Oscars 2016: For the Media, It’s Not About the Oscar Race. It’s All about Race and the Oscars.
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Let us say for a moment you are “actor and environmentalist” Leonardo DeCaprio. You have been nominated for an acting Oscar four previous times and have come up short every time, but this looks like it could be your year.
Your movie, The Revenant, is a sure fire nominee. So are you for Best Actor. In fact, both you and the movie will be favored to win, you heavily. And yet, you await the announcement of Oscar nominees with something very much like dread.
“Please, dear Gaia,” you pray, “let there be an African American nominee or two for best actor or actress or supporting actress.” Sorry, Leo, no such luck. What you fear is what actually comes to pass.
An outraged media treats The Revenant’s twelve nominations and your crowning nod as further proof, if any were needed, that one man rules Hollywood, and his name is Jim Crow. Indeed, the dominant story line can be spelled out in a single tweet: “#OscarsSoWhite that the bear in Revenant would have snagged a nomination if she were polar.”
Even you had to laugh at that one, but there was no laughing at the headlines. They spelled out the breadth and depth of the shame that has left you feeling like the Michael Fassbender character in Twelve Years a Slave.
“Oscar Nominees Include Zero Nonwhite Actors,” shouts the Hollywood Reporter.
“Oscars 2016: Black actors snubbed, #OscarsSoWhite picks up again,” laments CBS News.
“Black Actors and Directors Shut Out of 2016 Oscar Race,” screeches the Wall Street Journal.
“2016 Oscars slammed for all-white actor nominees,” reads still another headline, and you find yourself muttering, “Et tu, Fox News?”
You want to say, “Hey, this is wildly diverse field.” In a sense, it is. Eleven of the twenty acting nominees come from foreign countries, but, as you know, these actors come from the wrong countries—England, Ireland, Wales, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Canada—melanin deprived, first world outposts all.
You want to say, “Hey, I’m the child of an immigrant.” Yes, but your mother was born in Germany. That doesn’t count. Now, if your father had been of Hispanic descent, not Italian. That would have helped some, but the media really do not care much about Hispanics anyhow.
After all, Revenant director Alejandro Iñárritu is likely to win for Best Director. He’s Mexican, and he won the year before as well. The year before that another Mexican won, Alfonso Cuaron, and the year before that an Asian won, Ang Lee. Heck, an American hasn’t won Best Director in seven years, and that was a woman, Kathryn Bigelow.
You have half a mind to say that of the top twenty vote-getters for the 2016 NBA All-Star team, nineteen are black, and one is Hispanic, and no one is hash-tagging “NBASoNon-White,” but you know how that would fly. Next thing you know, the media would be comparing you to Donald Trump.
You even think of waving your rainbow flag the way George Clooney did at the 2006 Oscars. “We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered,” said Clooney, “and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.”
But you know how that went over. The speech netted Clooney a South Park episode aptly titled “Smug Alert,” in which the creators ran his Oscar speech unaltered. It also provoked black director Spike Lee to point out that Hattie McDaniel played the archetypal “Mammy” in a movie that championed the Southern cause in the Civil War. Said Lee, for once making sense, “To use that as an example of how progressive Hollywood is ridiculous.”
I know. You and Barack Obama are tight. Your Hollywood buds all voted for him. You and they are down for the cause. But as you are all learning, in the Jacobin phase of this revolution, you can never be down far enough.
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