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EDITOR’S NOTE It’s March and by this time, the Oscars have come and gone. As you know, the Oscars has been afflicted with scandal, and rightly so. The #OscarsSoWhite phenomenon has brought to light the issues many have been complaining about and fighting against for years; that people of color and other marginalized people are routinely left out of the movies. That problem doesn't end at the Academy; it extends to all areas of the Hollywood industry. Already, we are seeing some movement in Hollywood, which will be discussed much more on JUST ADD COLOR as well as in subsequent magazine issues. But still, there’s much more work to be done. If you need a primer on what’s going on with Hollywood, this issue is for you. In this issue, we’ll recap the Oscars (both the good and bad), and highlight some of the issues that pervade the industry. We’ll also discuss some predictions for 2017, both for the Oscars and for the industry as a whole. The good news is that the industry can be changed , as long as everyone in the industry works together for the common good. If everyone keeps working together to make Hollywood work for everyone, then everyone benefits, from the audience to the directors and producers, to the studios, and to the actors and actresses.
OSCARS SOWHITE THE HASHTAG OF A MOVEMENT Hollywood has gotten a wake-up call thanks to #OscarsSoWhite. What many insiders, actors, producers, critics, and journalists have been complaining about for decades has finally begun to be taken seriously by those in power, resulting in the formation of several coalitions and, most shockingly, a drastic change in how the Academy of Arts and Sciences conducts busienss. April Reign, the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, has been a constant force throughout the life and influence of the hashtag. She voiced the frustration and sadness of many Oscar viewers and movie lovers of all races and backgrounds with her hashtag. Now, sheâ€™s grateful to see how much it has accomplished.
#OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign Talks Diversity, Academy Changes Picture courtesy of April Reign
#OscarsSoWhite has been the headlining news topic, and with so many opinions out there about the hashtag and the movement, the one opinion that’s probably the most important to understand is the opinion of the hashtag’s creator herself. April Reign, managing editor of Broadway Black, spoke with JUST ADD COLOR about the creation of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy’s decision to change the status quo, the fallout surrounding the new Academy rules, and what she hopes people take away from the movement. What prompted you to make #OscarsSoWhite last year? Did you think it would find the life it has found on Twitter? Creating the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag happened very organically, in which I was sitting in my family room watching the Oscar nomination announcements. …I was just disappointed in the lack of representation of people of color and marginalized communities, especially in the acting categories but also behind the camera [like] the directors, especially last year with Ava DuVernay for the movie Selma and just overall—directors, cinematographers and screenwriters and so forth. I… was venting my frustration at that time. The very first tweet was “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.” It took off, and I had no idea then—and even today—that it would be as pervasive and as international as it has become. I’m humbled by the support I’ve received and that the hashtag has received. It’s gratifying to see that the voices of so many have made a difference.
Last year, #OscarsSoWhite hit a nerve, but
I’m gratified by the support, and we see that
this year, that nerve was hit in an even big-
the Academy has made substantial effort to
ger way. What do you think prompted the
address the issues underlying in the hashtag.
scale of the outrage we’ve seen?
With respect to the criticism, I have yet to see any that was well founded. …I can give you
I’ve been asked that question a couple of
the critiques and how they’re unfounded, but
times now and I really don’t know. The only
none of them really held any water when you
thing that I can think is that perhaps people
shine a light on the underlying issues. I guess
thought that last year was just a fluke that
because I’m so active on social media, espe-
people of color and marginalized communi-
cially on Twitter, you’re readily available for
ties weren’t represented, and when it hap-
anyone to come at you with memes and criti-
pened this year with the major acting catego-
cism of the hashtag, of you, and misunder-
ries, people said, “Oh, maybe this is an issue.
standing of what it’s really about. I hope that
Maybe this is a pattern, so let’s take more of
I’ve handled all of that with grace and really
a look at the underlying statement that
stayed consistent with the underlying issue,
#OscarsSoWhite is trying to make.”
which is the lack of inclusion and diversity in
I can say that a couple of days before the nominations were announced in 2016, people were coming to me saying “We’ve seen some of the predictions as to who the nominations are going to recognize, so maybe it’s going to #OscarsSoWhite again.” …And in fact, it definitely experienced a resurgence. While I did several interviews last year and talked about it quite a bit, I definitely did not see the amount of interest I’ve seen this year, not just nationally, but internationally. I’ve done interviews with organizations in New Zealand and Australia and Ireland and London and more BBC organizations than I knew even existed. Those are not interviews I did in 2015.
How has it been to see the reactions, both good and bad, to #OscarsSoWhite?
