attend.

We've rounded up some of the most thoughtful responses to #OscarsSoWhite, shedding light on the history of race in Hollywood, how Oscars voting actually works, and how the academy could respond to the backlash.

Eliza Berman of Time says actors of color seem to be receiving deserved recognition from everywhere but the academy:

"If this year's field feels like déjà vu all over again, that's because there's virtually no improvement to speak of. The lack of nods to actors of color — and stories about people of color — comes despite Golden Globe nominations for Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) and Will Smith (Concussion); despite the critical success of Beasts of No Nation, Straight Outta Compton and Creed, not to mention widespread accolades calling the latter's director, Ryan Coogler, one of the most promising new talents in the industry."

Todd VanDerWerff at Vox delves into the context of diversity within the movie industry:
"Diversity, in short, isn't about simply including as many nonwhite men as possible. It's about acknowledging that white men don't have a lock on good stories, and letting others' stories be told as well as possible. The Oscars improve at this conversation in fits and starts with every year. This year was much better in terms of recognizing films about women than the past several years have been, for instance. But the awards still have a long way to go. And as the film industry's most prestigious prize, simply bestowing their stamp upon a film automatically makes it more viable.""...

Sunny Hostin Verified account  ‏@SunnyHostin · Jan 19, 2016
Why #OscarSoWhite matters: When we praise and reward certain stories and images we reveal what we as a society value

Tomoo Terada, January 19, 2016
‏@Tomoo_Terada @tvanita @ReignOfApril @TheWrap
"in ALL the histoy of #OscarsSoWhite by @TheAcademy not a single #AsianAmerican has won any Oscar for acting.

April ‏@ReignOfApril · Jan 19

"April Retweeted Tomoo Terada
It should not be this way. That is why #OscarSoWhite is about all marginalized communities, to include AsianAmers."

Mashable, January 20, 2016
"Latino, Asian and Native American actors aren't at the Oscars, either

Diversity of all kinds is sorely missing in the movie industry."

From Tuesday's Chile By Black Kos
Tuesday Jan 19, 2016 
A comment on the state of People of Color in the Arts Commentary by Chitown Kev
..."Demographic trends show that America is becoming an increasingly more racially diverse society and that racial diversity will affect everything from politics to whom we love to high and low culture.

As that happens, people of color will increasingly be the producers of literature, art, theater, movies, popular music, and even the “higher forms” of these arts (i.e. classical music and opera, independent and artsy films).

As it stands now, so much of the literary/art criticism field that appears in the daily newspapers, magazines, and, now, on “mainstream” internet blogs seems to be very, very white.

There are exceptions, of course (e.g. Darryl Pickney at The New York Review of Books, Michiko Kakutani at The New York Times...books are really my subject, so those were the first two names off the top of my head). But the idea of the dominant white class continuing to pass artistic judgment over the work of an increasingly racially diverse art world simply isn’t going to fly.

And yes, that should also mean that an increasingly racially diverse class of literary, art, and music critics should (and will, I think) pass judgment on all the arts, in whatever form the arts of the present and the future take on. And while people of color may generally see things in certain cultural productions that white people don’t, that should in no way demean the quality or the standards of the criticism."...
Comment from that daily kos diary's discussion thread:
from Yasuragi, Jan 19 • 05:28:14 PM
"As happened when I watched Hustle and Flow, I was about five minutes into Straight Outta Compton when I knew, without doubt, that it was written by white people.

I’ve ranted about this here before, but twenty-five years ago I was watching brilliant black writers get shunted aside in TV because of doubts that they could “accurately depict” the white world — and most of these shows were 95-99% white.

And no matter how often I challenged why white writers thought they could so “accurately depict” the few black characters in these shows, I couldn’t get through. I’d holler and bang on the desk and say that the white world was virtually all anyone saw on TV, and that they were casting off excellent writers who’d been watching that stuff all their lives.

Nothing changed.

That world that I was in is but a mote in the eye of the larger Hollywood mindset. And since Hollywood is so locked into going with “what works” (producer-speak for cannibalizing oft-told tales and recycling successful films in fewer and fewer years since the original [or, for that matter, the previous recycling]), to them, white writers-directors-lead actors, etc. — that’s what works. They’re walking mummies with no clue how desiccated and dysfunctional they are. They’re the real walking dead. They just don’t know when it’s time to lie down.

...But I’m not bitter. ;)"

[response to another blogger's question how did Yasuragi know that the main writers for the movie "Straight Outta Compton" were White]
Yasuragi, Jan 20 • 01:09:38 PM
..."It was the extreme use of readily recognizable vernacular. And the complete lack of any variation on that — or any real, deep insight into their characters. The superficiality of it, and the fact that they spoke virtually nothing but cliche “gangsta” was what made me so sure. It was like watching a bad and racist comedy routine mocking “blackspeak.” Same thing with Hustle & Flow. They never looked into the characters at all, and every line was a line we’d heard a thousand times — like white kids would do mocking culture they don’t understand. Only this was writers supposed to be representing the experiences of real people — people who had and continue to have a powerful effect on our current culture.

NWA was so much more profound (really more than any other hip-hop group of that time) than that dialogue revealed. Their language was so much more intricate and precise — I couldn’t buy that they’d write that way but speak in such obvious jargon.

Granted, dialogue was my stock in trade, and I pay extra attention, but it was so jarring, I had to make a real effort to stay with the film.

I hope that makes sense. And I don’t mean to cast aspersions on anyone who didn’t find it so. But compare it to something like Barbershop. Or Death at a Funeral. Or any good film with fully three-dimensional characters, really. It just didn’t wash to me."

..."For [African American movie producer Spike] Lee, the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominations is just another example of the systemic problems in Hollywood as a whole.

"We can't say hocus pocus, presto changeo, and the [Academy] membership is going to change over night... This whole Academy thing is a misdirection play... this goes further than the Academy Awards, it has to go to the gatekeepers."
Comment from this article's discussion thread
from Peter Miller [in response to another commenter]
"... Spike said that 'more diversity' is needed among the Studio Executives who ACTUALLY DECIDE which (black, or minority) movies get made, as well as which (black, or minority) actors get hired to work on them.

Btw, the 'stereotypical movies about black culture' that you mentioned.... get APPROVED by rooms full of 'white male' executives.

So 'changing ourselves' will not get more (high quality) black movies made in Hollywood.

Because what Spike is basically saying is... if there are 10x different scripts available for 10x different Hollywood Studio Execs to choose from... only 1 single Studio Exec would choose to 'greenlight' a script filled with minority actors that was the same caliber as "HBO: The Wire", or "HBO: Game of Thrones"...

.... meanwhile the other 9x Studio Execs would want 9x different re-makes of the 'Big Momma's House'-types of movies, instead.

So Spike is basically saying 'If we want to see more people of color represented in the Oscar nominations.... then we gotta address & fix the real problem, in order to get different results"
The ellipsis within this comment were written by the blogger.

From Lupita Nyong'o Just Schooled Everyone on the Oscars and Racial Prejudice by Mathew Rodriguez, January 20, 2016
"The #OscarsSoWhite was just a hashtag last year. This year, it feels like a movement. And the latest person to join the movement is Lupita Nyong'o, whose performance in the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave earned her the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Nyong'o posted a statement late Tuesday night to her Instagram.
"I am disappointed by the lack of inclusion in this year's Academy Awards nominations," Nyong'o wrote, adding that the nominations spurred her to think about unconscious prejudice and what is considered prestigious.

"The awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today," she wrote. "I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them." "

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