January 28, 2016

White Oscars outrage hints at larger issue

By Aaron Hartley–

When the Oscar nominees were announced a few weeks ago, they were met with heated contention. For the second year in a row, people of color have been totally excluded from the four acting categories. The snub brings to the forefront that there is racism in Hollywood, and it shows at award ceremonies.

The Oscars are no stranger to black nominees and winners. The latest winners were supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o, screenwriter John Ridley and best picture-winning director Steve McQueen for 2013’s “12 Years a Slave.”

However, there has been a trend of all-white nominees in acting categories over the past few years. People of color, some would argue, are purposefully overlooked. These critics point to actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay for “Selma” (2014), director Ryan Coogler for “Creed” (2015), Benicio Del Toro for “Sicario” (2015) and Will Smith for “Concussion” (2015).

Some argue that awards such as the Oscars should be based purely on merit, and this is a fair assessment. People shouldn’t be given obligatory awards or nominations based purely on their race. However, that isn’t really the point. The “white Oscars” show that there simply isn’t enough Oscar-worthy roles currently available to minorities.

The Academy has taken steps to diversify itself, which is great, but it doesn’t solve everything. It’s a step in the right direction, but the Academy isn’t the problem in and of itself (the president of The Academy is a black woman). The problem lies in the film industry as a whole. There simply needs to be more roles for minorities outside of the niche—not only for African-Americans, but Hispanics, Asians (only four Asians have won acting Oscars in history) and other minority groups.

If there were more diverse and complex characters for minorities to play in the film world, there will undoubtedly be more recognition within award shows. Attacking The Academy isn’t the answer. Consumers need to call for more prolific roles to be offered to minorities. With better representation, there can be a more thorough celebration of acting talents over more diverse groups of people.

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