From what I’ve seen, you’re handling it great. Thank you. …There are definitely some recurring themes that sort of come at me, like “You’re making this an all black thing.” No. I’ve always said it’s all people of color, it’s all marginalized communities. It’s not just a race issue, it’s also a gender issue and a sexual orientation issue and an issue for differentlyabled communities to be represented. [Some say], “If you look at the past 15 years, black people have gotten 10 percent of
the awards even though they’re 12 percent of the population, so that’s roughly equal.” Well, that’s fantastic for the last 20 years, but the Oscars have been around for 80. You can’t
with Straight Outta Compton. The only thing it was nominated for was Best Original Screenplay, but the screenwriters are white. So that’s an issue as well.
tion of the so-called “mainstream” awards, so we had to make our own. But I will also say that I think we can multitask. We can celebrate our own and still critique for better or worse the pinnacle in film. Whether you are a fry cook or a corporate CEO, you want to be recognized for your achievements amongst your peers. If the Oscars are considered to be the top of that, why wouldn’t someone, anyone, want to receive that recognition?
rative. And even if that is true with respect to
Something you said a while ago goes into one of my questions: Some of the conversations
black people, it’s not true with respect
Surrounding #OscarsSoWhite have been,
to all people of color. The fact that I’m black
unfairly, categorizing it as be-
doesn’t mean that I’m only advocating for
ing primarily focused on black actors and
black people. Let’s talk about the number of
as a black and white issue. How do you
Hispanic actors and actresses or Latino/Latina
feel about some people keeping the con-
actors and actresses, or Asian actors an ac-
versation in a binary mode of
it brings with it some benefits. It may
tresses. This affects everyone and everyone
thought instead of thinking about how
mean that it’s easier for someone to land a
should be included.
Hollywood portrays all minorities?
role or to even to get into auditions. It may
just cherry-pick the facts to support your nar-
If you really run the numbers from 80 years forward, it’s still even taking into account [that] it was 37 years between Sidney Poitier winning the first Oscar for Best Actor as a black man and Denzel [Washington] winning it…and there’s no inbetween. I find it inconceivable that there were no qualifying performances within that 37 year span. Similarly, we’ve had one black actress with Best Actress within the entire span of the Oscars, and that was Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball. You can’t tell me that there haven’t been outstanding performances by black actresses. Even [with nominations], there were films who weren’t nominated that are fantastic, and that’s just with respect to black people. Clearly, there have been no Asian women, no Latina women, who have ever won [Best Actress]; why is that? In 2009, the first woman [Kathyrn Bigelow] wins for Best Director? It’s inconceivable to me that we are here in 2016 and we can rattle off on our fingers, with some to spare, the number of people of color and marginalized communities who have been properly [awarded] for their work. And also with The Revenant; the film is being celebrated for having a large Native American supporting cast, but none of them are getting nominated for their work; Leonardo DiCaprio–even though it’s great how much he has spoken out on Native American issues on their behalf–is getting nominated, and not a Native member of the supporting cast. That’s exactly right. …Hollywood is supposed to be a liberal bastion of whatever, and yet there are still some issues. I saw that Matt Damon spoke out…about how there should be more and so and so forth, but we saw how he treated Effie Brown onProject Greenlight. It’s like, but, bruh, that wasn’t even a full year ago! [He] said [onProject Greenlight], and I’m paraphrasing poorly here, something to the effect that diversity takes its point from casting, but not necessarily from who’s behind the camera. That’s what I took from it, anyway. So yeah, we want to have a diverse cast onscreen, but that doesn’t apply to who’s behind the screen, and that’s really the issue because it’s so important that these stories are told, but also who is telling the story. Who is the director? Who is the screenwriter? Who is the producer? What experiences are they bringing to this project and that was borne out this year
We also know that very often, having “Oscarnominated” or “Oscar winner” after your name,
mean you can command a higher salary or I think it’s unnecessarily limiting and I think
get taken more seriously the next time you
it’s unfortunate that they can’t get out of that
want to take a chance on a film. So it does
box for themselves because I’m not in that
matter, and if the other award shows are up-
box. I know why they’re doing it and I’ve
lifted to the extent that they are on the same
had brought to me “Oh, you’re being a rac-
level of the Oscars, then fantastic. That just
ist.” It’s not racism to speak truth about the
gives everyone more opportunity to shine.
lack of existence of roles for people of color. Speaking facts isn’t racism in and of itself. It
The Academy has taken the mobilization
it is without merit because I have never
of stars and fans seriously and released a
made this a black/white issue.
statement promising sweeping change to
It’s not clear to me why people think that is. I don’t know if it’s because I’m black and they can’t see past who I am and understand that I’m multifaceted, or if it’s just easier for them to think in binary terms. But that’s not what #OscarsSoWhite is about at all. Race is just one portion of it; it’s all marginalized communities, and within race, it’s not just black people; it’s definitely about Asian people. It ‘s definitely about Latinos and Latinas and Hispanics. It’s about everyone who should be represented on the screen. After the nominations came out, Jada Pinkett Smith released a video stating how people of color should consider reinvesting in our own community and celebrating our own. Some believe the Oscars is a lost cause, seeing how it was created to celebrate white actors in particular. Some people
the Academy and how it does business. All of this came about because of the hashtag’s popularity. How do you feel that #OscarsSoWhite has brought about this change? I’m very encouraged by the announcement that was made by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. I appreciate that she spearheaded this issue because I know change is never easy–pushing against the status quo and something that has been in place for over 80 years had to have been difficult. I was happy to see that the vote by the Board of Governors was unanimous; I think that’s important because it sends a message that they are serious about making changes with respect to diversity and inclusion. We’ll see how the changes are implemented and what type of pushback they’ll receive, but I still think there’s more to be done by the Academy and definitely by Hollywood.
