I have mixed feelings about the Oscars boycott. My instinct is to ignore it, because I don’t really care for boycotts as a form of protest. Boycotts, in general, often feel counterproductive. I also really love the Oscars and look forward to them each year so the division is making me sad and anxious. Parallel to these feelings are the ones telling me to listen to the voices of the people calling for the boycott, to validate their feelings, to understand them and find out if there is truth in their words.
Is there a race problem within the academy?
The president and some members are minorities. The host this year is a minority. Minorities have been nominated and won Oscars in the past. So what happened this year?
I guess my first question is this: which roles by minorities were snubbed?
Because if it’s just Will Smith, I must say, while his performance in Concussion was arguably the best of his career, it was not as good as the other men nominated in that category. I’ve seen the performances of those nominated and they seem well deserved to me. Jada’s opinion means very little to me since she is just (understandably) going to bat for her husband. There is also an “addiction to outrage” on social media that makes it hard to gage how many people are actually participating in this boycott.
There is a race problem in Hollywood, but it’s much bigger than academy nominations which are really the end point of the entire process.
The race issues start with the roles minorities are given in the first place. Despite some significant strides, the majority of the roles that are given to minorities are still side-kicks, comedic relief, slaves, and thugs.
It seems that Hollywood doesn’t believe they will make money if the lead role is anything other than a white male. (Again, some strides are being made. Some of the biggest blockbusters of the last few years had female leads: Star Wars, Hunger Games, Divergent).
While there is something to be noted about actual race ratios in the U.S. and how that might effective the audition pool, there is still some responsibility on the part of the movie industry to tell the stories of people whose voices do not get heard, who do not have characters to relate to in movies, who never see themselves or their experiences on the screen. The movie industry, while centered in the U.S., has a worldwide reach. Movies are released in China, Singapore, Brazil, South Africa… places where white people are the minority and where people don’t often see themselves on the screen.
As a viewer, I am not personally boycotting the Oscars. I love the Oscars. I am interested to see how Chris Rock handles hosting (I imagine it will be bitingly funny) and how the issue of race is talked about, but I think the race issue in Hollywood is much bigger than one awards show. I understand why some feel differently, I know that my voice is not important in this conversation, and that there is a very good chance that I am wrong: but I will be watching on February 28th.