There's a black cloud surrounding The Oscars (pun intended) this year over the lack of diversity in it's nominees. Not sure why this is just happening as the Oscars have been lacking diversity oh I don't know, like every year of its existence? But I feel like the general public and even black celebrities are looking at this the wrong way and or not really seeing the true problems. So I'm taking time out of my busy day to illuminate the real problems that need to be addressed with the Oscars and Hollywood in regards to diversity.
The Selection Committee:
"Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2% and Oscar voters have a median age of 62". *L.A. TIMES
That's an overwhelmingly large portion of the decision makers. And it's not that I am calling these people racist, not the case. But it is common that white people will like and relate more to films featuring white people and or similar scenarios of culture. It's not a shock that 62 year old white males may struggle to relate to film N.W.A.. It's shocking that there isn't more diversity on this committee, but it is not like they have been banning people of color for joining. We simply need to have people who are eligible for this make it a point to become members. If there is blame to point, then there is plenty to share and the inactivity of minorities with this committee should shoulder its fair share.
Oscar Worthy Films:
In an interview Angie Martinez of Power 105.1 Ice Cube joked that they "should have put a slave in the film". The film he is referencing is of course the hit biopic N.W.A. which received rave reviews in 2015. But there is always some truth in jokes and in this case a lot of truth. Doesn't it seem that the only black films that get any sort of acclaim is when they are slaves, gangsters, or passed celebrities or musicians??? I fancy myself a screenwriter and a movie lover and I can't help but wonder does anybody else see the major discrepancy in what a white actor can play to be Oscar worthy vs. what a black actor has to play to get the nod? Let's use 1999 as an example. Kevin Spacey won for "American Beauty", a great film and I am a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, I mean House of Cards is awesome.
In this film Kevin plays a sexually frustrated suburban father having a mid life crisis. Meanwhile Denzel Washington also nominated, was cast to play Rubin Carter, aka "The Hurricane", a talented boxer who was wrongfully imprisoned in a racist police scandal. It reminds me of a joke by Chris Rock, who ironically is hosting the Oscars, in which he speaks about his neighborhood and how the black people there are celebrities but his white neighbor is a dentist. " The black man gotta fly to get to something the white man can walk to".
Now looking further into the nominees and even the times black actors have won, one must recognize the pattern being set. Denzel won for "Training Day"playing a corrupt cop, Jamie Foxx won for playing Ray Charles, Terrence Howard was nominated for gangster slash pimp character Hustle and Flow, Forest Whitaker won for playing political tyrant Idi Amin. The character selection would suggest that you either have to be a entertainment star or a gangster. I won't even get into the struggle that colored women have for role selection and or nomination for the academy awards.
All of that brings me to the point of this section....are there any films that have lead black characters that are worth a nomination? I loved the N.W.A movie. It was well written, the story was intriguing, the actors gave great performances, but I didn't think it was Oscar worthy. It showed struggle of growing up in the hood, the racial profiling, etc. etc. but this was no Boyz N' the Hood. This wasn't the eye opening educational masterpiece some would want you to believe. It was a good movie. And there is nothing wrong with that. Need more quality films with black characters, but not just more films, better films. It's not the 90's and black film has to expand beyond biopics and hood films, and that brings me to my final point.
More Black Writer's Writing:
It's hard to say we should have more diverse nominees when there are only one or two films that have minority characters reaching the quality worthy of a bid. I mean Denzel and Will can't be in every movie. Although I must say, the television game has begun showing signs of change and film trends usually follow soon after. With so many mediums for shows to be created there is a great influx of quality written shows all over, and not just quality shows, but shows with a diverse cast. The trouble is it used to be either a black show or a white show, but we are now seeing mixed casts shows getting big results as if they represent a more now society.
I mean I am tired of slave movies. Hell I don't even care to watch them anymore. And it's not that I don't care to know our history, it's just that I hate that feeling that the only time black actors will shine is when they are in rags trying to overcome master. Being black is such a larger spectrum now, something I feel is portrayed well in the television show "Black-ish" on ABC. Honestly, there is a cry for more diversity in the Oscar nominations, but they can't pick films that aren't there. It starts with more writer's writing quality scripts that allow minority actors to be sexually frustrated suburban dads or gay cowboys, or just a regular guy or girl going through the trials and tribulations of life. And then it's on those in power in Hollywood to get those films out there. If it's never made, it can't win.