also view the Oscars fight as minority
To that point, there have been several stars
voices vying for white validation while not
old and new decrying the lack of diversity
uplifting (or even attending) other awards
and some boycotting or standing with the
shows like the NAACP and BET Awards.
boycott. Meanwhile, we’ve seen some
What do you think of these sentiments
stand against change (particularly today,
and the fight for the Oscars?
with Charlotte Rampling, Michael Caine,
I feel very strongly that we should support those award shows and programs that celebrate our individuality and uniqueness. I hope that one of the outcomes of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag is that more people of color and marginalized communities continue to support and support even more the NAACP Image Awards, the Alma Awards, the BET Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards versus the Grammys [in relation to music] because it’s so very important. Those award shows were borne out of the same frustration that I have; the lack of representa-
Julie Delphy and producer Gerald Molen) and other actors and actresses who have decided to remain anonymous speak out against the hashtag and the Academy’s decision. Do you think this divide is indicative of the state of Hollywood at large? To me, it seems like Hollywood’s facade of liberalism has been taken away. Yeah, I think that what we know—I think the numbers are from 2012—at that time, that the Academy is 94 percent white, over 75 percent
male, and the average age was 63. So even though Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs invited 300 new members to the Academy; that was 300 [versus] 6000. Change is hard, so the Academy members who, for example, have not been active in film in the last decade and have now had their votes taken away, of course they’re going to speak out. It’s a change to the life that they’ve known. But I think that when the dust settles, the Academy members was the change for the better. Although I have been pushing for more diversity with respect to people of color and
Academy’s statement gives the sentiment of the Academy wanting to lead from in front, not from behind; do you think the Academy can change the industry from the front? I think they can. I think the Academy is large enough that they can exert significant influence over Hollywood, but it really comes down to the studio heads being willing to consider groups that don’t necessarily look like them and don’t have shared experiences when determining which films they’re going to greenlight. That’s really the issue, that
marginalized communities, this is also a ben-
those perspectives must be shared. I’m hop-
efit to the white people in the industry be-
ing that there will be a significant push from
cause it gives them more of an opportunity to
the Academy to Hollywood to make these
interact with—and act and direct and pro-
stories a priority.
duce with—people of color and those marginalized communities that they might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. So I think everybody can win from this, and if it spurs more seasoned Academy members to get back involved in film so they can regain their ability to vote, then all the better, because there’s a reason why they’re already in the Academy. At some point, they were Oscar-nominated or Oscar winners, which means they’ve put out quality work. If they’ve been resting on their laurels for 30 years and come back into the Academy, even better. The Academy gave themselves a deadline of 2020 for their changes to bear fruit; What kind of Hollywood would you like to see by then?
There are those out there who still have their head in the sand when it comes to acknowledging the racism of the Oscars and the Hollywood industry. What message do you have for those who still don’t see a problem with the Oscar nomination process and Hollywood in general? …I strongly believe that nominations should be made based on merit, but what we know, at least before the announcement, is that Academy members are not required to watch the films before they vote. If that is the case, then one can not say that the nominations or the winners are based on merit. If the argument is that only the best people should get nominated, I agree. But how are we ensuring that the best people are even
I hope to see a Hollywood that’s more di-
being seen? I encourage everyone to dive
verse and inclusive than it is now. I think
into the rules of the Academy because
there’s no shortage of talented people of col-
they’re on their website and [see] how deci-
or and marginalized communities out there. I
sions are actually made….For the first vote,
am hopeful that the Academy will proactive-
you have to vote within your category, so
ly seek out these creatives, these artists, and
directors only vote for directors and screen-
welcome them with open arms because there
writers only vote for screenwriters. We have
are stories that need to be told. I think it’s
one female in the director category period.
important and hope that that the Academy,
We have one Asian man [Ang Lee] in the
in increasing its diversity, pressures Holly-
directors portion of the Academy period.
wood to do the same because the Academy
Why is that? You can’t say there haven’t
can only nominate films that are made.
been qualified people, but if that’s all we
So it’s fantastic if the Academy becomes
see, and based on the numbers, it’s over-
more diverse. But if Hollywood isn’t doing
whelmingly older white men who aren’t
the same and is only making the same homo-
viewing the films before they vote, then
geneous movies year after year and aren’t
how can we say the votes are based on merit
being thoughtful about who can play these
and how can we ensure that the best films
roles or who should tell the stories behind the
are being seen?
camera, then still, when it’s nomination time,
…I think it’s imperative that you challenge yourself and see a movie that you might not normally see…Let’s just talk about when you get nominated…once you get to the second vote, everyone can vote for everything. You’ve got to watch all five films. If you’re voting for Best Actress, you’ve got to watch all five films and make your
we won’t see any difference even if he Academy wants to see more films that are representative of everyone in society. That goes into my next question : What are your hopes for the Academy? The
choice. You can’t base it on that a friend of yours told you it was a good film, or you really like their ad in Variety so you’re voting for them, or you feel like someone’s just due for an Oscar because they were snubbed in the past, so let’s vote for them now. That’s what happens. Or, you recognize the name of the person, and since you don’t know any of the other names, you just go with whom you know, and, to my knowledge, that’s what happens, because if you’re not watching the other films, then on what are you basing your vote? It has to be that. It has to be some personal reason as opposed to something unbiased based on the quality of the work. Therefore, it’s not based on merit, and that’s [the point] I’m trying to get back to. Make sure that diverse and inclusive films are being made. Look at those, nominate those for the first round, and after that, go see all five within the category and choose which one you think is the best. That makes sense to me and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t agree to that. [The votes] should always be merit-based, but make sure the net is cast wide enough so all the films that are great in that particular year get a shot at a nomination.
Make sure that diverse and inclusive films are being made. ...Nominate those for the first round, and after that, go see all five within the category and choose the one you think is the best.
OPINION: Five Top Moments From The Oscars Chris Rock hosts The 88th Oscars. The 88th Oscars, held on Sunday, February 28, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, are televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST. Photo credit: Adam Taylor/ABC
1. Chris Rock made everyone uncomfortable, and rightly so. For a full month, I was on the edge of my seat waiting on what Rock would have to say, and I wasn’t disappointed. Rock is known for going for the jugular, and during the Oscars, he not only went for the jugular, but he went for all the major arteries in Hollywood’s body with glee. He made fun of everything, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith just being mad because Will Smith wasn’t up for Concussion (remember how Pinkett Smith started the boycott talk?) and the Oscars itself, calling it the “White People’s Choice Awards.” Rock was put in a very difficult position to post the awards show in the midst of controversy, but he seemed more than up to the task. Even with all of the insults and jabs he leveled at Hollywood and those in the audience, I have a feeling we saw Rock holding back. If he really wanted to make people mad with the truth, he’d know exactly how to do it. But coming on stage with Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” playing in the back-
ground, telling a room full of the Hollywood elite that Hollywood is undoubtedly racist, showing a video of black people outside a Compton movie theater talking about film inequalities, and introducing Michael B. Jordan as someone who should have been nominated are all great ways to make people uncomfortable. What I wonder is how many of the “liberal” folks in the audience thought Rock wasn’t talking about them, despite him clearly saying he was addressing the “liberals” of Hollywood. That’s the unspoken joke of the night. There were three moments in Rock’s time as host that made my jaw drop on the floor:
During the Black History Moment taped
segment with Angela Bassett, I could have sworn that the joke was setting up towards another elaborate jab at Will Smith. Maybe I was reading too much into the joke, but with the set up (and the choice of films, like Shark Tale), I was so sure a takedown of Smith’s
career was coming, especially in light of what Rock had said about them in the monologue. The joke actually was making fun of Jack Black being in a lot of Will Smith movies, which led me to breathe out a sigh of relief. How did Rock and co. get Stacey Dash to play a part in her own takedown? Did she know what the joke was? Did she know she was the joke? In any event, I was floored. The Weeknd’s face told the story.
The taped segment in which Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, and others showed how tough it is for black actors to get parts. The takedown of Joy was my particular favorite.
Could more have been said about all minorities who are marginalized in the industry? Certainly. There was only one guy all night who talked about how the Oscar should belong to everyone, and it was one of the guys outside of the Compton theater. Some folks were getting on Rock for not discussing the plight of all minorities in Hollywood. I’ll say that for myself, I recognized how I would have handled the situation, which is talk about how all people who are not part of white Hollywood are blocked
out of all of Hollywood’s creative process, but I am not Chris Rock. Rock handled it from his perspective, and his perspective is just what he presented last night—the black American experience. Would it have been nice if a bone was thrown to everyone affected? Yes. The Native cast members of The Revenant, Byung-hun Lee, Sofia Vergara, and many of the other non-black POC presenters don’t have the same opportunities either, some less so. Could his monologue have wrongly cemented it in people’s minds that#OscarsSoWhite is only about black people? It most certainly could have. With that said, I still think Rock’s hosting duties accomplished what it needed to, which is to shame the Academy on its biggest night. 2. The tonal shifts of the Oscars. Between Rock laying it on thick about Hollywood’s “sorority racist” mode of business and other presenters like Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman looking like they’d rather be anywhere else during certain points of the night, the rest of the presenters pretended to be cautious and/or unaware as they presented awards that, overall, only showed how white the Oscars actually are. Even more uncomfortable were the additions of scores of non-white presenters. One reason I keep mentioning Jordan is that he should have been nominated. Heck, a lot of the presenters should have been nominated, like Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation. I say more presenters should have looked upset. In any event, the night was clearly an uncomfortable one for most people in attendance (and for most people in attendance, deservedly so). 3. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs doubles down on diversity, asks room to do the same I did like Boone Isaacs’ speech about the Academy’s pledge to do better, and I especially liked that she asked others in the audience to do the same. The actors are routinely forgotten about facilitators in Hollywood’s game, but on some level, they share culpability for continuing Hollywood’s mode of business. They themselves could change how films are made just by refusing to take on certain roles. For instance, if an actor or actress gets a role to play a traditionally Asian or Mexican character, they could decide not to take it in the hopes that it’ll actually go to an actor or actress that properly fits the bill. 4. Lady Gaga reminded us that it really is on us. I think the most powerful song of the night was definitely Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til It Happens to You” for the documentaryThe Hunting Ground. Gaga’s emotional performance, coupled with the on-stage appearances of many victims of sexual assault and rape, really drove home the point of V.P. Biden’s speech beforehand; it’s truly on us to stop others from becoming sexual assault victims. 5. Leonardo DiCaprio finally gets his Oscar! Everyone, including the Best Actor nominees, stood up in applause for DiCaprio’s win. It was a win that has taken many years to earn, but he finally did it. He also gave us yet another great speech, in which he outlines how important it is for us to address climate change. Low points of the night: The joke about the little Asian kid accountants was terrible. That joke really fell flat to me because it went counter to every other message Rock was sending that night with his monologue. It, along with Sacha Baron Cohen-as-Ali G’s joke comparing the Minions to Asian people were low points of the night. Why? Read on.
Chris Rock poses with the Oscar statuette. Photo credit: Andrew Eccles/ABC
Stereotypical Asian Jokes Derail Oscar Night Message Sacha Baron Cohen (as his character Ali G.) and Olivia Wilde act as presenters at The 88th Oscars. The 88th Oscars, held on Sunday, February 28, at the Dolby Theatre(r) at Hollywood & Highland Center(r) in Hollywood, are televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST. Photo credit: Adam Taylor/ABC
Yesterday, tons of people gave their two cents on Chris Rock’s Oscars monologue. The monologue itself has been met with a range of emotions, from delight to disgust. But it’s the jokes outside of the monologue that made people justifiably upset, especially since the jokes were a part of a night dedicated towards ending the diversity glass ceiling in Hollywood. Towards the end of the night, two tasteless jokes reared their ugly heads, and both made fun of Asians. First, Sacha Baron Cohen, as his poser character Ali G., crudely compared the Minions to Asian men by using the phrase “little yellow people” and invoking sexual stereotyping. Apparently, Baron Cohen was supposed to do his bit with Olivia Wilde straight, but he had his wife, actress Isla Fisher, sneak in his Ali G. costume. “The Oscars sat me down beforehand and said they didn’t want me to do anything out of order, they wanted me to actually just present it as myself,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (as reported by the Guardian). “But luckily my wife put on the Ali G beard in the disabled toilets and I managed to get away with it.” In order to put the whole costume on while in the bathroom, they pretended Baron Cohen had food poisoning. According to what Baron Cohen said, Rock gave him “the thumbs up” to go ahead with the stunt after meeting with Rock to quickly pitch him his idea. Second, when Rock opened the part of the show usually dedicated to introducing the accountants from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, he introduced three Asian kids. While the kids
were cute, the joke wasn’t. “As they clutched briefcases, they visually illustrated the stereotype that Asians are diligent workers who excel at math,” wrote theNew Y ork Times‘ Melena Ryzik. “‘If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,’ Mr. Rock added, a punch line interpreted as a reference to child labor in Asia.” These jokes were tone-deaf, seeing how the entire tone of the night was one berating Hollywood for its tone-deafness when it comes to black actors and actresses. At worst, the jokes showed how there are implicit biases even in intra-racial and intra-ethnic relations that need to be deleted. As pointed out in yesterday’s “5 of the Top Moments from the Oscars” post, it would have been great if Rock had discussed how all minorities are marginalized in Hollywood, since that is actually what #OscarsSoWhite is about. To quote #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reignfrom her exclusive interview with JUST ADD COLOR: “ I think it’s unnecessarily limiting and I think it’s unfortunate that they can’t get out of that box for themselves because I’m not in that box…It’s not clear to me why people think that is. I don’t know if it’s because I’m black and they can’t see past who I am and understand that I’m multifaceted, or if it’s just easier for them to think in binary terms. But that’s not what #OscarsSoWhite is about at all. Race is just one portion of it; it’s all marginalized communities, and within race, it’s not just black people; it’s definitely about Asian people. It ‘s definitely about Latinos and Latinas and Hispanics. It’s about everyone who should be represented on the screen. “
As Rebecca Sun for The Hollywood Reporter points out, the Oscars welcomed Asian stars Byung-hun Lee, Priyanka Chopra, Dev Patel and other POC stars as presenters for many reasons (which can make up its own post), one of them being
that they are also a part of the large demographic the Academy (and by extension, Hollywood itself) should represent more, a demo that obviously isn’t limited only to black people. While black actors and actresses don’t get cast as much as they should, Asian, Latino and Native actors and actresses get cast at an even smaller rate. According to AJ+, only one out of 20 speaking roles go to Asian actors and actresses, and only one percent of lead roles in feature films go to Asians. While Asians are cast at a rate of 1.3 percent, Latinos are cast at a race of 2.7 percent and actors and actresses of other races are cast at a rate of 3.4 percent. What’s equally as sad is that Rock had proven himself to be the right guy to take on Hollywood for its transgressions, both in his career and, by several accounts, earlier that night in his monologue. “For most of the Oscars, Chris Rock proved himself once again to be a dynamic truth-teller abut systemic racism, managing not only to make pointed comedy out of #OscarsSoWhite but to keep it front and center long after his biting opening monologue. Then, about twothirds through, he took a break to make an Asian joke,” wrote Lowen Liu for Slate. Jeff Yang wrote for Quartz about how he flipped in between the #JusticeforFlint event and coverage of the Oscars, ready to be entertained by Rock’s wit. “[W]hile I had decided to refrain from watching, the prospect of bringing the pain to a theater full of Hollywood’s most cream-colored creme de la creme was awfully tempting. And so, I cheated: I kept a tab open during his monologue and monitored the reactions of my friends to his blistering assault on the Academy Awards’ embarrassing whiteness,” he wrote. “…But my amusement was shortlived.” Many actors, actresses, and even NBA star Jer-
emy Lin tweeted their disapproval and disappointment in the jokes. “Seriously though, when is this going to change?! Tired of it being ‘cool’ ad ‘ok’ to bash Asians,” wrote Lin. Actor Jeffrey Wright wrote on Twitter, “Half-assed Asian joke, #Oscars, and then preach about diversity? #LoseMe.” “Lazy, uncreative joke after a brilliant monologue,” wrote Harry Shum Jr., who included the hastag #DiverityMyAss. Constance Wu from ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat tweeted a text from her friend who wrote about Rock’s clear selfawareness that the accountant joke. Wu’s friend wrote that his selfawareness shows “there are just no actual consequences to making fun and degrading Asians.” Her friend summed up the feeling a lot of folks had; that the Oscars’ stereotypical jokes were “throwing Asians under the bus” without there being any repercussions. So far, there’s been no word from Rock or his camp re: his Asian jokes. This controversy has ignited conversation about the role minority activists should play. As Al Jazeera asks, “Should minorities advocate for one another?” As stated already, if I was tasked with hosting the Oscars, I would have made sure to advocate for all minorities and oppressed people, because we’re all in this fight together. I wouldn’t have specifically only discussed the black acting pool, because the #OscarsSoWhite issue affects more than just the black acting pool. However, that’s how I’d do it. The question of if minorities should advocate for one another should be a resounding yes. The unspoken question, though, seems to be if Chris Rock should have been (at least on Oscar night) that particular minority activist who does advocate for others. As to what Rock feels about his own performance and how he should proceed in the future can be answered by Rock himself, but the disappointment the jabs at Asian stereotypes caused is something that will linger for a while and, hopefully (like all disappointment should) lead to increased action to make sure all people properly represented by the media (including jokes).
“Seriously though, when is this going to change?! Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians,” -Jeremy Lin (Twitter)
The “accountants.” Photo credit: Image Group LA, A.M.P.A.S.
AN INDUSTRY BUILT ON
STEREOTYPES HOW HOLLYWOOD RUINED THE MOVIES
(AND HOW IT CAN FIX THEM) Stereotyping has been at the heart of Hollywood since its inception. Hollywood’s first blockbuster, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, was a love letter to the KKK, featuring the domestic terrorists as literal white knights saving princess-like white women from the clutches of animalistic, feral black male cariacatures. The NAACP tried its best to stop the film’s relase, but Hollywood wouldn’t listen. Along with The Birth of a Nation being Hollywood’s first blockbuster, the denial of the NAACP’s warnings would be one of the first moments of Hollywood refusing to listen to marginalized voices. Images have always been used propaganda and whether Hollywood likes to admit it, it plays a part in the racial, gender, and sexual propaganda of America. Before Hollywood, American propaganda posters would feature ugly ethnic and racial cariactures. Many of these cariactures, such as the Dragon Lady, the Sapphire (or the “Angry Black Woman,” as the trope is otherwise known), the mammy, hypersexual Jezebels, the black or Native “savage,” still find their way into today’s media in the form of popular characters such as Fu Manchu, Peter Pan’s Tiger Lily and her tribe, the Gone with the Wind character who’s literally called “Mammy,” and others. Propaganda and the media enable each other and make it even harder to get rid of hurtful stereotyping. It’s this reason why Hollywood hasn’t steered away from its love of using stereotype as shorthand. The industry has cultivated a culture that casts actors based on how well they can fit a racial, sexual, or gender stereotype. This not only limits the prospects of certain actors, but it also cheapens the movie-making and moviegoing experiences and robs the audience of a well-rounded story. Once the industry goes beyond stereotypes and begins casting actors based solely on talent and merit, everyone--the industry, the actors, and the audience--will benefit.
Ten of Hollywood’s Favorite Stereotypes The “Spicy Latina” The “Mammy” The “Asian Nerd” The “Savage” The “Noble, Tragic Minority” The “Submissive Asian Woman” The “Kung Fu Master” The “Wild Native”
The “Dragon Lady” The “Buffoon”
“Lesson Providers and Tragic Figures”: How The Revenant Reflects Hollywood’s Objectification
of Characters of Color Forrest Goodluck in The Revenant. Photo credit: Kimberley French/Twentieth Century Fox Hollywood has a problem with inclusion, even in stories about marginalized groups. In many Hollywood films, the stories are told from a white, usually cis-gendered point of view, instead of from the viewpoints of the groups that are actually central to the story. For instance, the Owen Wilson starrer No Escape portrays a white family in the middle of an uprising in an unnamed Asian Pacific island. The peril the family faces is intense, but even more intense (and probably more pertinent) are the political and social factors that led up to the contry’s uprising. Why wasn’t that story given the weight it deserved? Instead, the uprising was treated as a natural disaster and the people themselves were treated like a monolith. Would you believe that Oscar film The Revenant has something in common with No Escape? Even though the film has been praised for its technical prowess and stellar acting, the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer has been called out on the story still following an old Hollywood trope: having a story involving non-white characters revolve around white leads. Gyasi Ross wrote for The Huffington Post that the DiCaprio’s lead time in the movie could have been ceded to some of Native actors in the film. Comparing DiCaprio to Marlon Brando, who allowed Sacheen Littlefeather to speak to Native American sentiments at the Oscars, Ross wrote, “it would have been cool if [DiCaprio] surrendered that space for Native people to have some agency.” Ross goes onto say that while The Revenant successfully strove for historical accuracy, it doubles down on the “white savior” trope that plagues many Hollywood films. To quote him: “The movie...portrays Native people in a fairly
historically accurate light. Native people were brutal during this time period because we had to be brutal. White Americans were brutal. French people were brutal. Native people could not be exempt from that world and were trying to hold on for dear life; guns, germs and steel threatened our very existence...But the actual human story pushed The Revenant into the same "white savior" garbage pile that has permeated pretty much any mainstream movie that includes Natives as major characters. DiCaprio's 'Glass' character is a dirty, vicious capitalistic and brutal white man who is trying to get some quick money at the expense of Native people's resources just like every other white man in the movie. The only difference is that Glass has a halfNative son (some of his best friends are black) and so that, evidently, somehow makes him different than the rest of the dirty, vicious, brutal, and capitalistic white men. Glass instructs his half-Native son to be silent and to not upset white men, for survival, as white men hold the key to Native people's survival and can exterminate them at any time. ‘Be invisible.’" Ross goes onto say that DiCaprio’s character only begins to understand the world he lives in through his process of getting revenge for his son, who is killed by another white character. "And that's kinda the way Hollywood historically uses Native people and black bodies: as lesson providers and tragic figures,” he wrote. “We usually don't live long enough to see the glory of the white man's redemption, but instead have to be killed so that the white protagonist can find his or her humanity.” This problem could come up again in Susanna White’s upcoming Sitting Bull film, Woman Walks Ahead. Unfortunately, it
seems that once again, the story of a non-white person will be told from a white person’s point of view. The film itself is supposed to revolve around Sitting Bull and the Sioux’s fight for their land, but it seems as if it will be told from the point of view of Sioux sympathizer Caroline Weldon, to be played by Jessica Chastain. Variety’s description of the film seems to follow the same “white savior” trope exhibited in other films:
“Chastain will portray Caroline Weldon, who moved from Brooklyn to the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory to help Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull keep the land for his people. Weldon wrote letters to the federal government on behalf of Sitting Bull and lived on the land for several years with her son.” It’s not that Weldon’s story isn’t important; it’s just that her story (or, to be fair, the version Hollywood is attracted to) is a version of the same narrative Hollywood has greenlit for decades. It’s a narrative that films like Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation and shows like WGN America’s Underground are retaliating against. What’s ultimately fascinating is that the same story of the fight for Sioux land could have been told, but instead of having Weldon as the seeming catalyst for a fight that was already happening before her involvement, the film could have told the tale of an empowered Sioux and Sitting Bull, who will not allow the government to erase them without a battle. Sitting Bull and the Sioux should not become the background mystical Natives who help Chastain’s character learn more about herself. The time for non-white characters being used as morality sticks is over; it should have been over decades ago.
Predictions for 2017: How The Oscars & the Industry Could Change By Next Year The ink is still drying on this year’s Oscars, but people are already looking ahead to 2017. The tenor of the discussion: Will #OscarsSoWhite and the efforts that followed do any good to change the tide for next year? The answer is that, more than likely, not enough would have been done to change all of the problems that exist in the industry. Keep in mind that these problems have existed since the original Birth of a Nation; it would be impossible to change everything about Hollywood within one year. But, a year is also a very long time in itself; there can be tons of change made if the industry members - from the agents to the producers, to the studio heads to the directors, to the actors themselves wholeheartedly commit to the process. There are clear actionable steps Hollywood can do to make a dent in the mess: 1. Take more applications from people of color, women of all stripes, those who identify as LGBT, and those who are disabled for roles behind the scenes. By virtue of seeing more people outside the usual talent pool bubble, there’s no doubt that some of those people will be hired. Their entryway will make room for more people to have a shot and get hired. 2. Scriptwriters should be more mindful of their biases when writing films. Even the most open-minded of people still carry unconscious or conscious biases. To that end, directors, producers, studio heads, and agents should be more mindful about the biases they carry and how that affects who they represent, which films get greenlit and who gets cast. To illustrate this point, let’s take two opposing examples. Recently, Lupita Nyong’o and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah opened up to the New York Times about how agents are the “gatekeepers” between the POC talent pool and opportunity. Noah himself said he didn’t realize how unconscious bias can be until he was looking for new correspondents for his show. “When I was looking for new to try on the show, the network sent out all their tentacles. And people sent in audition tapes. And 95 percent of them were white and male. I was like: Does nobody else want to be a part of this show? Does nobody else even want a job?...I said, 'I want more diversity.' And they said, 'But this is what we're getting.' So I said, 'Then I will go out and look for it in the street.'...So I went to all the young comedians I knew - black, Hispanic, female, whatever - and I said, 'Are you interested?' and they all said, 'Are you crazy? Of course I'm interested.' So I asked, 'Why didn't you audition?' And they said, 'We didn't know about it.' But they told me they'd sent it out to all the agents and managers. And they all went: 'Oh, that's where you made the mistake. We can't get agents or managers.' We can say we want diversity, but there's this little roadblock that no one tells you about." On the flip side, you have J.J. Abrams, who has created a Star W ars universe that he hopes reflects the real world. When discussing the possibility of having a gay character (or characters) in the universe, he said it was a no-brainer. “When I talk about inclusivity, it’s not excluding gay characters. So of course,” he said at the US-Ireland Alliance Oscar Wilde Awards. weeks before, Abrams told The Daily Beast about his commitment to diversity, saying, “I think we all have a hell of a lot to do, and I think it is insane to me that we still have to have a conversation about inclusivity. It's shameful. We all need to do better to represent this world. It's something that's important to me, and is something that we're focusing on at Bad Robot [Abrams' production company]." 3. Actors must be more cognizant of the roles they take. They must ask themselves how this could not only impact their careers, but how it could impact their fanbases, which are made of people of many backgrounds, and fellow actors - many of whom are not white and are looking for the same opportunities. Case in point is Scarlett Johannson’s decision to take the role of Makoto Kusanagi in the upcoming Rupert Sanders-directed Ghost in the
Shell film. Johannson’s top billing in the film, but it would have been even better (and more accurate to the Japanese manga and anime) if an international Japanese star, such as Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi, were tapped to play the iconic role. Instead of thinking about how it could increase her career opportunities, it would have been nice if, when approached with the role, Johannsson had thought about the Asian actresses who have been silenced by Hollywood. It would have been nice if she had thought about how her decision to take the role would have aided in that silencing. As for films that could be nominated next year, there are already some contenders, such as Race, the film about Jesse Owens starring Stephan James, and The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s passion project that is set to release in theaters this fall, just in time for the brunt of Awards season. The year is still young for other films that could become a part of the running. It’ll also be interesting to see how the Academy’s new voting process will work, now that a good chunk of the members are no longer eligible to vote. However, despite the call for more reflective voting measures, let’s hope the Academy doesn’t nominate anything for Best Picture just because there’s a non-white face in it. Pity votes aren’t what this Oscars fight has been about; what would be the true test of change for the Academy is if they can vote, unequivocally, on movies based on merit, not on biases, racial or otherwise. If they can nominate a crop of films for Best Picture based on technical and acting achievement, and if that group turns out to represent many subsects of American life, then the Academy would have truly come around to the 21st century.
“I think we all have a hell of a lot to do, and I think it’s insane to me that we still have to have a conversation about inclusivity. It’s shameful. “ - J.J. Abrams
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This month, COLORBLOCK Magazine tackles the Oscars, #OscarsSoWhite, and the problems within the Hollywood industry. Inside: a recap of the 8...
Published on Mar 4, 2016
This month, COLORBLOCK Magazine tackles the Oscars, #OscarsSoWhite, and the problems within the Hollywood industry. Inside: a recap of the 8...